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Bard's West Adams / Fox Adams / Kabuki Theatre

4409 W. Adams Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016 | map |

Opened: August 4, 1926 by Lou Bard as Bard's West Adams. The initial engagement was a world premeiere of the film "Shipwrecked." The location is on the north side of the street just west of Crenshaw Blvd., in the West Adams district. The front of the building had apartments and offices on the second floor. 

Thanks to the Ronald W. Mahan Collection for sharing this rare 1935 photo. Both "Way Down East" and "This Is The Life" were October releases. It's a photo by Peerless Photo Service that once was in the collection of Johnny Bresnik. 

Seating: Perhaps 1,325 originally, 1,100 later. There was no balcony.

Architect: Lewis A. Smith, who had done several other venues for the circuit. You wouldn't know it from the exterior but inside it was the favorite Bard theme, Egyptian. The project was noted in an item in the January 30, 1925 issue of Southwest Builder & Contractor:

"Class A theater - Arthur Bard & Co...has the contract for a class A reinforced concrete theater, store and apartment building at northwest corner Adams Blvd and Crenshaw for L.L. Bard; to seat 2,200 people; plans by L.A. Smith...$400,000."
It's unknown what happened to an earlier set of plans drawn up for the northwest corner of Crenshaw and Adams. Southwest Builder & Contractor had reported in their March 14, 1924 issue that the firm of Gable & Wyant were doing preliminary plans. It may not have been for Bard and may not have even been the same lot. An item in the February 15 issue had noted that the plans were being done for the Hill-Friedman Co. without specifying a tenant.

An article in the L.A. Times that appeared on the theatre's opening day, August 4, 1926. They evidently didn't run any ads.

Bard operated a number of other theatres including Bard's 8th St., later called the Olympic, and two Hill Street theatres nearby, the Town Theatre and the College Theatre. Bard's was the circuit that also built the Vista Theatre on Sunset Dr. in the Los Feliz area. Bard's Egyptian Theatre in Pasadena (later called the Colorado) is still running as the Academy 6. Bard also had the Glen Theatre in Glendale, and the Garfield in Alhambra.

In the 1929 city directory it was called Bard's Adams Street. In the early 30s the theatre became part of the Fox West Coast circuit. In the 1932 and 1933 city directories it's listed as the Fox Adams. Evidently Fox didn't keep the theatre long. Well, they were in big financial trouble and in receivership at this time. It's unknown if Lou Bard was back or it was another operator but it was called Bard's Adams in the 1935 city directory and just listed as Bard's in the 1936 directory.

In 1939 it was an independent operation advertising as Bards (with no apostrophe). Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this column of listings that included the house. It was a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.  

 A 1945 listing that Ken McIntyre spotted in the Times. 

A 1947 ad. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

The facade, lobby and restrooms received a serious modernizing in the 30s or 40s. The interior used to be more exotic. A Cinemascope screen was placed out in front of the proscenium in the 50s, hiding the orchestra pit and slightly reducing seating capacity. Other than sound absorbent material added to the walls, the auditorium evidently was quite intact until the 1990s.  

An item on page W-4 of the September 11, 1961 Boxoffice noted that Western Amusement Co. was the owner of the theatre and they were selling it to the Toyo Theatre Co. for exhibiting Japanese films. A complete redecoration was planned. Evidently this deal wasn't consummated.

An August 1962 item in Boxoffice located by Ken McIntyre noted: 

"Allied Theaters, operated by Bob Helm, Phillip Hoffman and Sam Decker, has taken a 20 year lease on the Bard Theater, 1,200-seat neighborhood house, which they have renamed the Adams West and switched to a first-run policy. The Bard had been closed for the past five years."

Evidently that first run policy didn't work so well. They did a few live shows in 1963. By 1964 it was a Japanese language house, the Kabuki Theatre.

A 1965 Times ad for the theatre as the Kabuki. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it. 

A June 1972 ad Ken McIntyre located in the Times. 

