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The earliest reference to this theater that I can find is from an L.A. Times story of March 20th, 1924, that announces the world premier there that night of the Norma Talmadge movie “Secrets.”
A Times article from February 7th, 1929 says “Fox-Criterion name bestowed on playhouse.”
An article in Daily Variety from February 6th, 1935 is headlined “Criterion Reopens,” but no mention of any name change yet. Another Daily Variety article from about that time makes reference to some sort of wage dispute, so I think the closure might have been related to a strike of some sort. But I have found no later refernces to the Criterion,
I’ve been unable to find any references at all to a theater called the Grande Internationale. My own earliest clear memory of the intersection of 7th and Grand (only three blocks west of Broadway, actually, and two blocks west of the Warner Theatre at 7th and Hill) date from about 1960, and there was no trace of a theater there by that time.
The Mason Theater is indeed the same as the Mason Opera House. Opened in 1903, it was designed by Chicago architects Marshall and Wilson, working with Los Angeles architect John Parkinson. (Benjamin Marshall designed several Chicago theaters, including the ill-fated Iroquois, which opened the same year as the Mason.) The Mason was the first big theater on Broadway, and immediately became the prime venue for the most prestigious shows and soloists visiting Los Angeles. In its first years, it hosted such stars of the day as Lillie Langtry, Adelina Patti and Helen Modjeska.
The theater was sufficiently successful that it was able to finance a major renovation in 1924, carried out by the firm of Meyer and Holler, which enhanced the already lavish appointments of the house. One newspaper of the day reported the new style of the theater to be “Pompayan,” but its interior style was in fact the sort of eclectic renaissance-beaux arts classicism which was soon to be displaced in fashion by more modern styles. The exterior of the theater retained the rather simple facade of an ordinary early 20th century commercial block, but the interiors were as opulent as anything in the city.
The new competition for the Mason at that time included David Belasco’s new theater on Hill Street and the brand new Biltmore Theater on Fifth Street, adjacent to the Biltmore Hotel. Other legitimate theaters were opening in outlying districts, especially Hollywood, where the thriving theater district included the Hollywood Playhouse, the Vine Street Theater, the Music Box, and the El Capitan. The business district of Los Angeles was shifting south and west, and the Mason’s neighborhood was becoming unfashionable, and no amount of decoration could change that fact. In the depression years, the theater began showing movies, though stage plays were mounted at least as late as 1941.
It was about that time that the theater came into the hands of Francisco Fouce, who established it as the leading venue for both Mexican films and Mexican Vaudeville in the city. By 1945, the Mason Theater was presenting stars of the Mexican stage to capacity audiences, and the foyer was lined with posters of the likes of Dolores Del Rio and Cantinflas. Themid-1940s to the mid-1950s were a second golden age for the Mason, which might have continued for years, had the block on which it stood not been targeted for demolition to accommodate the expanding dead zone of government buildings in the project that came to be called (with what I am sure was unintentional irony) the Civic Center. The real center of the city fled away, and the lively entertainments that had filled the Mason fled with it. The Mason has now been gone for almost as many years as it stood, and the street from which it was taken remains what it then became- as dull as a bureaucrat’s dreams.
Downtown Los Angeles has never been forgotten, at least not in the sense that some of the old areas of lower Manhattan were forgotten and then rediscovered. Broadway has been a thriving commercial street for over a hundred years. As late as the 1980s, the sales per square foot in Broadway stores were the second highest of any shopping area in Southern California, exceeded only by pricey Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They continue to be among the highest today.
By 1906, the three major department stores of downtown, (The Broadway, Bullocks, and May Company- then called Hamburger’s) were established at Broadway locations which they would occupy until at least the late 1960s. The Broadway Department Store was the first to go, ironically moving a few blocks west along Seventh Street. Bullocks and the May Company followed in the mid-1980s, moving six blocks west to Figuroa Street. Still, the smaller shops along Broadway have survived, and done quite well, and vacancies are rare.
Broadway has not been a popular destination for the middle class for at least four decades now, but lower income groups still throng to it. The neighborhoods in nearby sections of the city, and many of those those further out with easy access to Downtown by public transit, still attract large numbers of immigrants, and Broadway has long been a street on which you can hear many languages. The place is very cosmopolitan and, by day at least, very busy.
