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It is difficult to understand a connection between the West Adams Theatre, which is today a Hispanic church, and the elegant Vista Theater in East Hollywood. The Vista, which retains it’s beautiful Spanish-style architecture, is easily the handsomest remaining movie theater in Los Angeles. The former Bard’s West Adams is a plain, flat-faced former theater, with it’s marquee luckily still intact. All I can imagine is that somewhere during it’s long history, the West Adams was “modernized”, and thus stripped of it’s original identity. But the West Adams is still standing, a former theater that appears to be as enormous in size as, say, the Pantages and the FoxWilshire.
Located one block north of the famous “circle” formed by the intersection of Glassell and Chapman in “Old Towne” Orange, the former Orange theater is still looking fine, and is being used as a church.
Still standing as of May, 2005…and still the crown jewel of Old Town Santa Ana.
The Tower Theater was located next to the Santa Fe tracks in what is now Old Town. It appears in the background in a late-1940’s photo I purchased of the Santa Fe Super Chief crossing Colorado Blvd.
The Fox Pomona, like downtown Pomona itself, is a sleeping giant awaiting discovery. One look at the Fox and you can tell immediately this was once a grand movie palace. It’s sad to see it vacant, but at least it’s still full intact.
I went out to Pomona to photograph their historic downtown the other day, and the crown jewel of that somewhat rundown city center is the old Fox Theater. While it is obviously in much need of repair, the basic building still stands proudly at 3rd and Gary, just south of the Metrolink station. While I was never inside during it’s glory days, I could tell immediately that this was one of the great movie palaces of the wonderful Fox West Coast empire. Would love to see it get the kind of renovation that the Culver (now Kirk Douglas) Theater in Culver City recently received.
The Granada Theater is located in an office building on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I saw the original film of “The Producers” with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder there during it’s exclusive engagement in the Sixties.
I visited East Los Angeles yesterday, and was delighted to find the marquee and sign of the Unique Theater still gracing First Street. The verticle sign, so typical of classic theaters, looks to have been untouched through the decades—thank goodness. True,it is the “Unique Dollar Store” today, but the former theater is still the most distinct building on First Street. Incidentally, the upcoming Metro Gold Line light rail extension into East Los Angeles will pass right by the Unique.
I saw the Whittier Theater only once, shortly before it was torn down. It did resemble the Carthay Circle Theater on San Vincente, probably the finest movie palace ever built. I only wish I would have had a camera with me that day—when I returned to Whittier with a camera about a month later the magnificent Whittier Theater had been torn down. Whittier lost a true gem.
I drove down to Fullerton yesterday to see and photograph the Fox Fullerton Theater. This Spanish-style classic is located right in the heart of a classic suburban downtown in a town that has had the forsight to preserve it’s heritage—this is perhaps the handsomest downtown area in Southern California. While the front of the Fox is boarded up, and there is paint peeling off the walls, there is wonderful news on the marquee—one of the great movie palaces of Southern California has indeed been saved by concerned citizens, and is scheduled to be completely refurbished. If only we had more happy endings like this!
As of January, 2005, the Foothill Drive-In is still standing proudly on former U.S. 66 (Foothill Blvd.), a wonderful reminder of Southern California before it got so crowded and sophisticated.
The Art Deco-Moderne El Rey Theater still stands proudly on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile, a monument to good taste in architecture, and a reminder of another era when movie palaces were the centers of every good community.
The former Stadium Theater underwent major exterior renovations in 2004, and is once again a handsome building.
I saw Rosemary’s Baby at the Crest during it’s exclusive engagement during the late 1960’s. Luckily, I was unprepared for the film, and found it one of the most engrossing movies I’ve ever seen. The Crest was a an Art Deco masterpiece in the Sixties, and I am so happy to say it stands just as handsomely in the new Millenium. And, best of all—and almost unique in Los Angeles—they still show current feature films there! Westwood is like the last refuge of individual movie theaters, what with the Bruin and the equally exquisite Fox Village (I know, it’s really a Mann Theater, but let’s remember it’s heritage), located across the street from each other in the heart of Westwood Village.
I was driving west on Manchester Blvd. the other day when I saw a large marquee, so I stopped and parked across the street. There before my eyes, fully intact, was the Fifth Avenue Theater. This was clearly a major movie house, as it takes up most of a city block. While it is boarded up, it’s all still there, and as “MagicLantern” observed there is a sign that it’s going to be converted into a church (like the nearby Academy). As long as a grand old theater is still standing there is still hope of restoring it for some use, rather than tearing it down.
I was lucky enough to attend two exclusive engagements at this theatre in the late 1960’s, both Franco Zeferelli films—“Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet”. And make no mistake about it—the name of this grand old Wilshire Blvd. theatre was the Stanley Warner.
In the late 1960’s I was lucky enough to attend the Four Star Theatre twice, both times for exclusive engagements. One of the films was “The Graduate”, which showed the artificiality of nearby Beverly Hills society so well and of course features the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, and the other was “The Lion in Winter”, which featured brilliant performances by Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole. These were two of the most finest movies I ever saw, and the big screen and excellent stereo sound system of the Four Star were perfect for both events.
