Opened: December, 1908 as the Walker Theatre (built for George Walker) with programs of Sullivan and Considine vaudeville and movies. After 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.
A 1906 photo of Palmer from the Jeff Greenwood collection. With
his wife they appeared in vaudeville
theatres for years as "Palmer and Robinson" with acts such
as "The Sorcerer and the Soubrette" and "The Maid
and the Mountebank." In 1905 they had played at Fischer's Theatre and the Unique Theatre. In 1912 they settled in L.A. and he later worked for Mack Sennett and others writing screenplays and also had a career as a trade magazine editor. Thanks, Jeff!
The 1911 city directory has the theatre 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 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."
"Exclusive Films." A 1912 ad for the Mozart. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it.
In the 1917, 1918 and 1919 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 was the Orange Grove Theatre from 1924 to 1929.
Here in this 1925 ad located by Ken McIntyre it's Wilkes' Orange Grove. The Wilkes brothers, Alfred G. and Thomas, also had theatres in San Francisco and were the initial operators of what is now the Montalban when it opened in early 1927.
In 1926 the organization operating the Orange Grove after the Wilkes left also took over the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. A June 12 L.A. Times article located by Cinema Treasures contributor Jeff Bridges noted:
A 1928 L.A. Times ad. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting it on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
The Orange Grove turned into the Actor's Theatre from 1929 to 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 estate of George Walker. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the April 4, 1946 L.A. Times article for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
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:
c.1912 - Looking south on Grand from 7th Street. 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.
1913 - A 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.
1913 - "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.
c.1913 - Aview 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.
1917 - A 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.
1917 - 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.
c.1919 - Looking west on 7th Street from Broadway. 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.
1931 - A detail from the Union Bank photo. The roof sign still said "Walker Theatre."
2018 - 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
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 free pdf from the National Library of Sweden.
The other Grand Theatre: See the page about the Grand Opera House at 110 S. Main St. In the 20s it was called The Grand. The theatre opened in 1884 and was demolished in 1936.
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