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College Theatre

449 S. Hill St. Los Angeles, CA 90014 | map |

Opened: December 14, 1910 by Arthur S. Hyman. The College Theatre was named for its proximity to the nearby State Normal School on the block that is currently the site of the Library. The theatre was on the west side of Hill just north of 5th. It was right behind the Philharmonic Auditorium. The 1928 image is a detail from a California Historical Society photo in the USC Digital Library collection.

Cinema Treasures researcher Joe Vogel found this announcement in the September 11, 1910 Los Angeles Herald:

"MOVING PICTURE SHOW THEATER BUILDING BOOKED FOR SOUTH HILL STREET - The moving picture enterprise has finally struck South Hill street. Soon an ornate theater building will be erected on the Dr. West Hughes lot, 40x120 feet, just north of the California club, corner of Hill and Fifth streets. Through the agency of William P. Ferris of 406 West Seventh street Dr. Hughes' lot has been leased for a period of ten years to A. S. Hyman and Charles Prochazko at rental aggregating $100,000. The lessees of the lot will begin the erection of a high class picture theater building at once. The lot leased is on the west side of Hill street, halfway between the Los Angeles-Pacific railway station and Fifth street." Thanks, Joe!

In the 1911 city directory 447 S. Hill gets a listing under moving picture theatres for Chas Prochazka, the partner of Mr. Hyman. In the 1912 directory the College is given an address of 439 S. Hill.

A photo of Arthur Hyman that appeared in the Moving Picture World issue of April 22, 1911. Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for finding this as well as other materials about the theatre. He's covered it in two posts on his Theatre Talks blog: College Theatre Part 1 and College Theatre Part 2.

Hyman was profiled in a page 11 story in the September 15, 1911 issue of the L.A. Times. In addition to the College, Hyman was known to have operated several other theatres. Except for the Luna Park, these were all listed in an article in Motography magazine in August, 1911. 

Hyman Theatre, 8th & Broadway - later known as the Garrick

Hyman Theatre, Venice - later known as the Neptune

Walker Theatre, 730 S. Grand -- later known as the Grand and many other names

Rounder Theatre, 510 S. Main - evidently a short-lived operation

Royal Theatre - 246 S. Broadway - Hyman had the house in 1910 and 1911

Luna Park Theatre - earlier known as Chutes Theatre.

Architects: Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns, of the firm Hunt & Burns. The cost of the structure was reported in the April 22, 1911 issue of Moving Picture World as $35,000.

Seating: 600

The entrance to the College Theatre. Presumably the flowers were for the grand opening. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for sharing the postcard from his collection. It's on the first of his two Theatre Talks posts about the College. 

The theatre was described in a May 27, 1911 article in  Moving Picture World: 

"The theatre is of brick construction and covers the full width and depth of the lot measuring 40x120. The front of the building is decorated with an intricate design of white staff to the height of the three sculptural groups, the central figures of which hold aloft torches composed of white globes. Above the sculptured groups and extending to the roof cornice, the front is laid off in marked squares tinted in a light orange color.

"The lobby is wainscoted to a height of ten feet with selected white Italian marble. On the sides of the marble wainscoting, at a height of five feet, are placed four small decorative panels of leaded art glass; two on each side of the lobby. Above the marble wainscoting are five pairs of leaded art glass windows with mahogany sashes.

"The box office is also wainscoted in marble. Above the plate glass extends a decorative bronze grill. The ceiling of the lobby is in white plaster from which is suspended two square 12-inch drop lights with leaded art glass panels, each of the four panels representing a phase of college athletic life in which appear athletes in college athletic costumes. The entrance doors are of solid mahogany. The exit doors facing the street are of Gothic design.

"The height of the auditorium is twenty-nine feet. The walls are tinted in a light green, and the plaster decorations in a light orange with gold leaf and white trimmings. The ceiling is arched and paneled in white with stenciled borders in gold and green. The ceiling contains six circular ventilators with bronze grills. The side walls of the auditorium support four eighteen-inch fans on each side, and between them are hung art glass side-lights in miniature of the lobby drop lights. The railings about the orchestra, the bases, the door facings and stairway leading to the operator's room are of mahogany. The screen is roomy and on each side of it are two singing booths.

