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Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

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

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


Opened: December 6, 1964 as The Pavilion at L.A. Music Center with Zubin Mehta conducting the L.A. Philharmonic in “Fanfare” by Richard Strauss. It was also called the Memorial Pavilion. The Times reported that opening week shows included the Count Basie Orchestra, Van Cliburn and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was subbing for Nat King Cole, who was sick. There had been a dedication ceremony on September 27 with Bob Hope as emcee. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018

Phone: 213- 972-7211   Website: www.musiccenter.org | on Facebook

The Music Center campus is a Los Angeles County operation. The Board of Supervisors later renamed the theatre the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in honor of Dorothy Buffum Chandler, the prime instigator and fundraiser for the project. When the Pavilion first opened it largely replaced the 1906 vintage Philharmonic Auditorium. Broadway shows that once might have played the Philharmonic or the Dorothy Chandler are now booked at the Ahmanson, a venue that opened in 1967.

The L.A. Philharmonic moved over to Disney Hall in 2003. The Oscar telecast, now at the Dolby Theatre, was done for decades at the Dorothy Chandler, alternating years with the Shrine Auditorium. Current programming at the Dorothy Chandler includes the L.A. Opera and Glorya Kaufman Dance seasons as well as other events. 

Architect: Welton Becket. Much of the decor was by Tony Duquette and Elsie de Wolf.

Seating: 3,197. It's a three-balcony house. The levels above the main floor are referred to as the Founders Circle, Loge, and Balcony.

Stage data: 

Proscenium width: 58'

Stage depth: 64'

Upstage "bustle":  172' wide x 40' deep

Stage wall-to-wall: 169'

Grid height: 90'

Counterweight system: 108 sets operated at stage level stage right. Battens can be used as 45' lengths or are 65' when extensions are added to the ends. Sets have 7 lift lines. Tension blocks are in a well about 10' below stage level. In addition, there are two underhung sets with 8 lift lines each below the beam at the backwall. A few underhung sets are positioned in the upstage bustle beyond the back wall.

Flyfloor: Stage right about 40' up. In addition, there are many other catwalk levels so that arbors can be loaded from any of eight different heights.

Stage left storage area: 40' wide x 60' deep

Dressing rooms: There are 10 rooms either at stage level or on the mezzanine level above. There's dressing room space for 200 performers in the basement in addition to musicians rooms and storage.

Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the stage data. Visit the fine page about the Music Center on his Historic Theatre Photography site.


Lobby areas:  


The east side of the Plaza Level lobby. Entrances to the house left side of the main floor are off to the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The north side of the Plaza Level lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



The grand stairs. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The lobby at the Founders Circle level in 1968. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo. It once appeared as a post on her Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page but seems to have vanished from that platform.



The Founders Circle lobby from house right. This performance and reception area is now called Stern Hall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The Founders Room off the house right side of the lobby. Two of the three chandeliers in the room were used in the 1938 MGM film "The Great Waltz." When the decorator, Tony Duquette, decided that they would be used for this room but three were needed, another was built to match. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Another Founders Room view. That's Dorothy on the left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



The inner lobby at the Founders Circle level. The auditorium is off to the right. Through the doors at the end is the Oval Lounge. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The Oval Lounge on the house left side of the lobby at Founders Circle level. Restrooms are down at the far end. The auditorium is off to the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A look east from the Loge Level lobby. That's City Hall through the left window at the far end. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A look down from the lobby at Balcony Level in 1967. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for the photo from his collection. It's on Vintage Los Angeles.


The auditorium:


A 1964 auditorium view. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.  



