The theatre's developer, William M. Garland (1866-1948). This 1909 photo appears in an article about early developers from the Homestead Museum.
The opening bill at the Pantages featured Barnold’s Dog and Monkey Actors in "A Hot Time in Dogville," singer and comedienne Sophie Tucker, character-singing comedian Maurice Burkhart, MacLean and Bryant with their "17-20 on the Black" gambling sketch, a comedy musical sketch with the Lelliott Brothers, and novelty whirlwind dancers the Yalto Duo.
A November 1909 drawing of the facade of the Pantages from Morgan and Walls that's in the archives of Morgan, Walls, & Clements, the successor firm, at the Huntington Library. It's their drawing #3812.
More marquee details from the same drawing in the Huntington's collection.
The project was announced with a small item spotted by Lisa Kouza Braddock that appeared in the January 1, 1910 issue of the L.A. Times:
A September 19, 1911 ad for the Pantages featuring the Three Marx Bros. on the bill. They were rounding out the bill with short films projected via what they called the "Pantagescope." Thanks to Michael Dobkins for finding the ad. Wikipedia has a nice history of the Marx Bros.
The cover of a 1911 program at the Pantages that's in the collection of Danni Bayles-Yeager's Online Archive of the Performing Arts. In some 1912 ads Pantages was listing the location as "Broadway near Mercantile," a reference to Mercantile Place, the shopping alley that's now the site of the Arcade Building.
Matt Lambros reports on an After the Final Curtain post about the theatre that on Christmas Day 1913, the theatre hosted an on-stage "wedding" with Napoleon, a vaudeville-performing and film-starring chimpanzee, getting hitched to Sally, another chimpanzee later with the E&R Jungle Zoo.
In October 1915 the theatre had an electric scoreboard installed so they could relay World Series results to patrons. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the ad.
An August 31, 1920 ad with the "New Pantages" running vaudeville + films and the "Broadway Pantages" playing a musical revue plus a Corinne Griffith film. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles private Facebook group.
Beginning July 30, 1932 the Arcade offered burlesque. Evidently they had union issues. Ken McIntyre spotted this report about the opening night of "Parisian Scandals" that appeared in the August 1 issue of the Times:
A November 1, 1941 ad located by Ken McIntyre.
The newsreel experiment was not a big success and by mid-November 1941 they were back to running features using the Arcade name. At this time the Globe was also running as a newsreel house and earlier the policy had been tried at the Palace. Although the Arcade went back to the old name, it was still listed as the Telenews in the 1942 city directory.
A November 15, 1992 article noting the closing. Thanks to Ed Kelsey for locating it.
Later use: For decades
there had been retail in the lobby with the quite intact
auditorium used for storage. The
building is owned, along with the Cameo
and Roxie theatres to the north and the Arcade Building to the south,
by Downtown Management Co., a firm headed by Michael Hellen with Greg
Martin as VP. The company had been owned by Michael's father, Joe
Hellen, an Australian real estate investor who died in November 2019. He
had purchased the theatres in the early 90s.
The future of the three theatres: There have been numerous proposals for reactivating
the three theatres but so far a tenant has not appeared with both a
viable plan as well as the financing to execute it. If a theatre tenant
is not found, they could become retail spaces.
There was a club venture discussed in 2011. A possible revival of the house as a legit venue named after Chita Rivera came along several years later. The Cameo would have become badly needed lobby and support space. It's unknown what would have become of the Roxie in that scenario. The word was that substantial funding had been located toward the cost of what was estimated as a $30 million project.
A 2015 report was that the three theatres would be turned into a multiplex / restaurant complex by a startup company called Fusion Multiplex. The Cameo might have been the lobby, the Roxie carved up into multiple screens (perhaps with more on an added floor) and the Arcade possibly would have been a restaurant. Fusion had no operating locations at the time but promised "a distinctive concept, ground-breaking technology, and exemplary service..."
The company's principals, Virgil M. Hollins and Andre D. Giles, had assembled a team of industry veterans to book and operate the venture. A firm called Lucid Global Partners was supposedly involved in fundraising for Fusion. Hollins noted in early 2017 that planning was still underway and they were still hoping to put a project together. We'll see.
More information: See the After the Final Curtain post about the Arcade by Matt Lambros for six 2017 interior photos as well as a fine history of the building. Nick Bradshaw has some 2007 interior views in his "Dead Cinemas, downtown Los Angeles" album on Flickr.
The Cinema Tour page about the Arcade has some 2003 photos (including interiors) by Adam Martin. Cinema Treasures has additional photos as well as lots of discussion about the history of the theatre.
A photo of Joe Hellen in the Arcade Building taken by Gary Leonard. It appeared with "The Survivor," Ryan Vaillancourt's 2010 profile of the late theatre owner in LA Downtown News. Villancourt also had a 2012 story about Hellen: "Developer Opens One Historic Core Apartment Complex and Plans Another." Among the firm's many downtown properties are the Chester Morris Building and the Jewelry Trades Building, both at 5th and Broadway. Mr. Hellen died in November 2019.
The project behind the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade: Included in the Hellen family's holdings are the lots on Spring St. directly behind the three theatres. Over the years Joe Hellen had floated a number of plans for construction there but none have proceeded. All the plans have raised concerns about their impact on the future viability of the three buildings as possible live performance venues. Whatever was built behind might obstruct exiting and loading access. Ideally, easy access to Spring St. would be desirable. Of course, how much access is needed in that direction depends on the ultimate use of the theatres.