"The tapestries of the auditorium are of velour with dark green inside face, and the other side plum colored. At the rear of the auditorium are retiring rooms for both men and women, with a maid in attendance in the latter. The seats are upholstered in light green leather, with brass-plated standards, and backs in ark green enamel. The seats are large and roomy and well spaced for the comfort of patrons. The carpets are of green. On the right of the auditorium an exit passage way four feet six inches in width connects with the side auditorium exits and extends down to the stage.

"The orchestra consists of six pieces and is under the leadership of Miss Lillian May Lancaster, a noted composer, and known the country over as the newsboys' friend. The orchestra will feature the college music of the different universities. A notable decorative feature of the auditorium is a series of banners six feet long by four wide containing the seals and pennants in gold and college colors of the following universities: Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Michigan, California, Standford, Southern California, and other well known universities.

"The program consists of five reels of the best of first-run Independent films, and several song specialties. The admission prices charged are 10 and 15, with five-cent admission for the children. Young men ushers, in uniforms of blue, with white braided trimmings, look after the seating of patrons. The musicians' uniforms are white graduation college gowns and white square college caps to match."  Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding the article.

A booth photo from an article in the magazine Motography for August, 1911. They discuss the Hyman circuit and the projection crew:

"One of the best known and most popular men connected with the amusement business in Los Angeles is L. M. Nelson, chief operator and electrician for the Arthur S. Hyman circuit of theaters.
Upon the opening of the first Hyman theater his services were secured by Mr. Hyman, and as the houses were added Mr. Nelson was given charge of the projection of the entire Hyman circuit, comprising the Hyman Theater at Eighth and Broadway, seating 900; the College at Fifth and Hill, seating 600; the Neptune at Venice, seating 600; the Walker at Seventh and Grand Avenue, seating 800; the Rounder at Fifth and Main street, seating 350, and the Royal at Third and Broadway, seating 300.

"The distance separating the Hyman houses made the purchase of a runabout necessary, consequently some months ago Mr. Nelson invested in a Hupmobile, and since then the two (Nelson and the Hup) are to be seen on their journeys of projection at all hours.

"At the College Theater the operating room is 9 by 18 feet with a ten-foot ceiling, having a 34-inch flue in the center of the ceiling for ventilating purposes, together with an exhaust fan. The equipment consists of two Edison 'type B' machines, a double dissolving stereopticon, a Menchen spotlight and the necessary accessories. Two operators are on duty, giving a continuous performance. The equipment is the same in all the houses with the exception of the Neptune at Venice, where the alternating current made the use of a mercury arc rectifier necessary.

"Many and favorable are the comments heard on the projection in the various Hyman houses, which is no doubt due to the careful selection of skilled operators and the close personal attention given to the equipment by Mr. Nelson. The action of the Hyman management in placing Mr. Nelson in charge of projection in all its theaters shows the care that is taken in the western city to get perfect pictures." Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding the article.

E.J. Tally takes over: Hyman didn't stick around long. By 1913 the theatre was being operated by E.J. Tally, brother of the more famous exhibitor Thomas Tally. More of E. J.'s adventures:

1890s - 1902 - E.J. worked with his brother at various Tally's Phonograph and Vitascope Parlor locations and at Tally's Electric Theatre.

1910 - He's mentioned in a L.A. Times item as one of three partners in the Wonderland Theatre, 315 S. Main. Much later this house was called the Jade Theatre.

1910 - He was one of the initial partners at the Liberty Theatre, 266 S. Main St.

1913 - E.J. is mentioned in a September 27 Motion Picture World article about the Alhambra Theatre, which he was running at the same time as the College.

1914 - E J. built out a store space at 642 S. Broadway to become the Palace of Pictures.

Lou Bard gets it: In 1914 the College Theatre was listed with an address of 449 S. Hill St., in 1915 at 459 S. Hill. The theatre was later operated as Bard's College Theatre. Bard also ran the nearby Bard's Hill Street Theatre (later called the Town) and Bard's 8th Street (later known as the Olympic Theatre). He also had theatres in West Adams, Glendale, Alhambra and Pasadena. His theatre in the Los Feliz area was later renamed the Vista.

Closing: The date is unknown. It was still listed in the 1929 city directory, at 449 S. Hill, but that year might have been about the end.

Status: It's been demolished. After ceasing operation as a theatre the building was used as retail space and then as a restaurant. Eventually it became a parking lot and remained so until 2016 when construction began on the Park Fifth apartment project, which also uses lot the Philharmonic Auditorium was once on.