In fact, the theaters are almost the only buildings vacant (at the street level- the offices above have been mostly vacant for years now) along most of the street. Were the large movie palaces to be demolished and replaced with ordinary commercial space, that space would probably fill up quickly. It is a wonder that most of Broadway’s old theater buildings survive at all, so valuable would their space be for retail uses on this busiest of L.A.’s streets.
The area is pretty rough by night, now that the theaters no longer bring crowds, and skid row has long since spilled over and around Broadway, but then Downtown has not been the center of L.A. nightlife since the late 1920s, when the action shifted to Hollywood and, since then, to other parts of the west side. Even the modern business district a few blocks west of Broadway tends to empty out at night. There have been attempts to bring more residents into the area, and many proposals to convert the vacant offices above Broadway’s stores to apartments and lofts, but it’s pretty slow going.
There are a lot of inherent problems in getting a good urban neighborhood established in downtown. For one thing, the blocks are huge, making for poor pedestrian circulation. Also, the area is relentlessly commercial and industrial, with few apartments, and most of those are either in decay or, if built recently, are in projects that are deliberately isolated from surrounding streets. And though public transit has improved somewhat in recent years, it still doesn’t offer the sort of access and reliability that are necessary for urban neighborhoods.
Most importantly, Los Angeles lacks any real urban tradition and thus, those people who are trying to make downtown work like a real city, instead of just the big business district it has long been, come up against a lot of official ignorance, and even hostility. Chances are that Pasadena will develop a good urban core before Los Angeles does, even though Los Angeles has more to work with. But if L.A. does ever get its act together, Downtown could be a great place. It has great potential, but nobody has been able to tap into it yet.
This was yet another theater designed by Clifford A. Balch. It’s construction was announced in Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of 8/28/1936.
This theater was originally called the Roosevelt. It was announced in Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of 10/7/1921. The architects were Walker and Eisen, and the building was originally only one story. It was open by 1922, when the L.A. Times ran an article saying that the Chotiner company had taken a long term lease on land next to the theater, for use as a parking lot. In 1930, the theater was remodeled, the second floor being added at that time, and the theater was renamed the Parisian. The architect of the remodeling was Richard D. King, according to SB&C issue of 1/17/1930.
More than a few pictures are lurking in .pdf files that can be found through the California Index, rather than the photo database. I just found two large files with programs from the Mason Opera House, c1903. They are full of ads for shops and restaurants of the era- few photographs of them, but lots of drawings, and bits of information that give an interesting glimpse into the way Angelenos lived then. I think the search terms that brought them up were “Opera House”, “Los Angeles”, and “Mason”.
I don’t know if the Metropolitan’s architectural style has a name, but it wasn’t Mission Revival. The exterior of the building was a simple form of art deco. Pictures I’ve seen of the interior of the auditorium reveal a strange melange of elements recalling both pre-Columbian Central America and the ancient near east, along with what might be taken as a sort of proto-zigzag modern. The massive cast-stone proscenium arch, with its angular segmentations, was particularly stunning.
I have been told that I was in this theater a couple of times when I was very young, but I have no memory of it. The only downtown theaters of which I have early memories are the Warner and the RKO Hillstreet. Many years later, when I began going downtown on my own, I returned to many of the theaters I had attended as a child. The Paramount was still open, but there never seemed to be anything playing that I wanted to see. In its last years, the theater seemed to have become exclusively the domain of “B” movies downtown. Had I known that the place was so soon to be demolished, I’d have gone anyway, just to get a look inside.
The marquee was an impressive sight, made all the more so by the narrowness of Sixth Street. It extended out nearly the entire width of the sidewalk, and the entrance lobby seemed like a cave carved into the side of a dim, narrow canyon, shaded on even the brightest days. It was quite the most dramatic spot on all of Sixth Street, with the hurrying crowds, the sound of rushing traffic and honking horns, and the smell of diesel bus fumes mingling with the scent of popcorn wafting out from the thickly carpeted lobby. I was astonished to find one day that the theater had been closed, and was to be demolished. The big movie palaces seemed so entrenched a part of Los Angeles in those days that it was inconceivable that they would ever be lost.
The building which eventually rose (or, more accurately, eventually squatted) on the site of L.A.’s most strikingly original downtown theater was an edifice designed for the wholesale jewelry trade- a surprisingly marginal use for a key location in a major city. The one amenity the new structure offers to the public is a pedestrian portico under which the destitute may huddle cheek by jowl with waiting bus patrons, while, running the length of the ceiling of the portico, there is a piece of public art consisting of a series of plastic tubes containing lights which change color, presumably to reflect the anxious moods evoked in the passing pedestrians by a streetscape at once both bland and vaguely hostile. It is no more than a city which would allow a monument such as the Parmamount to be razed deserves.
