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Ahmanson Theatre

135 N. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 | map |

The Music Center pages: Ahmanson Theatre | Dorothy Chandler PavilionDisney Hall | Redcat | Mark Taper Forum |


Opened: April 1967. This 1967 Herald Examiner photo looking north on Hope St. is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The Ahmanson Theatre, part of the L.A. County Music Center, typically books Broadway musicals with an occasional straight play. Like the Mark Taper Forum just to the south, it's managed by Center Theatre Group.

Phone: 213-628-2772  Website: www.centertheatregroup.org

Seating: 2,133. It's a two balcony house. The 1999 edition of "Stage Specs, a Technical Guide to Theatres" breaks down the seating as 1,011 on the main floor, 607 in the 1st balcony (which the theatre calls the mezzanine) and 515 in the 2nd balcony (called the balcony).

2,084 is the number appearing in Wikipedia. The capacity is sometimes reduced for smaller shows by draping off parts of the mezzanine and balcony.

Architect: Welton Becket and Associates. 
 

Before it got the Ahmanson name it was on the plans as the Center Theater. This early Music Center site plan from Becket is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 
 
 

A sectional drawing from the architects of the theatre as it was in 1967. The two balconies were later extended forward. 



The 1967 basement plan. 


The 1967 main floor plan. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the drawings for the fine page about the Music Center on his Historic Theatre Photography site. If you're curious about the other levels of the building he has the plans as a 460Kb pdf

Ellerbe Becket, the successor firm to Becket & Associates, did a major renovation in 1993 and 1994 that extended the balcony and mezzanine forward, narrowed the house a bit, and lowered the ceiling. The last performance before the renovation was "Phantom of the Opera" on August 29, 1993 and the reopening with "Miss Saigon" was Wednesday January 25, 1995.

Gruen Associates designed a renovation of the proscenium area that was executed by Matt Construction in 2011. Thanks to Mike Hume for tracking down the project and determining the date. The Ahmanson Theatre page on the Matt site has this data: 

"In this design-build, fast-track project, the Ahmanson Theatre received an upgrade allowing it to accommodate the sets and tech of modern visiting productions. The team widened the Ahmanson Theatre’s unusually narrow proscenium and enhanced its appearance and functionality with metal mesh curtains and a unique, removable and storable proscenium header. Other improvements included a new ceiling, fire wall and fire curtain, structural rigging beams and curtain and lighting platforms. This challenging project succeeded amid numerous constraints, including a complete lack of as-builts and a construction window of only seven weeks."

 
Stage specifications:

Proscenium: It's now 40' wide x 42' high with a removable header. It got a remodel in 2011. Previously the dimensions were 39' 6" wide x 31' 10" high

Stage depth: 50' from smoke pocket to back wall

Wall to wall: 126'

Grid height: 76' 4"

Counterweight system: 92 5-line sets, 50' long pipes, 760 lb. arbor capacity

Lockrail: stage left at stage level

Flyfloors: SL and SR at 34' 11"

House dimmer system: 328 2.4 Kw Strand CD80

Road power: 4 400A 3 phase, 1 200A 3 phase for sound, 2 200 A 3 phase extra

Patchable F.O.H. circuits: 136

Pit: 9' 6" below stage level, no lift

Much of the stage data comes from the 1999 edition of "Stage Specs, A Technical Guide to Theatres" published by the League of American Theatres and Producers. Thanks to Mike Hume for providing a copy. Visit the page about the Music Center on his Historic Theatre Photography site.


Lobby views:


The main lobby looking across from house left. Here we're at Plaza level. Entering around either side from this level gets you to the mezzanine. Going to the main floor means you go down a level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The main lobby from house right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



A view out toward the Plaza. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 


 
A look up toward balcony levels -- and a collection of strange sculptures. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


 
The bar on the house right side of the main floor entrances. We're down a flight from the main lobby, here pointed out toward Grand Ave. The founders room is down at the bottom of the ramp. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Looking toward the house right stairs back up to the main lobby level. The entrances to the house right side of the main floor are off to our right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 


The auditorium: 


A peek in from a house right entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



A wider view from house right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



The rear of the two-balcony house. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



A look down from the 1st balcony, a level the theatre calls the mezzanine. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
 
 

A proscenium view taken after the 2011 renovation of the area designed by Gruen Associates and executed by Matt Construction. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting this photo and the two below on the Ahmanson Theatre page of the Matt website.
 
 

The rebuilt proscenium with the house curtain in and the sides lit. Photo: Matt Construction - 2011
 
 

A view to the house right boxes. Photo: Matt Construction - 2011 
 


The proscenium from the 1st balcony level. Thanks to Mike Hume for his 2019 photo. He notes that upstage of the center cluster speakers there's a bit of the red house curtain visible. The back wall is not the theatre's but a set for the one man Mike Birbiglia show "The New One."


Backstage:


The lockrail stage left. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



Looking up above the lockrail. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



The downstage left corner. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



The auditorium from onstage. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



Looking across to the flyfloor stage right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019. He comments: "Really could’ve done with a bit more light at stage right!"



 The under side of the flyfloor and on up to the grid. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



A wider panorama of the stage right wing. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019


 
Downstage right looking offstage. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019

Mike comments: "Note the company switches on the left. The white door beyond the first switch is a pass door into the auditorium. There’s a cable tray and a platform which runs along the back of the proscenium wall, above the switches, at about 10ft up. In front of the switches would normally be a lot of road dimmers, with cabling heading out to the stage along the cable tray."
 
Los Angeles-based lighting designer Jared A. Sayeg advises: "In 1989 when the first National Company / 1st permanent sit down production of 'Phantom' was being prepared for LA there was not enough space stage right for the scenery that needed to be stored offstage as well as the show’s many dimmer racks, so they built a 2nd level for all the dimmer racks to be elevated about 10' or so. I remember visiting backstage in 1990 and saw the huge amounts of cable running to the platform with all the racks, it was quite a sight. The platform has remained there ever since, and oddly hasn't been used for dimmer racks since."



The upstage right corner. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



The view along the back wall across to stage left. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019. Thanks, Mike! For lots of tech data and many fine photos see his page about the Music Center on his Historic Theatre Photography site. 


More Exterior views:


A March 1966 view of the Taper and the Ahmanson under construction taken by Palmer Connor. Thanks to James J. Chun for finding it in the Huntington Library collection for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



Looking north on Grand Ave. past the Mark Taper Forum toward the Ahmanson. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The front of the Ahmanson revealed. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



The east side of the building. The stage is on the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



On the Plaza between the Taper and the Ahmanson. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018

More information: Visit Mike Hume's fine page about the Music Center on his Historic Theatre Photography site for more photos.

See the Wikipedia article on the Ahmanson. Southland Architecture has a page on the theatre with several photos.

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