More exterior views: 

1910 - A pre-opening photo that appeared in the August 1911 issue of Motography. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for including it with his Theatre Talks College Theatre: Part 2 post. That's chief projectionist and electrician L.M. Nelson in the Hup runabout the circuit had to buy to get around to all the theatres.

1911 - A view appearing in the Moving Picture World issue of May 27, 1911. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding it for the first post about the College Theatre on his Theatre Talks blog. 

c.1911 -  A postcard view of the California Club at the NW corner of 5th and Hill. The College Theatre is on the right. Thanks to Brent Dickerson for including this card, along with many others, in the great "Hill Street Part 1" chapter of his "A Visit to Old Los Angeles" epic.

1924 - Looking north from 5th with the theatre on the left hiding behind the California Club on the corner. It's a California Historical Society photo in the USC Digital Library collection.

1924 - A detail from the USC photo revealing the theatre's signage which says "Big Stars Only."  Note the billboard for "Thief of Bagdad" at the Egyptian on top of the building next door.

c.1928 - The theatre's signage can be seen in this detail from a California Historical Society photo in the  USC Digital Library collection. We're looking south toward Pershing Square with the theatre tucked in this side of the California Club. The pricing here is 15 cents. Looks like that wasn't a wise move. Note in the photo below it's down to 10 cents. 

The California Club, a 1905 vintage building fronting on Pershing Square, was replaced in 1930 by the art deco Title Guarantee Building, a design by Parkinson and Parkinson. Toward the right of the image is the Subway Terminal Building, a 1925 design by Schultze and Weaver. It's now apartments and going under the name Metro 417.

That fine tall building in the middle of the block, Walker & Eisen's National Bank of Commerce Building, was under construction at the time of the photo. They've got a barricade out on the sidewalk. Originally it was called the Peoples National Bank Building. Note their earlier small office this side of the Subway Terminal Building.

Cinema Treasures researcher Joe Vogel comments on the National Bank of Commerce Building: "It replaced the old Masonic Temple, which was demolished early in 1925. The site was then used as a temporary location for P.E.’s Hill Street Station while the Subway Terminal was being built. After the terminal opened, the Bank of Commerce Building was built." The building can also be seen in a c.1929 Los Angeles Public Library photo looking south. It got demolished sometime after 1983.  

1928 - A July photo from the California Historical Society appearing on the USC Digital Library website. On the left it's a sliver of the California Club. Down the block the construction barricade has been removed from in front of the People's / National Bank of Commerce Building. The image at the top of the page is a detail from this photo.

1928 - Another detail from the USC photo. "Blondes By Choice" was an October 1927 release with Claire Windsor and Allan Simpson. 

c.1929 - A view of the California Club on the corner of 5th and Hill. The Philharmonic Auditorium is off to the left. On the right note that the College Theatre building has been converted to two retail spaces. Thanks to Cinema Treasures researcher Joe Vogel for spotting the photo on the Metro Library and Archive collection on Flickr.

1930 - An August 30 view of the California Club ready to come down and the theatre building next door as retail space. It has a campaign headquarters on the left and some sort of "Cut Rate" retail on the right. It's a photo by Mushet Photography in the California State Library set # 001377998 that has 15 views of the construction of the Title Guarantee Building.  

1931 - The Title Guarantee Building getting ready to open. It's a detail from a Los Angeles Examiner photo in the USC Digital Library collection. Also see a 1943 USC photo showing the building used as retail space.

1950s? - The theatre building as Leighton's restaurant. It's a USC Digital Library photo from the California Historical Society. That Thrifty Drug on the corner is now a Starbucks.

2014 - Looking south on Hill toward the Title Guarantee Building. Once upon a time the College Theatre was on the lot just this side of it. In the center in the distance it's the Biltmore Hotel. Photo: Google Maps

2016 - A look west across the site of the College Theatre toward Olive St. at the left and the Subway Terminal Building in the center. Most of the space we see was once occupied by the Philharmonic Auditorium, fronting on both Olive St. and 5th. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for his September photo. Keep up with his latest explorations: | on Facebook

2017 - Construction on the site. Photo: Google Maps

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page devoted to the College Theatre for reports of lots of investigations.

The December 1, 1910 issue of the trade magazine Nickelodeon that mentioned the College in a California news section: 
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