The correct address of this theater was 337 SOUTH Main Street. It was almost directly across Main Street from the Adolphus Theater (later known as the Hippodrome.) The Follies was originally the Belasco, and only became the Follies when David Belasco moved his company into his new theater on Hill Street in the 1920s. The first Belasco was built either in 1901 or 1904 (I’ve read conflicting reports) and was demolished in 1974. I don’t know if this was the same Follies Theater which was remodeled by S. Charles Lee sometime in the 1930s.
The Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of 5/14/1920 announced the plans to remodel an existing building, 44'x100', at 442-446 South Hill Street, to become Bard’s Hill Street Theater. The architect for the remodeling was Albert C. Martin, Sr.
I have found that my link to the West Coast-Langley ad above doesn’t work. (L.A. library won’t let anyone in the side door of their web site, apparently.) You have to go the the main page:
hover your cursor over “Library Resources” and sellect “Regional History” from the drop-down menu. Then on the next page, click on “California Index.” That will give you a search page. In the three search boxes enter “theaters” (you MUST use the plural) “Pasadena” and “Langley.” The link to the PDF file with the ad in it should be record #2. Whew! I don’t know why some web sites choose to make direct linking impossible.
The Los Angeles Daily Journal of August 15, 1907, announced that Adolf Ramish would demolish the Panorama Building at 320 South Main Street and construct a theater to be called the Adolphus on the site.
The auditorium itself must have been demolished before 1961, as a Los Angeles Times article on August 13th of that year was headlined “Site of Hippodrome Sold.”
Whenever the auditorium was razed, I know that the building containing its entrance remained for many years. In the mid 1960s, the area once occupied by the auditorium was used as a car park, and the old lobby was the driveway through which it was entered. I don’t know when that building was demolished, but the last time I remember seeing it was about 1965. I know that it was gone by 1982.
Southwest Builder and Contractor of 8/11/1921 announced that architect Whiting Thompson was preparing plans for this theater, located at the corner of Vermont Avenue and 40th Place. The owner of the theater was named as L.H. Mitchell and Son.
The construction of this theater was announced in the Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of 7/11/1924. It was at the northeast corner of Temple Street and Benton Way, just west of Rampart Street. The building was financed by L.J. Smith and Fred J. Tabor.
I was wondering about the Monterey Park triplex. (I still think of the Atlantic Palace as being on Main Street, even though it’s on the corner. I’ve never actually seen the place, since it was built after I left, though I’ve seen many pictures of it on the Internet.) I only went to the Monterey Mall the one time. The style was sort of bland, but otherwise its was a decent place, and I thought the little entrance courtyard was a nice feature.
I did go to the Temple City Edwards once, shortly after it opened. I think that the auditorium I was in was one of the two larger ones, and I was a bit surprised to find that it wasn’t much smaller than the old Temple Theatre that was demolished to make way for the multiplex.
I remember seeing the Alhambra Place under construction, and I think that was in late 1983-early 1984. I always intended to go to a movie there, but never got around to it.
I’m surprised that the Monterey Mall building is still vacant. In the ‘80s, nothing stayed vacant for long in Monterey Park. There was construction going on all the time, and any empty storefront would have a new Chinese restaurant in it by the next week. They popped up almost overnight, like mushrooms. The whole town was very lively then.
When I was in second grade, at Monterey Vista School in suburban Monterey Park, the highlight of the year was a school field trip to see the original Cinerama production, “This is Cinerama” at the Warner Hollywood Theatre. I had already attended many of the big Downtown Los Angeles movie palaces, but I was still amazed by the Warner. Some of my classmates had never seen any theaters other than our small, suburban neighborhood movie houses, and could scarcely believe that such a place as the Warner even existed.
Our seats were on the main floor, near the front, just to the side of the central projection booth for which a section of seats had been removed. The Cinerama screen was awe inspiring, and I remember becoming a bit dizzy from the roller coaster scene. All the girls screamed. We had a great time, even though the chaperones wouldn’t allow us to visit the concession stand.
