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Auditorium vs. Theatre
So far, the only picture linked from this page which shows the Pan-Pacific Theatre is this one posted a few days ago by ken mc. All the other pictures depict the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, an adjacent but separate, earlier building which was designed by different architects and which never housed a movie theatre.
The streamline moderne Pan-Pacific Auditorium opened in 1935. It was designed by William Wurdeman and Welton Becket. It long served as L.A.’s most popular venue for events such as home shows, car shows, livestock exhibitions, and ice shows, gradually declining as more modern and larger venues opened in other parts of the city beginning in the 1960’s. It closed after the construction of the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown in 1972.
I’ve been unable to find an opening date for the adjacent Pan-Pacific Theatre, but it was probably built within five years of the opening of the auditorium. It was designed by architect William Pereira. The theatre remained in operation for more than a decade after the auditorium closed. The announcement of the closing of the theatre appeared in The Los Angeles Times of September 23, 1984.
Both Becket and Pereira went on to establish firms which would leave a lasting mark on Los Angeles. Becket was responsible for such landmarks as Bullock’s Pasadena, the Prudential Building on Wilshire Boulevard, and the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Pereira’s local landmarks included CBS Television City (in collaboration with his then business partner Charles Luckman), the original 1960’s era buildings of the Los Angeles County Art Museum at Hancock Park, and the master plan for the University of California Irvine campus. Eventually, Pereira and Becket collaborated on the design of the spider-legged “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport, but in the era when the Pan-Pacific Auditorium and the Pan_Pacific Theatre were built, the two architects were not collaborators, and the two distinct buildings housing auditorium and theatre were designed independently.
Correct address: 523 S. Main Street.
Opened as a vaudeville house called the Olympic Theatre, probably before 1910. Operated by Charles Alphin, then by R.F. Woodley.
Returned to control of Charles Alphin and renamed the Alphin Theatre in 1914.
Renamed the Omar Theatre by 1917. For a while had a blade sign reading “Burlesque”. Leased to Gore Brothers in 1922.
Renamed the Moon Theatre by 1923. Advertised at that time as showing movies made by Paramount.
Renamed the Gaiety by the early 1940’s.
That’s all we’ve got so far.
The Julius Shulman photo found by ken mc reveals that, whatever the style of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (I always thought it closer to streamline moderne than art deco), the Pan-Pacific Theatre was not art deco at all, but plain modern, maybe with some proto-googie touches (all those angular elements.) I’d guess that the Shulman photo dates from sometime around 1940. This entry needs a whole new introductory paragraph.
Ken: You’ve found the smoking gun! The Gaiety was definitely the Olympic/Alphin/Omar/Moon Theatre! That’s the same building that housed the Omar in the c1917 photo I linked to above. The rear of that parked car that shows on the left side of your picture looks like a very late 1930’s or early 1940’s model, so that’s the earliest this picture could have been taken. The Watts-bound streetcar bears the logo of the Pacific Electric Railroad, so it would be no later than the early 1950’s when both P.E. and L.A.Railway service was taken over by Metropolitan Transit Lines.
The fall of shadows indicates some time around mid-afternoon,probably near the summer solstice. Quite a few pedestrians coupled with little traffic suggests Sunday, and also gives a strong suggestion that this picture might have been taken during the war years when gasoline was being rationed. It’s too bad more of the marquee isn’t visible, showing the names of the movies, since they can give an earliest possible year for a theatre photo.
Ken: The Hollywood branch of Barker Bros. furniture store may have been an original tenant of the El Capitan building. Barker Bros. was L.A.’s major furniture emporium, founded about 1880 and closed in 1992. Their huge main store on 7th Street downtown was built in the 1920’s, but the company was always one of the city’s most progressive and may have planted a branch in Hollywood in that same period. I know that by the 1940’s, they had branches in many suburban shopping districts considerably less affluent than Hollywood.
It shows vary little, but a small photo on this page gives a partial glimpse of the Yam Theatre in its current state.
It opened as a playhouse with the name El Capitan, was later renamed the Paramount, and then the original name was restored by the Disney Company with their 1990’s renovation.
Ken: It was the other El Capitan, the one on Vine Street north of Hollywood Boulevard, which was the venue for Nixon’s “Checkers” speech. At that time, the Hollywood Boulevard El Capitan was called the Paramount and was exclusively a movie house.
Ken: The first of those three photos certainly dates from the period just after the old State Normal School was demolished and just before the library was built. Fifth Street has not yet been connected between Grand and Flower. It looks as though it was under construction at the time the picture was taken. You can see that the hillside that later became the location of the big concrete wall has been partly graded.
