Opened: December, 1908 as the Walker Theatre (built for George Walker) with programs of Sullivan and Considine vaudeville and movies. Afrer using a long string of other names it ended up as the Grand Theatre.
The photo is a July 1946 view taken shortly before the theatre's demolition. It's from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The theatre was on the east side of Grand south of 7th St. -- just north of where Whole Foods now is.
Architects: Eisen and Son designed the six story building (called the Walker Auditorium Building) which contained a number of other halls (such as Lincoln Hall, Roosevelt Hall) and music studios in addition to the main theatre. The architectural firm evolved into Walker & Eisen and worked on many other theatres.
It was known as the Nielson Theatre in 1910 after a remodel for use by a stock company. The Neilson name got into the 1910 city directory.
In 1911 it was again the Walker and operated by Arthur Hyman. Hyman also had the College Theatre on Hill and the Garrick at 8th & Broadway. The 1911 city directory has it moved over to 730 S. Broadway, a typo. At some point it was called Clune's Grand Avenue Theatre. See the page about the Cameo Theatre for a timeline of Billy Clune's other exhibition ventures.
After Clune left, the theatre was back to the Walker name. The 1912 city directory has it as the Walker. From August 1912 until 1915 it was the Mozart, (or the Grand Ave. Mozart) under the direction of Mrs. Anna M. Mozart. It's the Mozart in the 1912 directory.
An ad in the July 20, 1912 issue of Moving Picture World from the Mozart -- looking for films and staff. Ladies only need apply: "The management will employ (only) lady help -- from Manager to ushers -- MAKING IT THE ONLY THEATRE IN THE U.S. EMPLOYING EXCLUSIVELY LADIES." Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for finding the ad. It's featured in his Bijou Dreams post about the Mozart.
The Moving Picture World issue of August 17, 1912 discussed the Mozart:
"The new Mozart motion picture theater, which opened August 5, is unique in that it is conducted almost entirely by women. The only male employee on the premises is the operator in the projection booth. The proprietor and manager is Mrs. Anna M. Mozart. All her assistants–ushers, ticket sellers, doorkeepers, the musical director–even the press agent–are women. There is a ‘policewoman’ on duty at each performance.
"The new enterprise is housed in the Walker Theater, formerly a regular playhouse, on Grand Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. It has a seating capacity of about 900 and before it opened its doors Mrs. Mozart spent nearly $25,000 in getting ready. The largest single item of expense was $10,000, which was invested in a Photoplayer, the first of its size to be installed on the coast. It is an instrument designed to take the place of a full orchestra but it can be operated by one person.
"The one in the Mozart Theater is 25 feet long, eight feet wide and ten feet high and occupies the entire orchestra pit. Inside it are thousands of pipes and reeds, a piano and the necessary apparatus for producing 33 different sound effects, such as bird calls, locomotive bell and whistle, thunder, rain, horse trots, cannon, drums, cymbals, castanets and tambourine. Another feature is a set of reeds which reproduces the tones of the human voice.
"Nothing but big special features will be shown in the house. Among the films advertised to be shown in the near future are Blanche Walsh in 'Resurrection,' 'St. George and the Dragon,' 'The Raven,' Nat Goodwin in 'Nathan Hale,' 'Custer’s Last Fight,' and 'The Odyssey.' Summer prices will be 10, 15 and 25 cents."
An ad in the October 5, 1912 issue of Moving Picture World extolling the virtues of the Fotoplayer installed at the Mozart. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding the ad and the August 17 article for his Bijou Dreams post.
Anna Mozart disappeared at some point. In a 1915 ad the theatre had become the Brooks Theatre. By February 1916 it had become the Strand, a film house, opening with Sarah Bernhardt in "Jeanne Dore," a 1915 release. Despite the name changes, there are still references well into 1916 calling it the Mozart Theatre Building. It's still called the Strand (at least on the back and one side) in 1917 and later photos.
In the 1917, 18 and 19 city directories it's called Walker Auditorium. In 1918 L.A. Times ads it was running as legit house called Walker's Theatre Beautiful. In the 1923 city directory it's the Walker. In 1923 and 1924 it was known the Grand Avenue. It was also known as the Fine Arts in 1924.
