Fairfax Cinemas

7907 Beverly Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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Showing 51 - 75 of 105 comments

vokoban on July 23, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I was just watching a Three Stooges short called Three Little Pigskins from 1934 and you can see the Fairfax Theatre sign sticking up over and behind the football stadium. I assume the scene was shot at Fairfax High School.

MichaelM on February 27, 2008 at 11:57 am

Back in the early 70’s, the Fairfax was usually the only theater in the area to run Disney films. Our audiences (mostly kids), and the grosses, were huge. Once, during the run of Robin Hood (animated) Wendy, the cashier, oversold by nearly 50 tickets and nobody noticed. Part of the fun of going to the Fairfax had nothing to do with the film. The wide aisles were perfect for running amok and the stage (fully functional after a brief run of Oh Calcutta) was ideal for impromptu performances.

As the Assistant Manager under Eugene Wydra, part of my job was to make sure the little darlings didn’t kill themselves. Thankfully, the head usher, Jay Abramson, had little use for rude kids and their obnoxious parents.

On the plus side, I learned a lot about diplomacy and crowd control. We had a great staff of smart, loyal and hard working kids who would do anything I asked. One of them, Wendy Widlus, is now with the Attorney General’s office. I’m sure the others have gone on to bigger and better things.

Celebs liked the Fairfax. Natalie Wood often brought her daughter, along with several neighborhood kids, and couldn’t have been nicer. John Lennon came in shortly before I left. He was with a pretty Asian girl (NOT Yoko) and seemed disappointed that only a couple of us recognized him.

There seems to be some question about when the theater was built. Down in the basement, there was an enormous “air circulator” that was installed and certified in 1930.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 29, 2008 at 4:30 pm

William C. Pennell was also the architect of the Strand Theatre, built in 1921 at Vernon and Broadway. Though the L.A. library’s California Index contains multiple references to Pennell having been the partner of prolific theatre architect L.A. Smith during 1920, I can find no confirmation that they ever collaborated on any completed theatre project. They were hired to design a large theatre on 6th Street in San Pedro, but that project apparently remained unbuilt.

Earlier in his career, Pennell had been in partnership with another, even more famous, Los Angeles architect, John C. Austin. During the early 1910s they collaborated on numerous projects, including several churches and a few schools with auditoriums. Their partnership had ended by 1917, when Pennell was mentioned in the press as having opened a new office. Austin went on to participate in the design of numerous Los Angeles landmarks, including City Hall, the Griffith Planetarium, and Shrine Auditorium. Pennell remains so little known that almost all the references to him in the California Index are in citations of his partners, Smith or Austin.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 28, 2008 at 11:27 pm

It turns out that the other movie touted in the theatre’s poster case with “Sally” (in this photo), “Clancy at the Bat”, also dates from 1929. Apparently “You-Are_Here” got the theatre’s opening date right, and Cinema Treasures has it wrong. But Metzger and his partners must have been among the pioneers of double features if they were running them in 1929.

nickb on January 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Re. Ben’s question last August about the screening of ‘Sally’ and the theater’s opening date:

The Los Angeles Times carried a news story on June 2 1929 about the groundbreaking for a Beverly Boulevard Playhouse; Theater and Store Buildings Will Be Erected Within 90 Days… There’s a nice artist’s sketch, too.

The Fairfax Theater Company Inc was run by Gus A Metzger, Harry Srere and Charles A Nichthauser, the first two of whom also built the Roxie on Broadway in 1931. The designer was Vermont avenue architect WC Pennell.

BenBarbash on January 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Re: the recent Marquee photo – please note the lower neon has since been repaired and is now firmly affixed onto the marquee.

BenBarbash on November 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

Thanks for the follow-up, Joe. Your comment about visibility makes sense in the case of the Fairfax, although the early photos Ken found at the state library site (link listed earlier in this thread) show the area as fairly sparce at the time of its opening. Nevertheless, the intersection of Beverly & Fairfax must have obviously been anticipated as a major one (particularly with Gilmore Field diagonally across the intersection from the Fairfax site, making the location more of a destination-draw for early motorists).

You mentioned many theatres with storefronts, suggesting the Fairfax wasn’t unique as such. That was not the core of my query. I was specifically interested in any theatres with corner lots and/or the same number of storefronts (the Fairfax has 8; most non-corner lots would only have 4 or 5). This question of multiple storefronts has particular relevance today, considering today’s nearby Grove and Beverly Center malls.

Also, I’m unclear as to whether all the theatres you mentioned still survive. I obviously know the Alex and the Academy (especially since the latter is now a Regency theatre akin to the Fairfax), but I don’t know the status of the others…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 20, 2007 at 6:16 am

I lost track of this thread. To take up the question of storefronts in theatre buildings, I think that whether or not a given theatre devoted much of its frontage to shops had to do with the value of the land for retail uses, and this in turn was a function of location.

A theatre builder in a fairly busy neighborhood with lots of pedestrian traffic would be inclined to devote as much of the valuable street frontage as possible to shops. That’s why most of the large downtown theatres had them. Retailers would pay very high rents for frontage on Broadway or Hill Street, as well as on Hollywood Boulevard, Colorado Street in Pasadena, Third Street in Santa Monica, or any busy suburban business district.

On the other hand, builders erecting theatres on streets with few pedestrians and more motorized traffic were less likely to devote land to shops, as the rents were apt to be too low to justify the cost of building them. As a rule, the earlier a theatre was built, the more likely it was to be built in a fairly dense business district, and the more likely it was to have many shops built as part of the project.

