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Tally's Broadway

833 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90014 | map |

Opened: May 2, 1910 by Thomas L. Tally as Tally's Theatre. That was the name according to the signage but it was also referred to as the New Broadway Theatre and, later, Tally's Broadway Theatre. It was constructed in 30 days. Tally had quite a history of early film exhibition in Los Angeles before this opening. See a timeline of his exhibition adventures down at the bottom of the page. This pre-opening photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The left storefront appears vacant.

The theatre was on the west side of Broadway between 8th and 9th. It was just south of Hamburger's Department Store (later the May Co.) and two doors north of the Majestic Theatre. A 1910 L.A. Times article noted that Tally had secured a fifty year lease on the property and hadn't at the time decided how tall his building would be. They noted: "He will probably erect three stories at the present time, and the foundation and walls will be heavy enough to support a ten story building." It ended up as a one story building.

Thanks to Cinema Treasures researcher Jeff Bridges for finding a May 1, 1910 L.A. Times article about the theatre's opening:

"Tally Erects $45,000 Theatre In Thirty Days - Will Open Tomorrow Night - The opening of Tally’s New Broadway Theater tomorrow night at No. 833 South Broadway will celebrate a record-breaking incident in the history of rapid building in Los Angeles. Mr. Tally has constructed in thirty days a two-story brick building, costing between $40,000 and $45,000. For a part of the last month he has had 150 men working night and day to complete the structure. The theater seats nearly 900 persons.

"T.L. Tally was the first man to bring moving pictures to Los Angeles, and has been in the front rank of the business for fifteen years. He will make music a prominent feature of entertainment in his new theater. He has engaged several fine musicians for his orchestra, and will make a specialty of illustrated songs."

Architects: Train & Williams, who also designed the Hyman Theatre at 8th & Broadway, later known as the Garrick.

900, more or less.

The 1910 city directory gives a listing at 833 S. Broadway for both Tally's Film Exchange and Tally's New Broadway. Tally had earlier used that latter name for his New Broadway Theatre at 554 S. Broadway, a house he took over in 1905.

In 1911 Tally's was known as the Kinemacolor Theatre while showing color films in that process but then went back to the Tally's name. Kinemacolor required a special projector showing alternate frames through red and green filters. See the page on the process on the American Widescreen Museum site. The Neptune Theatre, in Venice, also had a fling with Kinemacolor, as did the Philharmonic Auditorium.

J. A. Quinn was running the theatre in 1912 and hoped to build an office building atop it according to a 1913 biography of him on Rootsweb. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this 1912 ad for the ""Q Shows" operated by Quinn: Tally's, the Banner and the Garrick. Quinn would later open the Superba, the Rialto and other theatres. Head down to the bottom of the page on Quinn's Superba for a timeline of his exhibition career.

Tally was soon back and Quinn had gone on to other venues by 1914. The theatre was profiled in the July 10, 1915 issue of Moving Picture World. It's on Internet Archive. The article, titled "Tally's Feature House, A Leading Los Angeles Picture Theater That Possesses Distinction" starts with a discussion of Mr. Tally's pride and joy, his mammoth pipe organ. We eventually get around to talking about the rest of the theatre:

"...The high ceiling of Tally's contains four large illuminated stained glass panels in the center. On the sides are sixteen Billikens in windows faintly illuminated in bluish green. Over the screen between the showing of pictures is a plush green curtain. At each side of the stage is a large window, with small panes, faintly illuminated and decorated with draped curtains.

"At each side of the house are four pendant lamps, hanging from the top of a low-roofed arch extending down each side. Additional light comes from twenty-eight indirect lamps set in the ceiling. There are 100 loge chairs at the rear, all in wicker, and comfortable. Seymour Tally, the son of the owner, is the house manager, and he is assisted by James S. Randall, advertising manager. Picture men visiting Los Angeles should not overlook Tally's."

This photo of Thomas Tally appeared with the article about his theatre in the July 10, 1915 issue of Moving Picture World. The issue also has a photo of the organ console.

An article in Moving Picture World for July 15, 1916 said "The chief feature of this house is the music. It has a splendid orchestra and a simply wonderful organ." In 1916 the admission prices were 10, 20 and 30 cents. The house manager at the time was still Seymour Tally, son of Thomas. The article noted that the 30 cent price got you a wicker chair back in the elevated loge section. The issue is on Google Books.

In the 1920 city directory it's listed as Tally's Broadway Theatre. In the 1922 city directory the theatre is just listed as Tally's again. On May 15, 1922 it was renamed Guterson's Broadway Theatre, under the direction of Mischa Guterson, formerly the music director of Grauman's Million Dollar. It was a big enough deal that California Governor W.D. Stephens appeared along with various Hollywood stars. Evidently Guterson didn't stick around as beginning with the 1923 directory it's again listed as Tally's Broadway Theatre.