Today, the former Four Star is a church, called “The Oasis”. Painted green and white, it is one of the finest examples of pure Art Deco architecture ever built in Los Angeles. This seems fitting, as it is located just about a mile east of the famous “Miracle Mile” on Wilshire Blvd.
I remember the Reseda Theatre as a teenager—it was always “All Seats 49 cents”, and when we were broke it was the place to go on Saturday night! Just a few weeks ago I drove out to Reseda to photograph the closed-for-too-long Reseda Theatre, and it occurred to me that it looks fully salvagable. I was delighted to read in the Daily News on September 29 that the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency is buying the Reseda, and there are serious plans being made to renovate and re-open it. Sure hope it really happens—this was a grand old movie house. Nothing fancy, just a nice old neighborhood theatre.
As a boy, my Dad took our family to see every one of the Cineramas at the Warner Hollywood. Working as a sound engineer for Westrex in Hollywood, he had a deep appreciation of the Cineramas. The last film I remember seeing at the Warner was “How the West Was Won”, a 1964 epic with an all-star cast, and the last of the original type 3-camera Cineramas. By this point, huge red drapes covered what had once been magnificent romanesque columns. It seems sad that such a great organization as Cinema Treasures should be refering to the Warner Hollywood as the “Pacific 1-2-3”—for this was a true motion picture palace.
I see no one remembers the Rivoli Theatre in Van Nuys, but I do. I was a kid, but I mostly remember the decorative art deco box office, located under the marquee (the usual spot). This was not one of the better Fox West Coast Theatres, but was one of a series of convenient local family-oriented theatres located on Van Nuys Blvd. (along with the Capri, the Fox, and—further north, the Panorama (which was not a Fox Theatre).
The term “movie palace” must have been coined by someone who had just attended the Carthay Circle Theatre. When I was a boy, growing up in the 1950’s, my family went to see the exclusive engagement of “Fantasia” at the Carthay Circle. My Dad was a sound engineer for a company called Westrex in Hollywood, which built sound equipment for the movie industry. That morning he told the family “today we’re going to the finest movie theatre in America”. When we arrived at the Carthay Circle, set back from the street on San Vincente, and got out of the car, I just stood there in amazement—I was six years old, and I didn’t know this style of architecture was called Spanish Baroque—what I did know was it was the most beautiful building I had ever seen. We returned to the Carthay Circle within a year or two to see “Around the World in Eighty Days”, and this time I got to see the “palace” all lit up at night. It was breathtaking. While we were lucky enough to go see other great films at Grauman’s Chinese, the Pantages, the Fox Wilshire (a few blocks away), and the Warner Hollywood (the original Cinerama), none of these could compare with the Carthay Circle.
Today an office complex built by National General (who took over Fox West Coast Theatre) sits on the property. And the entire neighborhood, built in the 1920’s, is known as Carthay Circle.
One Saturday afternoon in 1965, my family got all dressed up (as people did back then) and cruised to Beverly Hills in my Dad’s 1961 Pontiac Catalina station wagon. After lunch at Dolores' Drive In on Wilshire (with real car hop service), it was on to our destination—the Fox Wilshire, to see “The Sound of Music” in it’s exclusive engagement. Going to a movie at the Fox Wilshire was a major event—the theatre alone was worth the price of admission. We had seats in the Orchestra section, and I still remember how spacious and comfortable those seats were. The film, of course, is history. Fortunately, the Fox Wilshire isn’t—the equally elegant Fox Carthay Circle Theatre, just a few blocks away, was torn down in the late 1960’s.
As a kid growing up in the Sherman Oaks area in the Fifties and Sixties, I attended many movies there(with my family, and later as a teenager with friends). In comparison to the nearby La Reina, or the beautiful Encino Theatre further west or the Studio City Theatre about 4 miles east, the Sherman was fairly small, but it had a kind of homey atmosphere to it. I remember as a kid having to walk under the turnstile—if you could fit under it, you got in free!
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, when I was growing up in the area, the Encino Theatre was the premiere movie theatre of the San Fernando Valley. It was a large, spacious theatre, with the most comfortable theatre seats I ever recall sitting (with the possible exception of the magnificent Fox Wilshire). The rear section of the theatre contained “loge” seating, which was designed to be a premium seating area, although I don’t remember it ever having been used this way. I also have trouble believing the Encino was built in 1939—it was a very 1950’s style building, with an overhang you drove through to enter. Sadly, like most of beautiful old Encino, the theatre was torn down to build a high rise office building in the late 1970’s. But it’s memory lives on in the minds of us “Baby Boomers” that grew up in the area.
As a boy growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I went to dozens of movies at the Panorama Theatre, located at the corner of Nordhoff and Van Nuys Blvd. This spacious theatre was the official theatre of Panorama City, a beautifully planned community in the center of the Valley. Sadly, as the neighborhood decayed, the Panorama Theatre deteoriated with it. The good news is it is still fully intact, unlike so many of the Valley theatres that were torn down in the 1970’s and 1980’s.