Showing 1 - 25 of 26 comments
We had a chance to see this wonderful old theater on October 22nd, 2008. It has evidently been closed for a bit. A building permit notice dated December 24, 1997 is posted near the entrance. It does not specify what was to be done and I’m sure it is now expired. This could be a fun venue for both older films and live entertainment. It’s on the old Mamalahoa Highway, which passes through the wonderful little town of Honomu. The road is the main link to the nearby Akaka Falls State Park. I took photos, but the two posted by Lost Memory pretty much show it as it is today.
I photographed the Empire on October 21, 2008. It dosen’t appear to have much going on. The Empire Cafe appears to be closed.
My wife and I were on the Big Island for a short vacation last week and had a chance to see the Palace Theatre and several others. When is the photo upload going to be fixed, as this is another one that I now have some nice pictures of. It would be nice to see a photo in the box at the top.
Actually the building prior to 1969 was a great Alan Siple designed market. It was a great loss as well but at least it was replaced with a great theater. This time it appears that greatness is being replaced with mediocrity at best.
Alas we bid thee goodbye!
We learned too late that the National was the last freestanding single screen movie palace built in the United States, according to the “Theater Historical Society of America”. It was turned down by the Cultural Heritage Commission several weeks before we got the letter. Simms was already into his demolition. The loss of the auditorium and the lobby sealed its fate.
I had hoped some day to see “Blade Runner” in that venue, as it was the perfect arena for that film. However, so many great buildings in Los Angeles are time dated. Just as the replicants, we strive to create our identities, only to have them crumble into dust.
Let us work to save what is left. Let us elect those to office who share our vision. There are other theaters that need help. Let us use the loss of the National as a rallying cry to never let this happen to our history again (Sadly, we know it will.)
The Crest down the street awaits its fate as well. We must work to have it rise from the ashes of the National as a true success in preservation.
The Cultural Heritage Commission inspected the National last Thursday. Everything except the missing sound system appears to be intact. Ronald Simms, the owner-developer told me that he has no desire to reuse the building as “my tenants need parking”. It is also my understanding that he has turned down an offer to buy the building. The Cultural Heritage Commission will be voting on November 29th at 10:00 AM in room 1010 at the Los Angeles City Hall on whether or not to recommend that the building should be declared a monument. It is very important that those who love the National Theatre be there to support this nomination. We need to pack the room. If you cannot come, please send letters of support to:
City of Los Angeles
Office of Historic Resources
200 N. Spring Street, Room 620
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Attn: Ken Bernstein
It is an uphill battle, but we can win it if the Cultural Heritage Commission knows that there is a constituency to support the preservation of this one of a kind theater!
The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted 4-0 to take the National Theatre under consideration as a Historic Cultural Monument for the City of Los Angeles. This first step puts a stay on any demolition plans while the application is reviewed, the site inspected by the Commission and final determination is made.
If the Cultural Heritage Commission votes to declare the National Theatre, the recommendation is forwarded to the City Council for a final vote. The building is located in the 5th council district. That is the district of Councilman Jack Weiss. Mr Weiss has not traditionally been supportive of historic preservation and this
nomination faces major challenges. I would implore anyone who has Jack Weiss' ear and wants to save this theater to work with us.
The ideal will be if a buyer with vision comes forward with a serious offer to take this wonderful venue over and make it work the way it truly can.
I will be posting support letters that have come in for the National over the next few days.
In reference to Joe Vogel’s email, the rendering is for the South Coast Plaza Theatre in Costa Mesa. That venue has has been vacant since 2000. Alan Hess went by it the other day an informed me that the interior appears to have been gutted. The Valley Circle Theatre was demolished in 1998. Levitt designed a number of theaters for the National General chain, but as they were mostly single screen venues most appear to have been lost while a few may have been multiplexed. There is no question that the National may have been his greatest theater design for sound quality if nothing else. Still, it stands, at least for the moment, as a pristine example of a true Modern Movie Palace of the type we will never see again.