The current narrow alley behind the theatres dead ends at the Arcade Building on the south. As one goes north it takes a turn to the west one building beyond the Roxie and becomes an exit onto Broadway just south of the Jewelry Trades Building. There's no possibility of truck access that way. The page of recent Roxie exterior views has alley photos down near the bottom.
An L.A. Downtown News story from July 2011, "Spring Street Garage Plans Filed," discussed Hellen's plans at that time to build a small parking garage facing Spring St. Ryan Vaillancourt had a story in LA Downtown News in 2012 about plans for a garage plus six or seven stories of housing on top, for a building height of about twelve stories. The story, "Developer Opens One Historic Core Apartment Complex...," also talked about the company's renovation of the nearby Chester Williams building.
In 2013 the project grew to 40 stories. In "Veteran Developer Planning 40-Story Tower for Historic Core," Donna Evans discussed the new plans in an L.A. Downtown News story.
This rendering of the revised design by Steinberg Architects and TSK Architects appeared with a March 2015 story by Chris Loos on Urbanize LA: "New Design Unveiled for Historic Core Skyscraper." That's the Spring St. side of the Arcade Building on the left. The article noted:
"Hellen's firm Downtown Management is currently exploring options for the usage of these theaters [the Roxie, Cameo & Arcade] including live entertainment as well as retail spaces... The tower will feature 360 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all built to condominium level specifications. At ground level, plans call for approximately 9,400 square feet of retail space."
The rendering popped up again in a confused August 2017 story on Archinect. They had mistakenly grabbed the rendering from the 2015 Urbanize story when discussing a newer design.
The 2015 site plan from Steinberg Architects and TSK Architects. Broadway (with the three theatres in purple) is at the top. Spring (with the proposed tower in turquoise) is at the bottom.
A ground floor plan for the tower as it was envisioned in early 2015. The three theatres are at the left. The drawings are courtesy of Steinberg Architects. Curbed L.A.'s Bianca Barragan also had a March 2015 story about plans: "New Plan For 40-story Historic Core Tower..."
Eddie Kim ran a March 2015 story in the L.A. Downtown News: "Housing Plan Envisions Revival of Broadway Theaters." Regarding the theatres, he noted:
"The theaters for years have mostly held swap meet vendors. Downtown Management’s renovation would refurbish the facades and signage and upgrade the interiors. Martin imagines the venues hosting live entertainment, and said the plan has sparked some early flickers of interest from potential tenant-operators. Still, he added, the tight confines make it a tricky sell.
"'I’ve heard that the theaters are too small to be profitable, and that any entertainment use would need corporate sponsorship, and that there’s no appetite for that now,' Martin said. 'It seems the people with vision have no money, and the people with money have no vision.' Another option, said Martin, is a retail conversion of the theaters, similar to what Urban Outfitters did with the 1917 Rialto Theater at 810 S. Broadway. Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway Initiative has sought to activate the street’s collection of historic movie palaces."
The word in February 2016 was that, after years of planning, the then-latest version of the project had been shelved. Downtown Los Angeles News reported in a February story that plans for a tower had "stalled following disagreements" between owner Joe Hellen and the city on the high-rise's design. Simon Ha noted that the tower's modern look was an issue. He's a principal at Steinberg Architects, the firm that had been working on the design.
Hellen evidently had balked at the changes that would have been required to give this one the historic features the city's Office of Historic Resources was after. One concern with this version, as with earlier plans, was that it would limit the future viability of the theatres due to limited access. That would have been fixable, of course.
The project rose again in 2017 as a shimmering blue-glass design by ASAP/Adam Sokol Architecture Practice. Urbanize L.A. had an August 2017 story about it by Steven Sharp: "Downtown Developer Considers Reviving Spring Street Tower." Sharp noted that the design
A rendering looking along Spring St., one of four appearing with the 2017 Urbanize L.A. article. There was no mention of the future of the three theatres. Sharp posted a link to his story on the DTLA Development Facebook page where it attracted many comments. Stay tuned for the next chapter. With Joe Hellen's death in 2019 whatever was underway did not proceed.
The rear of the (left to right) Arcade, Cameo and Roxie theatres in 2007. Photo: Bill Counter
The Arcade Theatre in the Movies:
A look north on Broadway at the Arcade, Cameo and Roxie theatres from Kent MacKenzie's "The Exiles" (1961). It's a film about a group of Native Americans trying to survive in downtown L.A. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the film.
The Arcade Theatre (with the Cameo beyond) appears in Arthur Hiller's "W.C. Fields & Me" (Universal, 1976). The Los Angeles also makes an appearance. The film stars Rod Steiger and Vallerie Perrine. Thanks to Escott Norton of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A.Theatres In Movies post for another shot from the film.
get this fine view of the Arcade in Ken Russell's "Whore" (Trimark,
1991). The film stars Teresa Russell, Benjamin Mouton, Antonio
Fargas and Elizabeth Morehead. Amir Mokri was the cinematographer. This
was supposedly his answer to the glamorous life portrayed in
"Pretty Woman." On the left side of the marquee Ken has "Crimes of
Passion," his 1984 film with Kathleen Turner, who played the China Blue
character. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Million Dollar, Cameo and Century Plaza theatres from the film.
"3 New Kung Fu Hits." The Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres got dressed up as Gotham City in the 1980s for a scene in "Joker: Folie à Deux" (Warner Bros.,
2024). Todd Phillips directed a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Lady
Gaga, Zazie Beetz, Brendan Gleeson and Catherine Keener. The
cinematography was by Lawrence Sher. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a dozen more shots.
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