Temple Baptist Church still owned the building at the time the second photo was taken, so they must have approved of the big Alka-Seltzer sign on the roof. It was the Philharmonic that was the tenant in the building.
Though it doesn’t look like it today, when Pershing Square was rebuilt following the construction of the underground garage the landscaping was quite pleasant. The large grassy section in the center featuring two fountains was off limits to the public, but the perimeter of the park featured both an inner and an outer walkway. The outer walkway was lined with planters whose walls were of a good height for sitting, and the inner walkway was lined with benches overlooking the central lawn, some of the bearing the quaint sign “Reserved for Ladies”. The place was busy all the time and, though many of the park’s regular denizens were of sorts thought by suburbanites to be unsavory, I was there many times and never felt in the least bit threatened by any of them (though I did frequently get panhandled and asked if I’d found Jesus yet.)
The planting was mostly tropical, with palms, banana trees and ferns, and the whole perimeter was quite lush and well shaded. This tropical landscape was lost to a bland renovation in the mid-1960s which was instigated by the administration of Mayor Sam Yorty, a resident of the San Fernando Valley who disliked the liveliness of downtown and did his best to destroy as many of its amenities as possible.
The Times Theatre was located in the auditorium of the Friday Morning Club, a womens' organization. The auditorium opened on Monday, May 5th, 1924, and was for several years a popular venue for plays, lectures and musical performances. It was used for club functions as well.
I’ve been unable to find during which years the Times Theatre operated, but it had long been closed by 1977, the year in which the building was sold by the Friday Morning Club to Milt Larsen and was converted into the not-for-profit Variety Arts Center, dedicated to preserving historic forms of live entertainment such as Vaudeville.
The five story Italian Renaissance style building was designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Allison & Allison. In addition to the large auditorium, it contains a smaller theatre (apparently never used as a movie house) and various meeting and club rooms. The building was declared a city monument in 1978, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
In 2004, the building was purchased by the Anshutz Entertainment Group, the company which is building the massive L.A. Live entertainment complex a few blocks farther south on Figueroa Street. For now, the theatre remains dark while the company studies options for reuse of the venue.
Here is a recent photograph of the Friday Morning Club building.
Ken: I found that they’ve given the Winter-Hunt site a new URL, but it’s to no avail. The text pages display, but clicking on the thumbnail photos still brings up nothing but the same thumbnails on individual pages.
Ken: The view in the picture to which you linked is east along Wilshire, and the theatre depicted is the Fox Ritz.
Here is a photo of Amarillo’s Esquire Theatre, from the Amarillo Public Library web site. There is information about the theatre on that page, too, but some of it it doesn’t match the information on this CT page. The address is given as 1808 South Washington, and the seating capacity is listed as 763. The date of the grand opening is given as October 24, 1947.
Also, it’s always a good idea when using BBS code to hit the “Preview” button first instead of the “Submit” button, and then test the link before submitting the post, to make sure it’s been set up right and that it actually works! I didn’t do that just now, and ended up using the wrong URL for my link! Here’s the right link to the CNET forum page: BBS Code.
This is not a duplicate listing. Jackson and Sutter Creek are two different cities. Whether or not the Jackson Ratto was later renamed the Jackson Theatre has not yet been established. A Jackson Theatre did exist in Jackson, but it is not listed at Cinema Treasures, and I haven’t found an address for it.
There were also Ratto Theatres in Ione and Plymouth and, from 1912 to 1919, the original Sutter Creek Ratto Theatre was located in a building (still extant) across the street from the theatre’s present location, so there were a total of five known Ratto Theatre locations altogether.
I’ve never met any of the Rattos, so I don’t know exactly how their name is pronounced. In Italy, it was probably pronounced more like “Rah-toh” and with the “R” trilled, but in California it might very well have ended up being pronounced Rat-oh.
The Rattos were among a large number of Italian families that were part of the cosmopolitan wave of immigrants settling in the Sierra foothills in the years after 1849. Amador County in particular attracted many Italian immigrants, and at one time Italians were the largest single group in the area. They remain numerous today.
Ken: I didn’t think anyone would ever unearth a picture of the Times Theatre,a nd that it was gone forever. But then, I didn’t know that the Times Theatre was actually located in the Friday Morning Club building, and thus was one and the same with the Variety Arts Center. Apparently neither did William when he posted this theatre, or he wouldn’t have listed it as being “closed, demolished”. The listing definitely needs an update. Thanks for digging up this happy news.