Levitt’s work is finally being recognized as one of unique quality in the Late Modern period. Unfortunately this recognition may not be in time to save his great theater designs.
The theatre closed after Sunday’s showing of “Feast of Love”.
I thing the developer wants to move very fast.
The architect of this theater was Harold W. Levitt and Associates of Beverly Hills.
We have learned that this wonderful venue is again closing in October 2007 and it may be facing demolition. In doing some research, I found that the architect of the National Theater was Harold W. Levitt and Associates. Levitt came on the scene in the 1950s as a modernist architect, designing incredible homes and other buildings. He did at least two other theaters, the Fox Valley Circle Theater in San Diego (demolished in 1998 and the South Coast Plaza Theater in Costa Mesa, which is presently closed. All three of these theaters were fresh unique designs that are being lost one by one.
I am doing research on the National Theater in Westwood (which is closing this month and faces possible demolition) and found that the architect of that one, Harold W. Levitt, also designed the Fox Valley Circle Theater. I also found of picture of this really interesting theater on a website devoted to Levitt’s work. When are we going to have the photo load feature back? It’s been at least two years.
According to permits pulled over the last several years, the theater portion of the Kim Sing is being converted to a single family residence. The marquee remains and the parapet has been reconstructed on the building. The old sign that shows in the photo has been put back but only the word “Sing” is on it at the moment. The architect for the current changes is listed as Austin G. L. Kelly. When I get a chance, I will do early permit research and try to get a full history as well as an original architect on this very interesting historic theater. We used to drive by it all the time when I was growing up in the 1960s. The marquee had the movies listed in Chinese, but it did state that they all had English subtitles. Unfortunately I never got a chance to check the place out on the inside while it was still an active venue.
The original seating is not in the this theater. The York was being renovated in the late 1940s and the original wooden backed seats were being replaced. Our church, which is located several blocks away, was under construction at that time and they were able to procure all the York Theatre seats that were needed to fill the new sanctuary. For many years the inserts were blue, but they were redone in crimson red in the 1990s, so now they really look like the theater seats they originally were. They are really quite comfortable.
For the record, the current marquee is the one the was installed by the Pussycat chain. That one replaced an earlier neon one that probably dated from the 1950s. They kept the Eagle name so only the word “Pussycat’s” was removed when the theater went back to showing more family oriented fare in the 1980s. Shortly after the Eagle closed, so did the 4 screen multiplex at the Eagle Rock Plaza, leaving only one theater, The Highland, in nearby Highland Park, actually showing movies in Northeast Los Angeles. By the way, the comment about sticky floors was absolutely right, but then, the price was incredably low, so many came, in spite of the floor.
The Eagle Rock Plaza was bought a couple of years ago by the Westfield group that officially changed its name to “Westfields Shoppingtown, Eagle Rock”. No one calls it that. The theater closed sometime after that sale. I have a feeling that the events are more than just a little related. Most of the stores have changed as well, including the removal of a Bobs Big Boy Jr that, like the theaters, had been there since the mall opened in 1971. I worked for several months at the May Company that also opened in the beginning. The theaters did do first run movies and we saw a lot of great films there. With the closure here, along with the closure of the Eagle Theater, which is now a church, the only open theater left in Northeast Los Angeles is the L. A. Smith designed Highland Theatre in Highland Park. I’ve been told that the theaters at the Eagle Rock Plaza are being used for storage, but there are plans to open a “Chucky Cheese” restaurant, which may take some of the space.
Peoples Department Store burned around 1990. It was an arson fire that has been attributed to former Glendale fire captain John Orr, who is now on California’s death row for another fire that killed two people. Orr was a pyro and the Peoples fire started shortly after an interagency fire inspection of the building, in which he participated. The building was rebuilt, but only part of the outside wall of what was the Park Theater has survived. Essentially, it’s gone. So is Peoples. They were offered a sweetheart deal by 99 Cent Only and closed. The 99 Cent store later took over the Ralphs in nearby Garvanza and subleased the store to another cheap retailer. Peoples was the last of a wonderful grouping of small independent department stores that used to make up the Highland Park business district. My understanding is that the Park Theater closed around 1963.