The Fairfax was not unique for its time. Other theatres on suburban business streets with many shops in their buildings included the Garfield in Alhambra, The Alex in Glendale, The Golden Gate in East Los Angeles, Bard’s Pasadena (now the Academy) in Pasadena, the Fox Ritz on Wilshire Boulevard, the Leimert (now the Vision Theatre) in Leimert Park… I could go on for quite a while.

It’s true that the greatest number of shops accompanied theatres on corner lots but, valuable though it was, the extra street frontage was probably not the main draw for theatre builders. It was probably the high visibility of the major intersections that attracted them. The opportunity to make more rent from more shops was a bonus.

Later large theatres, such as the Academy in Inglewood, the Crest in Westwood, the Tumbleweed in El Monte, and the Baldwin near Baldwin Hills Village, were usually built on the edge of or well outside the denser business districts and were almost always built without adjacent shops. By that time, nearby parking for theatre patrons was more important to builders than was access to transit or being in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic. Once you start building large parking lots around your theatre, you’ve pretty much ruined the location for pedestrian-dependent retail shops.

kencmcintyre on October 17, 2007 at 10:28 am

Last visit to the Fairfax was for the Israeli film festival a few years ago. I never saw it before it was multiplexed. Interestingly enough I first noted the old advertisement on the back wall (now painted over) for the first time in 2002 after years of walking up and down Fairfax, usually coming back from Canter’s.

BenBarbash on October 17, 2007 at 10:14 am

Thanks for the Pennell profile, Joe. Los Angeles area theatre design/construction in the first three decades of the 20th century confuses me, as the downtown theatres differ so greatly from others such as the Fairfax. Moreover, looking at the photos Ken provided links to, it seems the Fairfax was built almost as a proto-shopping mall – a stand-alone corner building with wrap-around storefronts. I don’t know another theatre in LA that has as many storefronts as the Fairfax; then again, few are corner buildings. Any insights into the rationale behind such design and construction?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 17, 2007 at 7:05 am

The 1986 restoration/renovation of the Fairfax Cinemas for Cineplex Odeon was designed by Toronto architect David Mesbur, now of Mesbur+Smith Architects. Between 1982 and 1990, Mesbur was lead architect on some 250 projects for Cineplex Odeon, making him one of the more prolific theatre architects of the modern period.

The German fellow who runs the website You-Are-Here attributes the original design of the Fairfax Theatre to architect William C. Pennell (see the caption of this photo.) I don’t know the source for this claim, but it does seem possible (though the site mistakenly claims that the Fairfax was built in 1929,which diminishes its credibility a bit.)

Pennell was for a time in a partnership with the much better-known Los Angeles architect John Austin (until 1914), and around 1920 he was in a partnership with architect L.A. Smith, who was the designer of at least 40 theatres in the Los Angeles area. I’m unable to find a death date for Pennell, but he might well have still been around and practicing when the Fairfax was built.

BenBarbash on October 16, 2007 at 11:48 pm

Thanks for the additional photo links, Ken.

Here’s a photo link to LA City Councilman Jack Weiss' site, which features many historical photos:

View link

(I think the photo might be the grand opening of the Fairfax…)

Sadly, we do not have the records for 1932. I suspect most of the historical material was lost between Cineplex Odeon’s reign and Laemmle’s reign. However, we do have a comprehensive set of blueprints for the rennovations Cineplex Odeon conducted back in the 1980s. Here are links to the scenic artist/muralist who worked on the rennovations as well (the photos revealing Fairfax restoration in process):


Ken, did you ever visit the theatre before it was multiplexed? I’m particularly curious about any live theatre shows that may have used the stage, fly house, and dressing rooms (all of which still survive intact today)…

kencmcintyre on October 13, 2007 at 6:36 pm

Glad you enjoyed the photo. The “Sally” showing could have been a re-release. Do you still have the records for 1932 in your office?

BenBarbash on August 13, 2007 at 11:49 am

BTW, my district manager noticed the show advertised in poster case is “Sally,” a film released in 1929. Could this mean the Fairfax was built before 1932?

BenBarbash on August 13, 2007 at 11:47 am

I’m the general manager of the Fairfax for Regency Theatres and must thank you, ken, for posting the link for that fantastic photo. What really amazes me is the pre-developed nature of the neighborhood as visible in the distance at the extreme left of the photo. I think those are actually dirt roads leading off Beverly (and Beverly itself might be a dirt road as well). It’s also interesting to note what appears to be the original ticket booth, which suggests the surviving booth we have today is indeed a relic of Fox West’s one-time ownership.

kencmcintyre on August 6, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Here is a photo from the CA state library:
View link

mistertopps on June 12, 2007 at 1:57 pm

It’s great that LA now has a 2nd run arthouse theatre. Whenever I’d miss something great, I’d have to drive out to Pasadena to see it at the Academy 6. This theatre also seems to get some random programming too— when the Kingdom of Heaven directors cut came out, it only played at this theatre. Strange.

kencmcintyre on May 14, 2007 at 5:41 am

I guess my page expired. If you enter Fairfax on the search engine for the CA state library, you will see the theater pictures.

CTCrouch on May 13, 2007 at 10:30 pm

The theatre is still open and looks about the same as it did under Laemmle. Regency seems to be operating it as a second run art house.

Lanstrider on May 13, 2007 at 9:27 pm

I don’t have detailed memories of this place. But I do remember attending a couple shows when it was run by Cineplex. I caught the David Cronenberg flick “The Fly” and “Flght of The Navagator”.

kencmcintyre on May 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

There are four photos on this page from the CA State Library:

Bway on February 7, 2007 at 10:55 am

Patsy, I was just by there the other day, but can’t remember if the ticket booth was still there. I went by fast, and never got around to going back again.
I wonder what will become of the theater, it appears to be in good condition.

Patsy on January 27, 2007 at 11:31 am

ken mc: Better late than never as they say.