I’d say that the Times/Variety Arts has a bright future, being located in the new entertainment district that appears to be forming along south Figueroa Street. Now that we know it is the building of the Friday Morning Club, it seems likely that we could even find the name of the architect in the California Index at the L.A. Library web site.
ken: I’d say that’s definitely the same building. As the Capitol opened in 1912, and the USC archive photo is dated only as ca1910, the “circa” could surely cover 1912, the year the Capitol opened. The Silent Era and L.A. Library photos show that there was some remodeling done to the ground floor, though. Maybe the building was originally built for another purpose, and the theatre was put into it a couple of years later.
ken: I think that must be the back wall of the Palace Theatre, which was called the News Palace for a few years in the early 1940s. In fact, the photo which accompanies the Cinema Treasures entry for The Palace shows “Newsreels” on both of the theatre’s blade signs.
ken: You’re right, the view has to be southward. The tall, white building on the left a couple of blocks down is the Story Building on the southwest corner of Sixth and Broadway. The picture must have been taken with a telephoto lens, as all the building facades appear squashed, and you can see all the way to that old hotel on Eleventh Street between Main and Broadway which blocked the view south of downtown because of the bend in the streets.
ken: It’s another case of a mislabeled photo. The view is west along Eighth Street from Broadway, and the theatre is Bard’s Eighth Street, later called the Olympic. stevebob already posted a link to this photo there in a comment on November 30th, 2005 (about halfway down the page.)
ken mc: This is the first time I’ve seen the 1928 pictures to which you linked on December 3rd. The auditorium looks pretty much the same as it did in the theatre’s last years, except I recall the decoration being less noticeable due to it having been repainted mostly in a single shade of off-white (or maybe it was white after the 1947 renovation and it had just accumulated a coat of grime by the early 1960’s.)
The interesting photo to me is the one of the mezzanine area that gave access to the balcony. It was the longest such room in any downtown L.A. theatre, and the only one I recall that followed the curve of the auditorium back wall, and the total effect was very impressive. The renovation in the 1940’s had stripped the ceiling of its elaborate decoration and I believe the wainscoting was removed as well, and the whole space seemed even longer in the streamlined style it then received.
My memory of the details is dim after 40+ years, but I think the lighting had been changed too. I don’t remember those ornate chandeliers being there, and I think there had been some modern indirect cove lighting installed. I hope someday to come across a picture of this room as it looked after the 1940’s renovation.
A small photo of the Ratto Theatre as it appeared in the 1930’s can be seen on this page.
The Ratto Theatre in Sutter Creek is listed at Cinema Treasures under it’s current name, the Sutter Creek Theatre.
According to this page, “About the Sutter Creek Theatre”, there were four Ratto Theaters in Amador County, owned by John F. Ratto, a Sutter Creek businessman. They were in Plymouth, Ione, Jackson and Sutter Creek. The only former Ratto Theater known to be still standing is the one which is now the Sutter Creek Theater, built in 1919. The page says that the Jackson Ratto building was destroyed by a fire in 1998.
The Jackson Ratto Theater was located at 149 Main Street (this from a 2006 report on pollution hazards which lists its location as having a leaking underground storage tank.) A small photo of the Jackson Ratto in the 1930’s appears on this page. The building in the photo does not resemble the Amador Theatre in the photo to which ken mc linked just above.
A comment I made here a few days ago has either gone missing or didn’t post to begin with. Luckily, I saved a copy of it elsewhere:
The Regional History section of the California Index at the L.A. Public Library web site contains a card referencing an article in the July 1, 1920 issue of The Venice Vanguard which names a Mr. Melvin P. Ogden as the “Opening manager of the new California Theater at Venice.”
Additionally, the same index contains cards indicating that the California was designed by David D. Smith. A card referencing Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of 1/23/1920 says that “D.D. Smith, Venice, has a contract… for the erection of a brick theater building… corner of Ocean Front Walk at Zepher Avenue (sic)….” Zephyr Court appears on the oldest map I have of the area as running eastward from Ocean Front, just north of Windward. Owners of the theater are named as C.G. Parkhurst and George J. Cleveland.
Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of 2/27/1920 says “D.D. Smith has prepared plans and will superintend the construction of a theater and store building on the site of the scenic railway on Ocean Front Walk…the building will be 106 by 175 feet… and will seat 1500… cost about $50,000….” The exaggerated seating capacity was characteristic of construction announcements in the era, but the timing is good and the location accurate for the un-named theatre in question to be the California.
The Venice Theatre mentioned in the time-line to which I linked in my previous comment must have been a different building, though it was undoubtedly nearby.
ken mc: My guess would be that the Belasco photo you linked to on September 19 is the one that the library mis-dated. It looks earlier than 1920. For one thing, everything looks too tidy for Main Street in 1920.