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Miller's Theatre

842 S. Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90014 | map |


Opened: November 1, 1913 by Fred A. Miller. It's in the 1914 through 1918 city directories as Miller's Theatre. When Miller also had the Alhambra on Hill St. (around 1915-16), this theatre was known as Miller's Main Street

Miller's was on the east side of the street just north of 9th in (or rather, behind) the Greenwood Hotel building, later known as the Argyle Hotel then the Hampshire Hotel. The photo was taken in 1915 by G. Haven Bishop for the Southern California Edison Co. It's in the Huntington Library collection.

The theatre featured films plus musical acts on its small stage. A pre-opening ad read: 
 
"Grand Opening Saturday, Nov. 1st. 6:30 pm - Plate Glass Mirror Screen - Exclusive First Run Service - Hear the New Orchestra Combination played by Prof. Frederick Kirchfeld - Miss Betty Stokes, talented Soprano of Chicago - Admission 10 cents - Children 5 cents." 
 
 

A November 9, 1913 ad. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating it. Visit his site: Movie-Theatre.org

The Mirror screen was explained in an item in the February 28, 1914 issue of the Los Angeles Evening Herald: 
 
"A wonderful plate glass mirror screen is nothing more than a solid piece of plate glass measuring 14x18 feet weighing 3,000 pounds. It gives a depth to the picture, the same as when one looks at himself in a mirror."

Seating: 714 when it opened. A 1916 article in Moving Picture World claimed 800, as did the theatre's roof sign. A late 1916 expansion project added 210 more seats along with a new stage.

An item in the November 13, 1913  L.A. Times that was located by Jeff Bridges commented: 

"A change of policy brought a new show to Miller’s Theater yesterday instead of later in the week, and by way of introducing the change, a programme replete with thrills and laughter has been provided for today and tomorrow. The big sensational feature is called 'The Raid of the Human Tigers.'……The second big feature is serio-comic and is entitled 'Her Secretary.' The big ton and a half glass screen continues to be town talk, and pretty Betty Stokes has already built up a regular clientele which is the envy of every other moving-picture house songbird in the city."

A March 27, 1914 Times ad located by Ken McIntyre had this copy:

"Best first-run pictures in town shown on that wonderful plate-glass mirror screen."

An April 5, 1914 Times ad announced: 
 
"FREE 5000 Tickets to Miller’s Theater. We have purchased 5000 tickets for Miller’s Moving Picture Theater just a few doors from our store. These will be issued FREE OF CHARGE to those visiting our great Fire Sale. Arnold Furniture Company, 830-832 South Main Street."

An October 11, 1914 Times ad announced: 

"Miller’s Theater-One Week Starting Tomorrow - 'Hearts Of Oak' with Ralph Stuart and Violet Horner - 842 South Main St. - Near Marsh-Strong Bldg." 

Thanks to Jeff Bridges for finding these latter two Times items.


A detail from plate 001 of the 1914 Baist Real Estate Survey from Historic Map Works showing the 9th / Spring / Main intersection with the theatre tucked way behind the Hotel Greenwood. Note the dotted line on the right side of the Greenwood property showing the long, long lobby of Miller's.

The theatre was profiled in the July 10, 1915 issue of Moving Picture World. It's on Internet Archive.  The article noted:

"...At present there are 714 seats but Mr. Miller will shortly extend his stage and install 186 additional chairs...Mr. Miller is a believer in advertising. He spends on an average of two or three hundred dollars a week in newspaper advertising. With a stereopticon he throws on the side of a large and high building the announcements of his house....Miller's has been built about a year and a half. The music is provided by a Fotoplayer. The pictures are shown on a Mirror screen, the only one in the city proper. The projection is on Power machines employing direct current. Mr. Miller uses neither rectifiers or economizers; and, as he truly says, he gets an excellent picture.

"Young women are employed as ushers, they are garbed alike. The proprietor says he has found them very satisfactory, and especially helpful in the event of a sudden illness on the part of one of the women patrons. Indirect lighting is used. Two 24-inch exhaust fans aid in providing excellent ventilation. A lobby 100 feet long and 17 feet wide is attractively decorated with flowers. There are also a number of settees for the comfort of patrons. There is also a sanitary drinking fountain supplying ice water."



