547 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90013 | map |
This 1912 G. Haven Bishop photo taken for Southern California Edison shows the theatre in the building's south storefront and the impressive signage for the Airdome Dance Hall on the roof. The photo is in the Huntington Library collection. There's nothing visible telling us this that is called the Shell -- other than the shape of the entrance. The building, now missing its two upper floors, doesn't resemble anything now on Broadway. The clue to identifying the location was finding the Airdome Dance Hall listed in the 1912 city directory.
By August 1914 Billy Clune had the house and was exhibiting films suitable for women and families and calling the theatre Clune's Exclusive.
Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding this item in the August 22, 1914 issue of The California Outlook.
The theatre is listed in the 1915 city directory just as Clune's. In an article about pioneer L.A. exhibitors in the July 15, 1916 issue of Moving Picture World this branch of the Clune empire is just referred to as "a small five cent house at 547 Broadway." They also note that he had his offices in the building. The issue is on Google Books. The theatre is listed in the 1916 city directory as both Clune's and as the Comedy Theatre. In the 1917 directory it's listed as the Comedy Theatre.
Two Clune's Comedy Theatre programs. Thanks to Walnut Park based historian Wally Shidler for sharing these from his collection.
Closing: 1918 appears to be the end. It's not in the 1918 or later directories -- the theatre location had become used as retail space.
On the right we get a c.1930 view of the building that once housed
the Shell Theatre in its south storefront. Here the building still has four floors. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Godzilla for finding the photo and including it in his Noirish post #24429.
The building in the center had once been the Broadway entrance to the Metropolitan Theatre. Here it has become retail space. Note the vertical sign redone to say "Paramount."
Status: The building, which dates from 1901, is still on
Broadway. It has been remodeled a number of times -- including getting
its upper floors chopped off. It's now down to two floors with retail on
the ground floor.
The building that would later be home to the Shell is the four story one on the right. This c.1909 postcard view is looking south from the middle of the 500 block. The big six story reddish building in the middle is at the SW corner of 6th and Broadway. It's still there, minus its ornament. The second building on the block, the white one with the flagpoles, is the currently the site of the Los Angeles Theatre. Beyond that is the Colorado Hotel. Bullocks on northwest corner of 7th and Broadway. Thanks to theatre researcher Michelle Gerdes for finding the card on eBay. It had a postmark of October 1910.
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Shell Theatre.
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