The rear of the house for the 1964 grand opening. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



Looking across on the Founders Circle level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A peek down at the main floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The view from the front of the stage. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019


Backstage: 


 Downstage left looking onstage. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Downstage left with an emptier stage. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



A look into the house from stage left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The view across to stage right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019


 
Downstage left looking through the open door into the upstage "bustle." Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



In the upstage bustle looking toward its back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Upstage in the bustle looking across to stage right. On the left side note a bit of the rear projection screen used for the L. A. Opera production of "Satyagraha" by Philip Glass. The projectors are on the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


 
In the upstage bustle looking back across to stage left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


 
A closer look at the loading doors stage left opening up onto the dock on Hope St. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Onstage, looking up into the bustle. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The view to stage right. Note the flyfloor with its pinrail across the top of the image. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The panoramic view to the grid. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



A view toward the proscenium wall from upstage stage right. The big bird is a puppet that was used in L.A. Opera's production of "Satyagraha." Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



Another view toward downstage right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Looking down right with an emptier stage. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The upstage portion of the stage right wall. That's the flyfloor halfway up. On the right note the two underhung sets below the "proscenium" separating the main stagehouse from the upstage bustle. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A look at how the lift lines from those two sets within the upstage "proscenium" are terminated. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Another view of the stage right wall. On the lowest level in the photo, up about 10' from the stage, there's an array of dimmer racks. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



A look across the grid from offstage right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The prompt area downstage right. With a minder to make sure the tourists behave themselves. The tour was part of the annual November Grand Ave. Arts "all access" event. Note the doorway behind the minder leading to a nook for lighting control. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



Lighting control in a recess downstage right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Down right looking toward the lockrail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The view upstage along the lockrail. Note that the tension blocks are down below stage level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018  



A lockrail detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018. In addition to the synthetic rope purchase lines, one can also see steel compensating cables that are attached to the bottom of the arbors. A cable from the bottom of an arbor comes down, go around a separate sheave in the basement, is routed routed up behind the T-wall to another sheave near the headblock where it goes over it and is attached to a weight to keep the cable taut as the arbor moves. 

Compensating cables are used in theatres with high grids to keep the load balanced as the set moves from high trim to low trim. When the batten is at low trim the set would be "batten heavy" due to the weight of the lift lines that has shifted in that direction. The extra weight of the heavy cable connected to the bottom of the arbor (at this point near the top of its travel) helps equalize that. In the opposite situation with the batten near the grid (and the arbor down near the stage), the set is "arbor heavy" as the weight of the lift lines has moved toward the arbor and the load on the batten appears lighter to the flyman. The compensating cable weight helps to balance that as there's less cable length between the bottom of the arbor and the sheave in the basement. 



Looking into the pit for the tension blocks, about 10' below stage level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The view back across to stage left. Yes, the place is huge! Photo: Mike Hume - 2019


 
A closer view to stage left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Into the house from up right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



The auditorium from up center. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019. Thanks, Mike!



Checking out the nearly empty pit, here up at auditorium level. The pit is on three separate lifts. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019


More exterior views: 


A February 1964 construction view. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for sharing the photo from his collection. It was a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. Richard notes that the DWP Building to the left opened in 1965.



A 1964 postcard. Thanks to Alison Martino for sharing the card from her collection. It once appeared on her Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



A postcard from the Eric Lynxwiler collection. It's in his terrific Paper Ephemera album on Flickr. Thanks, Eric!



 Looking across from the Mark Taper in 1967. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo.



A look south on Grand in September 1976. It's a photo from the Richard Wojcik collection appearing on Vintage Los Angeles.



The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from Disney Hall. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for his 2014 photo. Keep up with his latest explorations: on Faceboook | hunterkerhart.com | on Flickr



A 2018 view across from Disney Hall. Photo: Bill Counter 
 
 

A December 2020 look across the revamped plaza. Photo: Bill Counter
 

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

On his site, Mike has a pdf of "A Contemporary Expression of Classic Architecture," a four page article by Welton Becket discussing the design of the theatre that appeared in the December 6, 1964 issue of the L.A. Times. Also on the site are a floorplan and section.

 Curbed L.A. had a nice April 2014 50th anniversary story with a history and photos from the Los Angeles Public Library's collection.

The Music Center pages: back to top - Dorothy Chandler PavilionAhmanson Theatre | Disney Hall | Redcat | Mark Taper Forum |

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