The Sleeping Giant of Hollywood
To many, the Hollywood classic movie theater scene appears like a great success story. Renovations aside, the Chinese and to a much lesser extent the Egyptian still have reminders of their opulent heyday. The El Capitan has successfully converted itself into a showplace for all things Disney. Even the Cinerama Dome is showing actual Cinerama films on occasion.
But one major treasure has remained intact and the future is not so clear. So long it has sat in limbo, rarely open to the public. We’d all like to see it restored to its former glory and have it available to us in some form, but with it already bruised from a triplexing years ago and so little word from its owners over time, who knows what the future holds?
Of course, I am talking about the Warner Hollywood (aka Warner Cinerama, Hollywood Pacific, etc). I’d love to tell you plans are in the works for it to reopen as a live theatre like its popular neighbor down the block the Pantages. Sadly the time hasn’t come yet. After numerous phone calls to different people at Pacific Theatres, I disappointingly wasn’t able to find out much. No plans to take it down. No plans for a new tenant.
I even tried the Shubert Organization to see how legit their interest is in moving into the theater. As many of you remember, a few years back, there was talk of Shubert picking up the Warner as a showcase for their touring productions since the demolition of thier Century City locale. As this would probably be the best fit of all, the chatter gave many hope that the stars were finally aligning. Nothing became of it though and I’ve yet to hear back from them on any future proposals.
I guess we can be glad the former wasn’t true but it looks like for now, we’ll just have to stay in a holding pattern. In a matter of time though, an ultimate decision seems inevitable. The revival of Hollywood Boulevard is quickly gaining momentum. With Highland and Vine as the two cornerstones, the area in between is block by block being gobbled up and cleaned up. Once they reach that spot in the middle where the Warner stands, how will the shadow of gentrification cast itself over the property?
In an area so rich in its offerings of film already, what could this venue possibly offer? I took my first trip to the Harmony Gold on Sunset for a screening held by a screenwriting magazine last weekend and thought, “what if the Warner could survive on industry events like that?” Plenty of theaters make money by loaning themselves out as filming locations. This one would be even closer to the studios. How about a cheaper option for large Hollywood Premieres? If the success of the area theaters is any indication, people are pretty open to different movie possibilities in Hollywood.
It could be worse so let’s just keep our fingers crossed. Hopefully, whether it be stage or screen or something else, the next chapter of this gem will be fruitful one.
(Thanks to Pacific Theatres for providing the photos and thanks to TJ Edwards for his assistance in putting this story together.)
I’m going to keep trying to get some more information on this theater. If I come up with anything, I’ll be sure to post it on the theater page.
We encourage you to share your thoughts on the subject. For comments on the article or the blog itself, feel free to email me. We’re also open to any suggestions for future columns!
One of the rare occasions when this theater was open was the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats a few years ago. This was the first and only time I had been in the theater since it closed in the early 1990s.
I’ve been in this theatre twice—both times with the Theatre Historical Society—in 1998 and in 2005. The first time, we simply were allowed to poke about the theatre. The second, we were shown some “film” clips which showcased the digital projection and sound which were being experimented with there at the time. Spectacular. The Grand Lobby which encircles the rear of the auditorium like a horseshoe is remarkably well preserved. There are lounges both upstairs and below ground level which are also in quite good shape. Nearly all of the ornament shown in the above interior photo is still intact behind red drapes. The underside of the balcony has its ornament intact, although painted red to match the drapes. Behind the giant screen, the stagehouse is still there.
The drapes and seats in the main auditorium were orange which are the original drapes from the spring of 1978 remodeling of the the theatre. Pacific kept the lobby area in great shape during the few years that I worked the theatre.
Between 1971 and 1973 I was assistant manager at the “Hollywood Pacific” under the venerable Managing Director, Jack Tate. At that time, the Cinerama installed drapes and suspended ceiling were still in place, along with three projection booths on the main floor. Behind the drapes and lowered ceiling, the theatre’s 4/28 Marr & Colton Theatre Organ was still installed, although it barely operated. Originally, the house was equipped with a seating monitor. Cinerama replaced all seats in the newly-draped house, and removed the ornate display board located in the former entry vestibule to a basement storage room. In the 1970s the Hollywood Pacific was a first run house, and often a hard ticket “road show” showcase. The theatre was maintained beautifully, and watched carefully by a stage hand, engineer, and full theatre staff. Pacific Theatres' home office was then located on the third floor where Warner Brothers Theatres offices were located. A viewing box at the rear of the balcony could be accessed from these offices, though in 1972 it was well above the suspended ceiling installed in the latter-day Cinerama era.
I don’t trust Pacific Theaters. They have a real estate division
called Robertson Properties that acquires older theaters for
their redevelopment value. Go to the Waikiki Theatre page to
see some of their fine work. The Tropical Art Deco Waikiki
Theater was demolished for a FOOTLOCKER SUPERSTORE!
It is my understanding that Pacific has close ties with Disney.
Disney is rumored to have some ownership interest in Pacific.