In 1925 West Coast Theatres was running Tally's as seen in this January 1925 L.A. Times ad. 

A 1928 ad for Tally's, at the end running marginal product. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad.

Closing: Tally's closed in 1929.

Status: The building was demolished for an expansion for the May Co. department store (originally Hamburger's) just to the north.  Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding an article in the July 7, 1929 issue of the L.A. Times:

"Old Broadway Landmark Passes Into History - Ten-Story Building Will Replace Famous Early Motion-Picture Playhouse -  Passing of practically the last of Broadway’s interesting old landmarks took place recently when workmen removed the last of Tally’s 'New Broadway' Theater to make way for erection of the new $2,000,000 addition to the May Company’s building between Eighth and Ninth on Broadway." The new building opened in late 1930. 

Tally's in the Movies: 

A view toward the Majestic and Tally's from Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last" (Hal Roach / Pathé, 1923). It looks like he's on a building just a bit south of the theatres but he's actually hanging from a set built atop a building on the east side of the street. The image comes from the Harold Lloyd page of the site Film Reference. We also get a look at the Million Dollar in one scene. For more about the film see the post on Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies.

A wild ride down the 800 block of Broadway is included in Harold Lloyd's "Girl Shy" (Harold Lloyd Co. / Pathé, 1924). He's using all available means of transportation to get into the city from his small town to prevent a marriage between the woman he loves and a cad who happens to be already secretly married. Here it's Tally's on the left. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the block with glimpses of the Garrick, Rialto, Majestic and Mission theatres. There are also earlier views of the Culver City Theatre and the Granada/Oriental on Sunset Blvd. 

Interior views:

A wonderful c.1910 view from way at the back of the auditorium. Thanks to Nathan Marsak for sharing the postcard from his collection on Flickr. See his Tally's Theater Broadway album for 8 more photos.

A later view, this time closer to the screen. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.

More exterior views: 

c.1910 - A parade outside Tally's. It's a photo from the Nathan Marsak collection on Flickr. He calls our attention to the very early structure to the left of Tally's, a building soon replaced.

c.1910 - Another parade view from the Nathan Marsak collection. It's on Flickr. Thanks, Nathan!

c.1913 - One panel of a five section panorama by C.C. Pierce in the USC Digital Library collection from the California Historical Society. It was taken from 9th and Main. If you look down the street to 8th and Broadway you'll note that the Merritt Building isn't there yet.

1915 - A terrific view by G. Haven Bishop of Tally's running "Pretty Mrs. Smith." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo in the collection of the Huntington Library. The photo is part of a set commissioned by Southern California Edison Co. documenting electric signs.

1915 - A closer look at the entrance from the G. Haven Bishop photo. Behind the sign advertising the film is a small sign saying "New Broadway Theatre."   

1915 - Looking north on Broadway with Tally's on the left. On the right the Woodley Theatre is running "The Fox Woman," a July release. That house would get renamed the Mission Theatre in 1920. It's a photo from the William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection at the California State Archives.

1916 - Tally's running "The Dumb Girl of  Portici" with Anna Pavlova. It's a photo from the California State Library. There's also a copy in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

c.1916 - A lovely look north on Broadway with the Majestic Theatre, Tally's Broadway, and the big hulk of Hamburger's Department Store beyond. This is half of a stereo pair taken by Underwood & Underwood. It's in the Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California at Riverside. It's on Calisphere where, at last look, they thought it might be somewhere in Nebraska.

On the far side of 8th that's the Hulett C. Merritt Building from 1915. Down at 7th the Bullock's building is visible. On the far right is Woodley's Theatre, later renamed the Mission. It's now the site of the Orpheum.

c.1916 - A detail from the Underwood & Underwood photo. That's the Majestic on the left.

1917 - Looking northwest from 9th and Main. The building on the lower left across the street from Tally's is the Woodley Theatre, later renamed the Mission by Mack Sennett. This is one of three photos in a set from the California Historical Society that are on the USC Digital Library website.

c.1920 - A lovely shot looking north toward 8th. On the extreme left of the photo we have a glimpse of Tally's Broadway with Hamburger's Department Store beyond. On the right toward the end of the block we get a slice of the Rialto and beyond, at 8th and Broadway, the Garrick, now the site of the Tower Theatre. Across 8th is the Chapman building, still there.
The photo is on Brent Dickerson's chapter Later Around Broadway and 8th. This multi-part Broadway tour is one of many great adventures on Brent's "A Visit to Old Los Angeles" epic that appears on the Cal State Long Beach website. Details are on the site's index page. A version of the photo also appears on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

c.1920 - A view of the Majestic Theatre building and Tally's. It's on Calisphere from the UCLA L.A. Times photo collection.