A photo of Miller that appeared with the Moving Picture World article. An article in Moving Picture World for July 15, 1916 again commented that the lobby was 100 feet long.

Joe Vogel found an item about the theatre's expansion in the October 21, 1916 issue of Southwest Contractor & Manufacturer. Joe notes: 
 
"Construction was to begin immediately on an addition 28x60 feet. There would be a new stage, and seating capacity was to be increased by 210. A sprinkler system was to be installed throughout the theater, and the entire house would be redecorated. The project was being carried out by the Milwaukee Building Company." 
 
Milwaukee was the construction branch of the architectural firm Meyer & Holler. 
 
 

A lovely 1918 ad for Theda Bara in "Du Barry," a November 1917 release. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 


By June 1918 the theatre was being operated by Carl Ray of Ray's Amusement Enterprises. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this 1918 ad. A December 4, 1918 Times item located by Jeff Bridges noted: 

"Ray’s Garden Theater, formerly Miller’s, does not belie its name. It is now as new and nice, as spick and span as the painter, the varnisher and the decorator can make it. Moreover, it is presenting, this week, an expurgated edition of a Theda Bara vamp story." 

 

A 1919 ad that was located by Ken McIntyre for inclusion in a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. This version of "The Virginian" was a 1914 release. In the 1919 city directory it's listed as both the Garden Theatre and Ray's Garden Theatre.

Ray's soon closed and the theatre was back to using the Miller's name. Edwin Schallert wrote a story for the November 27, 1919 issue of the Times that was headed "Cimena Expanding [sic]. More Picture Houses in the Downtown Section."  The Burbank was becoming a film house. But the first item on this list was Miller's:
 
"Two more picture theaters are to be added to the Rialto’s houses of the cinema. One of these is, of course, Miller’s Theater, that is to have its reopening Saturday afternoon, with the first feature of the new Mary Miles Minter Realart series, 'Anne of the Green Gables.'"
 
The "reopening Saturday afternoon" didn't happen on the Saturday following the Times article. They got around to it December 6.
 

A December 6, 1919 ad for the reopening with "Anne of the Green Gables." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a thread about the theatre on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

A December 8, 1919 Times article revealed that Miller himself was again managing the venue. Thanks to Jeff Bridges for finding the item. The article noted:

"The appearance of stars under a new management and the reopening of theaters, are always occasions fraught with thrill, and when Mary Miles Minter and Roy Miller got away together in the picture race, last Saturday, with Miss Minter’s first Realart feature, 'Anne of Green Gables,' serving to reopen Miller’s Theater, on Main street, that getaway was an exception to the rule of thrills. 
 
"And that it was an auspicious opening for both was proven by the crowds which packed the house both afternoon and evening, and who evinced the greatest delight at the performance. Mr. Miller and his friends likewise did honor to the lovely little star, the former by the manner of the presentation of the picture, with the house redecorated a new organ installed and the latter with floral decorations, enough to smother the young lady, if handed out to her personally when she appeared in person to make her brilliant little speech."
 
 

In May 1921 Miller's booked the German film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" for what was expected to be a successful two week run. The film had played to great acclaim in other cities. This ad ran in the Times on May 5.

The film was pulled from Miller's after a near riot caused by protesters from the Hollywood Post of the American Legion. A Times article reported: 

"The playhouse, which had started the picture early in the afternoon for a two week's run, capitulated only after it had been picketed for hours by hundreds of men in uniform and after the disturbance at its entrance had gone to such extremes that two mob rushes had been attempted, rotten eggs had been hurled and police and provost guard forces had been reinforced until they numbered 35 men."

See historian Mary Mallory's 2014 Daily Mirror/Hollywood Heights article "Los Angeles bans 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'" for a full discussion of the triumphs of German films in the United States following World War I as well as the severe push-back in many cities from conservatives and veterans groups. The film not seen in Los Angeles until six years later. Also see the 2010 Daily Mirror post "Riot by Veterans Cancels Showing of Caligari." Thanks to Joe Vogel for spotting the riot stories.



The film was replaced by "The Money Changers." This was the ad in the May 8, 1921 Times.