1973 brought Hollywood films back to the theatre but it soon closed for good as a film house. As a later black cabaret venue in the early 80s it was for a short time known as the Apollo West and Bard's Apollo.

Closing: Its last use as a theatre was around 1981.

Status: It's been a church since at least 1983, going through several owners. The current group, something called Iglesias de Restauracion, has had the building since 2000.

An interior view:

A rare look inside at the theatre c.2010. Sorry, the exotic original decor is gone. Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for posting the photo on Cinema Treasures.

Exterior views: 

1938 - The redone marquee was featured in an April 30, 1938 Boxoffice ad for Wagner sign letters. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Tinseltoes for locating it. 

1983 - The theatre in use as the "temporary home" of a church. Note that much of the 30s marquee was still intact, although missing all the neon. That newer vertical still had some of the "Apollo West" lettering on it. Thanks to American Classic Images for this photo from their collection.

late 1980s - Gary Graver's shot of the theatre after use by one church group. Above the readerboard: "Center City Congregation." Graver was a filmmaker and cinematographer who, over several decades, took many photos of dying single screen theatres. Compilations of his photos can be seen on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Wikipedia has an article on Gary. Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.

2002 - Thanks to Ken Roe for this fine view of the west side of the building. It was a post on Cinema Treasures.

c.2005 - The theatre gets its pre-cleanup portrait by German photographer Martin that appeared on his now-vanished site

2012 - Looking north on Crenshaw toward the intersection with Adams. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for his photo, a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

2012 - Another fine gas station shot with a bonus peek at the stagehouse. It's another by Ken McIntyre that appeared on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

2013 - The cleaned up facade. It's a Ken McIntyre photo from another post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

2014 - A look at the east side of the building and stagehouse. Photo: Google Maps

2014 - Acres of free parking. We're looking at the west side of the building. Photo: Google Maps

2018 - A closer view of the west side of the building. Photo: Bill Counter

2018 - Looking east along the facade toward Crenshaw Blvd. Photo: Bill Counter

A possible lobby photo: 

This 1929 trade magazine ad for Mohawk Carpet was identified as a view of Bard's Colorado, the theatre in Pasadena now known as the Academy 6, when it was reproduced (poorly, sad to say) in the October 1992 issue of the Tom B'hend publication Greater L.A. Metro Newsreel.

While it's probably a Bard's theatre, it's not the one in Pasadena as the light fixtures and ceiling treatment are wrong, among other issues. And it's certainly not the Vista. Possibly it's the West Adams or the Garfield. The issue of Newsreel is in the Ronald W. Mahan Collection. Thanks to Ron for scanning the item.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Fox Adams for many historical tidbits and some nice comments about the Bard circuit by contributors Joe Vogel, Hadabob, Art1956 and Bill Gabel.

Pacific Coast Architecture Database has a listing for the Bard's Adams, however they have it jumbled together with the other theatre called the Adams at 1898 W. Adams Blvd. Also included are several items about the earlier project by different architects that was to be on the corner of Crenshaw and Adams.

The other Adams Theatre at 1898 W. Adams opened in 1914 as the La Salle. Another Japanese language house in the neighborhood was the Crenshaw Theatre, running as the Kokusai in the 1970s and 80s.

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  1. I see that there is no mention of the kabuki Theatre being and after hours jazz spot where all the top jazz musicians would come and play at 2am to 6am in the morning on Saturday. Being a youngster back then I had the opportunity to see many of the greats of jazz. Back in the early sixties

    1. Are you sure you're not thinking of another nearby theatre, the Crenshaw? It was for a time called the L.A. Jazz Concert Theatre before it too went to Japanese films. In that era it was called the Kokusai. It's currently for lease if you want to revive it. Here's the page:

  2. Went to The Bards as a kid - circa late ‘40’s - early ‘50’s. Remember the Saturday kiddie matinees with actors from the films appearing live. Saw Glen Strange who played Frankenstein’s monster in @Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein” and the Three Stooges.