By the way, the address for this theater building is 5722 N. Figueroa Street (originally Pasadena Avenue).
Another Highland Park theater that has not been demolished, but merely altered beyond recognition, the Sunbeam was built in 1914 and the architect was A. Lawrence Valk. The Sunbeam was closed in 1925 when it was bought by the owners of the newly opened Highland Theatre and shut down to eliminate competition. The great facade of the building was removed at some point after that. For many years the building housed the offices for the local newspaper, the Highland Park News Herald. In the late 1980s, a small repretory company leased the by then gutted theater portion of the building and reopened it as the “Outback Theatre” for live performances. There were even ambitious plans afoot to recreate the buildings original facade. Alas, the Outback failed in the early 1990s and the theater was again closed. Today the space is used as an artist’s studio and an occasional movie shoot. Maybe someday the Sunbeam, which is located in the Highland Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, along with the Highland Theatre and the Franklin Theatre building, can be brought back to it’s glory.
A followup to my earlier comments. The Franklin Theater building is a product of over 80 years of adaptive reuse. It was originally built in 1922 for Fred Stillwell as an automobile sales agency and garage. By 1929, it was operated by the local Chevrolet dealer. In 1934, new owner, E. H. Rose converted the building to a market. The facade was redesigned in cocrete by architect, W. L. Schmolle. The theater conversion ocurred in 1936, when Rose hired architect Lyle N. Barcume, engineer Harold P. King and contractor G. S. Griffith to convert the existing structure into a theater. The marquee, which was engineered by Blaine Noice (who engineer many of the buildings at the old Walt Disney Studios on Hyperion Avenue) and designed and built by QRS Neon Corporation, LTD, was installed in September of that year and the the venue opened as the “Hughes Theatre”. The name was later changed to the “Franklin Theatre”, under which it operated until 1952, when it closed and was converted to DeWitt Storage. Currently the building is used for a carpet cleaning business.
The July 4, 1924 edition of the Southwest Builder and Contractor notes that architect A. Godfrey Bailey had produced “plans for remodeling theatre at 528 S. Broadway for Wm Cutts; work to consist of removing toilets and enlarging foyer.” On Page 50, Col 1.
Just to confuse this even further, the Los Angeles Examiner reports the plans were prepared for the Yost Theater in Santa Ana by Architect, A. Godfrey Bailey in Part IV, Page 4 of their April 18, 1926 edition. Based on what I see, Mr. Yost may have had several theaters in Santa Ana and evidently used either Carl Boller or A. Godfrey Bailey of both of them to design his theaters. A search of Santa Ana building permits may be required to get our Yost theaters sorted out.
Carl Boller designed this theater along with A. Godfrey Bailey. It was built for E. D. Yost and completed in early 1926.
The Franklin Theatre building has not been torn down, although it has been closed for several decades and the building has been severely altered. For many years it was used as DeWitt Transfer and Storage and for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the local headquarters for the Republican Party. At that time, the theater portion was still intact. However, it has since been gutted inside and used for various industrial type uses. The buildings parapet and tower were cut down in the early 1990s. Since 1994, is has been protected by it’s inclusion in the Highland Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. This is the theater at which future Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates had his little brush with the law for disturbing the peace as a teenager. As soon as the photo feature is back, I will add a 1964 picture of the Franklin as the DeWitt Storage Building. At that time, only the marquee was gone.
For the record, this theater was designed by Arthur Burnett Benton (1858-1927) for the poet-playright, John Steven McGoarty (Benton also designed McGroarty’s home in the Tujunga area of Los Angeles.)and was intended as a permanent venue for the writer’s “Mission Play”. Benton is best known for his design of the first 2 phases of the National Historic Landmark “Mission Inn”, in Riverside, CA. One of his specialties was church buildings. This building was one of his very last commissions. The style, by the way, is “Mission Revival”, which was a specialty of Mr. Benton.