 
A 1922 L.A. Times article. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting it as a comment to a post about Miller's on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. "Silent Call" was a November 1921 release starring Strongheart the Dog. 
 

"1000 More Seats!" A 1922 ad located by Ken McIntyre. "Tess of the Storm Country" was a November release.

In 1924 Fred Miller sold to Loew's with West Coast Theatres actually operating the house for Loew. A July 12, 1924 Times article located by Jeff Bridges noted: 

"Another theater passed into control of Loew’s Inc., and the Metro-Goldwyn Distributing corporation yesterday in Miller’s Theater, of which the controlling interest has been purchased by the new consolidation. Miller’s will be operated in connection with the California Theater, it is announced, which was taken over when the combination was formed."

Miller had opened the California Theatre, 810 S. Main, in 1918. He later operated the Figueroa Theatre, on S. Figueroa St. at what is now Martin Luther King, as well as the Carthay Circle.



A 1925 ad for Miller's being operated by West Coast Theatres. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it.  A January 10, 1925 "Screen News" program and magazine for the California and Miller's theatres in the collection of the Silent Film Still Archive noted that the program was published by West Coast Theatres, Inc. and listed the Gore Brothers, Adolph Ramish and Sol Lesser as principals. Harry C. Arthur, Jr. was general manager. West Coast Theatres also operated Loew's State for Loew.

It was running as Miller's at least until March 1926. It's not in the 1927 city directory. It's listed as the Triangle Theatre in the 1928 through 1933 city directories. 
 
 

A November 1926 promo in the classifieds for the Triangle.
 
 

A January 1927 ad.  
 
 

A March 1927 ad.
 

A 1930 ad.  
 

A 1931 ad. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting these Triangle classifieds for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 

After 1933 it evidently was dormant for five years, at least according to city directory listings. In the 1939 city directory it reemerges as the Roosevelt Theatre. The roof sign just said "Theatre Main Pictures 10 cents" when they took the "Miller's" off the top of it.

Closing: The date is unknown. Maybe 1939 or 1940 was it -- there seem to be no city directory listings after 1939. The lobby looks like it was in use for retail in a 1950 photo. The name pops up again up the street in 1942 at what had been the Electric Theatre at 212 N. Main St. That theatre became the Roosevelt.

Status: The hotel and the theatre behind it have been demolished. The site is now a parking lot.


Interior views:


A 1919 look at the organ console and the stage. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. 


 
A view from the back of the house that appeared with the article discussing Miller's in the July 10, 1915 issue of Moving Picture World. It's on Internet Archive.


More exterior views:  


c.1913 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. "The Third Degree" was a December 1913 release. A version of the photo is also in the AMPAS Tom B'hend - Preston Kaufmann Collection.



1915 - An entrance detail from the G. Haven Bishop / Huntington Library photo at the top of the page.



1915 - An roof detail from the G. Haven Bishop photo.



1917 - This great view by C.C. Pierce looking north from 9th St. shows Miller's on the right on the 800 block of S. Main St. That's Spring St. going up the center of the photo. Check out the signage for Miller's on the building between Spring and Main. The billboard area on the building in the center of the photo was leased to Miller. He had it blank intentionally and at night projected slides promoting the attractions at his theatre. It's a California Historical Society photo appearing on the USC Digital Library website.



1917 - A detail of the theatre building from the photo above.



1917 - A section of a panoramic view from higher up. Note the Miller's signage. Over on the right note the attic vents for Miller's auditorium behind the Argyle Hotel. It's a California Historical Society photo by C.C. Pierce appearing on the USC Digital Library website.



1917 - A detail of the Miller's billboard from the previous photo.



1917 - Another panel of the panorama, this time looking east. Note the roof of Miller's auditorium in the middle left. The stagehouse roof is the lighter roofing material area with 3 vents lined up perpendicular to Main St. It was a late 1916 expansion project to the building. That's 9th St. going off toward the top of the image. The photo is on the USC Digital Library website.