1923 - A wonderful  parade photo looking south toward 9th St. Starting at the left it's the pre-Eastern Columbia Building version of clothing retailer Columbia ("Good Clothes"), the curved marquee of the Majestic Theatre (with a couple of guys standing on it), Robbins (a credit retailer) and Tally's Broadway Theatre. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.  

1925 - Looking north with the Majestic and Tally's shrouded in bunting. On the right the Orpheum is under construction. The photo is in the USC Digital Library collection.

1926 - There's a glancing view of the Tally's facade on the right as we look south with the Majestic beyond. On the left it's the Orpheum, not quite open yet. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for finding the photo on eBay and including it on his Noirish post #21355.

1928 - "King of Kings" playing Tally's near the end. Note the signs saying that the May Co. was going to erect their new building on the site starting May 1. "King of Kings" was the film that opened Grauman's Chinese in May 1927. It ran there until October 30. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo. He has it in a Photobucket album.  

1930 - Looking north toward 8th St. after the demise of Tally's. The newly opened Eastern Columbia Building is on the left. The Majestic Theatre would get demolished in 1933. Here they're running "Top Speed" with Joe E. Brown, an August release. Just beyond, note that the May Company was still working on the storefronts of the addition on the Tally's site. At the Orpheum it's "Little Accident," a July release with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Anita Page. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.

1930 - A Christmas season view from the California Historical Society in the USC Digital Library collection. The Orpheum, on the right, is running "Ex-Flame," a "Towering Emotional Drama" that was a November release. The Majestic is running the film "So This is London," a June release with Will Rogers.

2018 - The 1929 addition to the May Co. on the site of Tally's. The Majestic was once on the left. Photo: Bill Counter

Tally's film exhibition adventures:

311 S. Spring St. - Tally's Phonograph & Vitascope Parlor was the first permanent film exhibition site in Los Angeles when Tally partitioned off the back of his store in 1896 to create a small theatre. The page on this part of Tally's career also details other phonograph parlor locations he operated before and after 311 S. Spring. Tally's setup of Edison Vitascope equipment had followed by several weeks the first successful exhibition of movies on a screen in Los Angeles at the Grand Opera House on July 6, 1896. Tally was not involved in the event at the Grand.

339 S. Spring St. - Tally moved his operation here in 1899 and closed the 311 S. Spring location.

262 S. Main St. - Tally's Electric Theatre opened in April 1902. It was the first location in Los Angeles dedicated to full time exhibition of films. It didn't do very well. By July 1903 Tally added vaudeville to the mix and renamed it the Lyric.

554 S. Broadway - Tally took over the Broadway Theatre and renamed it Tally's New Broadway Theatre in March, 1905. It ran until May 1910. The theatre site was just south of the present Arcade Building.

This theatre at 544 S. Broadway is frequently confused with Tally's later theatre at 833 S. Broadway. Although this one came earlier it's sometimes thought to be a later venture due to the use of the word "New" in the name. It had already been called the Broadway Theatre and Tally in 1905 was just promoting the fact that it had been upgraded. It's a photo in the USC Digital Library collection.

833 S. Broadway - Tally's Broadway opened May 1910. Demolished in 1929.

642 S. Grand Ave. - From 1919 through at least 1938 Tally had an on-and-off connection with the Criterion Theatre, which at various times was known as Tally's Criterion. The theatre was demolished in 1941.

Note: There was also a Mr. Edward J. Tally around running theatres c.1913-1914, operating the College Theatre, the Alhambra Theatre, and the Palace of Pictures. He was Thomas Tally's brother. Prior to going out on his own he worked with Thomas and his wife Mary at various phonograph parlor locations and at the Electric Theatre on Main St.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on Tally's for lots of interesting data unearthed by Jeff Bridges (aka Vokoban), Joe Vogel, Ken McIntyre and other researchers.

See Mary Mallory's exhaustive research on Thomas Tally's early career in posts on the site The Daily Mirror: "T.L. Tally - L.A.'s Pioneer Film Exhibitor, Part 1" and "T.L.Tally... Part 2."

An article in Moving Picture World for July 15, 1916 gives a nice rundown of early film exhibition in Los Angeles, although crediting Tally for the first film showings in the area, which was not the case. It's on Google Books.

Wikipedia has an article on Thomas Tally. There's a fine discussion of Tally's career of beginning on page 119 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.

Surviving theatre buildings on the 800 block: Tower | Rialto | Orpheum |  In addition to Tally's, vanished theatres on the block include: Arrow | Garrick | Majestic | Woodley/Mission Theatre |

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