It became the Orange Grove from 1924-29 and the Actor's Theatre from 1929-1935. It was the Grand International Theatre and running films again from 1935 to 1937. The name was shortened to Grand Theatre in 1937.
A pass to get into the theatre for the play "Wedding Night" in 1941 when it had "comfortable seating" and was known as the Grand Playhouse. It's from the collection of Walnut Park based historian Wally Shidler. Thanks to theatre explorer and archivist Michelle Gerdes for photographing it..
The theatre ended its life as the Grand in 1946. Its last chapter involved showing first run films from Russia and Europe. Herb Rosener was the last operator. The building was owned by the eastate of George Walker.
Status: It was demolished in 1946 to provide additional parking for the Robinson's department store. There's now a mixed use building on the site with a Whole Foods on the ground floor and housing above.
More exterior views:
Looking south on Grand from 7th Street, perhaps around 1912. It's a photo by Martin Behrman in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The photo also appears in the California State Library collection. Note the "Theatre" sign on the stagehouse. And check out that nice fire escape access to the grid.
A detail of the signage from the Martin Behrman photo. "Clune's" has been painted out.
A 1913 look at the theatre as the Mozart. It's a photo by G. Haven Bishop, part of a set he did for the Southern California Edison Co. It's in the Huntington Library collection.
A detail from the 1913 G. Haven Bishop photo.
"Safest Theatre in the City" - "Exclusive Motion Pictures." This view by E. P. Chase of the north side of the building is in the Huntington Library collection. It's another that was taken for Southern California Edison.
A c.1913 view with the theatre's stagehouse on the left. Grand Ave. is out of the frame to the left. We're looking northeast with 8th St. running left to right at the bottom of the photo and Olive the north/south street. It's a photo by Bailey from the California Historical Society that's in the USC Digital Library collection.
The large whitish building in the center is the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 7th & Olive, opened in 1912. To its right in 1920 would rise the Pantages, later renamed the Warner. At the right there's Bullocks at 7th & Broadway. In the distance left of the Athletic Club note Central Park (renamed Pershing Square in 1918) and the the building that would later be called the Philharmonic Auditorium.
A detail of the stagehouse from the c.1913 USC photo.
A November 1917 look west from the Lankershim Hotel at the southeast corner of 7th and Broadway. The back of the theatre, here called the Strand, is in the distance at the center, just left of the smokestack. This is panel #2 of a four part panorama by C.C. Pierce in the USC Digital Library collection.
The street we're looking up at the right is 7th. On the right that nice vacant lot at 7th & Hill this side of the Athletic Club is where the Pantages/Warner would rise in 1920.
A detail from the image above showing the back of the theatre as seen from Broadway. The signage on the side says it's the Strand Picture Palace. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor HossC, who posted the photo on his Noirish post #22830. He was more interested in the smokestack than the theatre.
Looking west on 7th Street from Broadway c.1919. The stage end of the theatre, here still called the Strand, is visible in the distance. The photo from the California Historical Society is in the USC Digital Library collection.
The State Theatre would soon rise in place of the buildings on the left. Beyond the alley is the marquee of the Palace Theatre, a venue that would close in January 1921. On the northeast corner of 7th & Hill a construction fence is up for the Pantages/Warner. Way down 7th St. on the Brockman Building the Kinema (later renamed the Criterion Theatre) has a big sign with an arrow pointing off to the right.
A detail from the previous photo showing the back of the Strand. Or at least the signage still said Strand. That Alhambra sign was mounted on a building on the west side of Hill St. The the sign isn't on the theatre building itself. The arrow points to the theatre on Hill between 7th and 8th.
Looking south on Grand along the facade of the 8th & Grand mixed-use building now occupying the theatre site. Whole Foods and 8th St. are in the distance. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page about the Grand Theatre with lots of fascinating research by Joe Vogel and other contributors. Scandals, bigamy and more! Jeff Bridges (aka Vokoban) has unearthed many interesting newspaper articles detailing the mysteries of this building and did much of the research on the many names the Grand Theatre has used.
There's a lovely section on the Grand titled "Jinxed Exhibition -- Grand Avenue and the Mozart Theatre" beginning on page 132 of Jan Olsson's 2008 book "Los Angeles Before Hollywood - Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905-1915." The book is available as a pdf from the National Library of Sweden.
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