If that is true, how could a company like Disney that supports
historic movie theater preservation allow Pacific Theatres to
redevelop historic theaters hiding behind the alias of Robertson
The Waikiki Theatre was operated by Consolidated Amusement Co. Ltd., which is one of Pacific Theatre’s other theatre divisions. The property was transfered to Robertson Properties for disposal. The Disney / Pacific interest is El Capitian and at one time the Crest Theatre in Westwood. And Disney paid for some of the restoration on the Pantages Theatre property. It wasn’t a full restoration because of budget problems.
Thanks for the info. I’d like to add that Consolidated Amusement hired Hawaii’s best architect to design the Waikiki Theater prior to World War II. The Waikiki Theater was featured in historic calendars and publications by the state of Hawaii. Consolidated remained an independent Hawaiian business until recently. While the signage still reads Consolidated, the real Consolidated Amusement Corp that built beautiful landmark theaters, continued to support live organ music while others built warehouse like multiplexs, and was a class act, that Consolidated just doesn’t exist anymore. The minutes from the various community meetings indicate that Pacific Theaters had full intentions to close and demolish the Waikiki Theater before the purchase even occured.
The land value of the Waikiki Theater was one of the main reasons
for Pacific to buy out Consolidated Amusements. Buying theater properties and redeveloping them is a big part of Pacific Theaters business plan, and a large percentage of their profit. Robertson Properties is owned by Pacific Theaters. The minutes of these meetings are public record.
Like Waikiki Beach, Hollywood Boulevard is becoming revitalized.
The Warner Hollywood theater should be restored and open for business. I don’t want to see a FOOTLOCKER HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTORE take the place of the Warner Hollywood theater. Based on Pacific’s track record and the fact that they have a wholly owned inhouse
redevelopment company to handle the disposal of unprofitable theaters, I sure hope the situation is being watched carefully by
theater and historic preservation groups in the area. I’d hate to
find the Warner Hollywood gone on my next visit to LA.
They have been waiting for a long time for a buyer for the property. The asking price when I closed the theatre was $14 Million for the Pacific Hollywood Building & theatre and the parking lot behind it. When they closed the house, they claimed MTA damaged the basement area which flooded. At that time Hollywood Blvd. was a dying theatre district in their eyes. William Forman and company had bought major property along the Hollywood Blvd. and the properties area the Cinerama Dome area. At one time a museum for Hollywood was to be placed in a few floors of the building. The two marquee shots above came from my collection. I gave afew more early shots of the theatre to Pacific for their file collection. I worked that theatre for the last few years of it’s operation as a movie theatre.
i don’t think Pacific has much to do with the El Capitan since Disney took over managemant from them.
While Disney DID pay a lot for the redo of the El Cap and Crest, the idea that they paid anything for the redo of the Pantages is a myth. The theatre revamp was a condition that the Pantages needed to meet in order to secure the booking of THE LION KING. And few seemed to notice that the Pantages tacked a 2-3 dollar “restoration” charge on every ticket sold since, so it’s likely they’re getting all that money back if they havent already.
As for the Warner Holllywood, it seems highly unlikely that Pacific/Robertson/Decurion will sell that property. I’m convinced that Decurion, Pacific’s parent company, doesn’t have their heart in the theatre business at all, it’s all about business and not a bit of showmanship. However, viewing it as a property, I think they could make a lot more if someone agreed to renovate the Warner Hollywood, along with signing a lucrative longterm lease. On top of that, if Pacific put some development money into making the rest of the building and commercial spaces more appealing to upscale rental clients, that would be a lot more constant revenue coming in. Sounds great but I haven’t much hope of that happening.
Beginning in July of 1976, I too was an assistant manager under the ‘venerable’ Managing Director Jack Tate (thanks StephenAdams for that term — it fits!)
When I went to work there I was a few weeks shy of 18. For the matinee’s — we wore our sports coats and ties … ah, but at night, we were always in tuxedos. The movie industry was at one of its worst times movie-wise … Gone were the road-show Cinerama three-booth events … while I was there, we ran some real dogs: THE MANSON MURDERS, MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH, etc. But then, there were some that have become classic: ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, SPARKLE, THE SHOOTIST …
Whatever it was Jack Tate was a pro’s pro. He taught me how bloody important ‘presentation’ was and IS. And for them that worked for Jack, they would never again deliver a bill to the bank with a crease or folded edge — and of course all the heads and tails of the bill were lined up.
Even though I only worked there for six months before going back to my old AMC multi-plex in Colma, CA … working and learning from Jack Tate was the best training I ever had in being a manager.
By the way — for thems not aware of the Hollywood Pacific … the place was / is haunted. I sometimes dreaded going down in the dead of night as closer to the sub-basements to turn off the AC … or chaining up the myriad of exits upstairs and down as I always felt there were unseen eyes on me. Once, I was in the lobby — coming out of the office alone and one of the doors to the theater closed by itself (even though there was the floor stopper — it went up and closed.) That next day, when I asked Jack about it, he said, ‘Oh — that’s Sam Warner … he lives here.’
Welcome to Hollywood!
Same with me on the basement stuff cutting of furances and A.C. at the IMPERIAL in Augusta.Ga. was an adventure for this young Assistant that mainly worked the newer suburb theatres! But i am glad i did get the chance to run the Imperial,like Dana.