1920s - The Miller's roof sign is in the lower right with the copy "Miller's Main - Talking Pictures - 10 cents." It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Their caption: "Man standing on a roof looking out on Main Street. Some of the buildings seen in the distance are National Bank Building, Hotel Cecil (640 S. Main St.), Roy Furniture Co., California Theater, and Main Talking Pictures."



1939 - Looking north on Main with the theatre's roof sign on the far end of the Hotel Hampshire building. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection. Also another take from a bit farther south.



c.1939 - The theatre's off to the far right with the edge of the new marquee visible identifying it as the Roosevelt. The California Theatre's roof sign can be seen on the left. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection.



1940 - Another view north. Thanks to Dave Etchie for finding the photo for a post on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.



1948 - A view looking north from 9th, Spring and Main. It's from the Metro Library and Archive on Flickr. Note the Miller's roof sign still atop the Hotel Hampshire -- without the Miller's on top. The theatre had been closed for a few years at this point. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Michael Ryerson for including the photo with other lovely shots on his Noirish post #19992.



1950 - Another view of the abandoned "Theatre - talking pictures - 5 -10 -15 cents" roof sign on the right and a bit of the California Theatre farther up the block. Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting the photo by Alan Weeks on the website of the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Association. This was an N Line car of the Los Angeles Railway in September, the month service was discontinued.



1950 - A detail of the Miller's facade from the Alan Weeks photo. The marquee has been removed and it looks like the lobby is being used for retail.



2019 - Looking south toward the Miller's site as a parking lot. Photo: Bill Counter 


Additional photos of the 9th / Spring / Main intersection:


c1890 - A view looking north taken by George Washington Hazard. Thanks to James J. Chun for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



1911 - This has always been an interesting intersection and one that got the attention of many photographers. It's fun to see how it's changed over the years. Here we're looking north in a somewhat cropped version of a photo taken by G. Haven Bishop for the Southern California Edison Co. It's in the Huntington Library collection. Also in their collection: another 1911 view | yet another | and another |



1920 - A view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Note the signage for the California Theatre on the triangular building. Earlier, the sign was for Miller's. The Orpheum Auto Park, just up Spring St. to the left, is under construction. Milller's, off to the right, is hidden in shadow.



1920s - A great view looking down at the intersection with the California in the middle right and a bit of the Miller's roof sign and the vertical in the lower right. The photo was a post by Pattern Bar on Facebook. They're in the building at the southwest corner of Main and 9th. Check out their History Album 1887-1951 for more vintage views of the neighborhood.



late 1920s - An interesting view from the Los Angeles Public Library looking west from the intersection. Note the back of the Orpheum building from our vantage point on Main St. See a closer view of the Orpheum Auto Park building in the foreground from the California State Library collection.



c.1937 - A Herman Schultheis photo looking north. The man in the perch is operating switches for the streetcar lines. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



late 1930s - A photo by the Dick Whittington Studio. We're bit too far north to see the Miller's building on the right. But we do get a bit of the California up the block -- including an edge view of its roof sign. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting it in the USC collection for a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



1939 - Looking north on Spring in a Dick Whittington Studio photo from the USC Digital Library collection. We get a bit of the California Theatre at the right.



1939 - Another Dick Whittington photo from the USC Digital Library collection. Also see another take showing more of the east side of Main.



1950s - Thanks to Richard Wojcik for sharing this photo from his collection as a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



1966 - A great photo by William Reagh from the California State Library collection. That's Main St. looking north on the right, Spring on the left. You can still see the California Theatre with its roof sign. Miller's is no more.



2010 - The California Theatre is long gone. If we were to move up Spring a bit and look left it would be a view of the back of the Orpheum. Photo: Bill Counter



2010 - On Main and turning 90 degrees to the left (west) we get this view across the empty parking lots toward the United Artists Theatre on Broadway. The vista is now blocked by the new Palace Apartments complex. Photo: Bill Counter



2014 - A look at the intersection from above from Hunter Kerhart Photography. The photo originally appeared on his Facebook page. Thanks, Hunter!



2019 - Another look north from 9th. Photo: Bill Counter   

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on Miller's, which they list as the Roosevelt Theatre. See Noirish Los Angeles contributor Hoss C's Noirish post #21537 for an interior photo of Tom Mack's Buffet at 9th and Main.

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