After the movie, the theater opened the side exits from the lobby to the side street where the curb space had been reserved for school buses. Leaving the theater was like being expelled from a magical world, and more than a few of us looked back through the doors for a last glimpse of the splendid lobby as we boarded the bus for the long ride back home through the everyday world. I’ve had a special fondness for the Warner ever since, and hope that it can be saved to delight future generations.
Rats, I did it again! I keep getting that date wrong. I left L.A. in 1986 and the earthquake was in 1987. It’s probably my wishful thinking that it was in 1986, because I regret missing it. I waited years for a big earthquake, and then it happens after I’m gone! Unfair!
Jeff, do you know when the Edwards on Atlantic closed? I remember that it opened about 1980, because I went there once in 1981, and the floors weren’t even sticky yet. But I wasn’t around by the time it closed, and I don’t know if it’s been turned into retail space, or what. An awful lot of those multiplexes aren’t surviving very long. They’re like disposable theaters.
I guess every web site must have its share of playful trolls. They can’t all be accommodated at LiveJournal!
I have come across more information about this theater. Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 8/19/1938, says that Edward Goral had received the contract from the Edwards Company to remodel an existing building at 1629 E. Valley Boulevard, Rosemead, to accommodate a movie theater designed by S.Charles Lee.
That the theater was built in a pre-existing building makes it more likely that the structure itself still exists, and was merely returned to retail use after the theater closed sometime in the early 1950s. The address would be different now, due to the change in the numbering system used in Rosemead.
Charles Goral was the same contractor who added the Annex to Edwards' Alhambra Theatre (later Alhambra Twin) in 1940.
The exact address of this theater was 330 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, California, 71776.
I only saw one movie at this theater, a couple of years after the place opened. It was my first experience with a multiplex, and I was not impressed. The sound from the auditorium next door kept bleeding through the wall, the picture was grainy and a bit blurred, despite the smallness of the screen, and the sight lines were bad due to insufficient rake to the floor. The building was entirely without character, and could have as easily housed a drug store as a theater. The only thing good I can say about the place is that it was still fairly clean, and the popcorn was decent, if rather expensive.
This could be one of two theaters proposed for Downey in the mid 1920’s. If it is at the northwest corner of 2nd Street, then it is probably a theater built for a Mr. John Baker and designed by Architect and Engineer Henry Carlton Newton and Clifford A. Truesdell, Jr. The plans were announced in the Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of 5/30/1924.
SB&C of 5/15/1925 announced another theater proposed on Downey Avenue (then called Crawford Avenue), this one for a Mr. L.R. Matthews of Downey. No exact location is given for this project.
According to the magazine “Southwest Builder and Contractor” of 5/9/1924, the construction cost of the Alexander theater was $216,000. That was a considerable sum for a suburban theater in those days, even if that figure included furnishings and equipment.
A later issue of SB&C, on 9/3/1948, tells that there had been a fire at the Alex Theatre, causing an estimated $150,000 loss.
I noticed that discrepancy. I’m fairly sure that the theater was still operating in the 1960s. Also, while the street is called Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena and in the Eagle Rock district of Los Angleles, it is still called Colorado Street in the City of Glendale.
Bard’s Glendale was opened in 1925. The architect was Kenneth A. Gordon, who also designed Warner’s Egyptian Theatre in Pasadena (later called the Uptown.) The owner of the theater building, who leased it to the Bard Circuit, was M.G. Khodigian. The construction firm was J.H. Woodworth & Son, whose offices were at 200 E. Colorado Street, Pasadena.
Incidentally, although I never attended a movie here, I remember seeing the Glen Theatre listed in the L.A. Times' movie section for many years. At no time do I recall it being called the “Villa Glen.” I am wondering if some mistake has been made here. Please note the comment by user barton, above. Could it be that the names of two different theaters have been conflated?
This was the second theater in Glendale to bear this name. It opened in 1920. According the Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 2/13/1920, the architect was Alfred F. Priest. The cost of the theater was $60,000.
SWB&C issue of 6/26/1924 announced a $20,000 dollar extension at the rear of the theater, for a larger stage and the addition of dressing rooms etc to accomodate stage productions.
SWB&C issue of 7/7/1939 annouced the remodeling of the theater, by then operated by Fox, to include a concrete floor, acoustic plaster, carpets, a plastic veneer ticket booth and new poster cases. The architect for this remodel was (not surprisingly) Clifford A. Balch.