Boulevard Theatre

1615 W. Washington Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90006

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Homeboy: You’re right about the area around Washington and Vermont having been the home of L.A.’s “Film Row” with a number of booking offices, but the only theater I recall in the immediate area was the Boulevard itself, and it was on the northwest corner.

The nearest theater on Vermont to the south was La Tosca, at 30th Street, and to the north there was the Fox Parisian, but that was all the way up at 8th Street.

To the west were the Arlington Theatre, on the north side of Washington just west of Arlington, and the Maynard Theatre, on the south side of Washington just east of Arlington. I don’t remember there being any theaters on Washington east of the Boulevard.

The only cluster of three theaters close together that I recall on the south side was the one around Broadway and Manchester. The Manchester Theatre was the big one, just west of Broadway, and then there were the smaller Mecca and Mayfair Theatres, about a block apart on Broadway south of Manchester.

There were several more theaters on South Vermont, but they were all south of Exposition Park.

Homeboy
Homeboy on June 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

My memory is fuzzy so this could be substantially wrong. But what I think I remember — I was a kid at the time — is that there were several theaters within a two block radius of Washington and Vermont — at least three — and the area seemed to be a wholesale film booking area with more company in the film distribution business or affiliated businesses. Of course, what seemed to be “more than one company” could have been various Fox West Coast offices in different buildings. In particular wasn’t there a theater in a huge building on the southeast corner of Washington and Vermont with the entrance on Washington? And wasn’t there a smaller theater on Vermont in the several blocks south of Washington?

ljsspot
ljsspot on June 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

West Coast Theaters were originally Gore Bros, who later partnered/sold out with Skouras and Fox – I can’t get the whole story straight. My mother cashiered at this theater probably in the mid thirties. Thriftimart was also Smart and Final – I rememer being in the offices and seeing a beautiful stairway going up and my dad telling me that my mom had worked there before marriage. My mom was a Gore and a niece of the “Gore Bros.”

rrrahl
rrrahl on September 5, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I was born in 1945 and grew up in the neighborhood around Washington and Vermont. My father had a drugstore on the northeast corner. From the time I was five years old I spent a fair amount of my childhood in the Boulevard Theater, first going with my older brothers or my mother and later, by the time I was eight or nine, going by myself or with schoolmates and neighborhood friends. Saturdays at the Boulevard were a regular routine. The program started in the late morning with ads for local businesses, like the Gin Gin Inn (Chinese food), trailers (previews of coming attractions), ads for the snack counter, and numerous cartoons followed by a double feature. There were also special Friday the 13th late night “spook shows” with mini-marathons of scary movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I must have run into Pat Howard (ushering from 1952-57) numerous times but I don’t think I knew him by name. There was another usher, Cody Fishburne, whom I knew because he was a friend of my brothers.

I appreciate Pat’s descriptions of the offices of Fox West Coast Theaters. While I never got to see them myself, my father occasionally played poker with Charles Skouras and his cronies in the penthouse. My dad’s descriptions of the palatial layout were similar to Pat’s with added emphasis on the variety and quality of the food and refreshments served on those occasions. When the property was acquired by Thriftimart my father seems to have been “grandfathered” in since he continued to play poker with the new management, headed by Roger Laverty.

noloss36
noloss36 on April 10, 2008 at 8:29 am

Clarkus,

I remember two brothers, first names Billy and Clark, who lived up the street. Would that be you? If not, please let me know who. You can email me at

Patrick

Clarkus
Clarkus on April 10, 2008 at 2:09 am

Patrick, my brother and I remember your father (and you) when we lived on Will Rogers street.

BhillH20
BhillH20 on March 23, 2008 at 10:22 pm

At least we have our beautiful St. Sophia Cathedral at Pico & Normandie thanks to Charles Skouras, who is buried on the church grounds in a mausaleum.

noloss36
noloss36 on March 6, 2008 at 1:39 pm

If I remember correctly, the executive offices and conference room wwere on the 4th floor facing east to Vermont Avenue. This is the side with windows. There were no windows of any consequence on the other three sides of the building above the first floor. The largest office shown was probably that of Charles Skouras, President of FWC Theaters. The medical facility, showers and steam room, etc. were also on the 4th floor. Skouras suffered from heart disease; hence, the closeness of the medical facilities to the executive area.

William
William on March 6, 2008 at 12:40 pm

There are a lot of windows in those pictures for being in the sub-basement.

noloss36
noloss36 on March 6, 2008 at 11:25 am

I just looked at the pictures of the Fox West Coast Theater Co. offices located in the building housing the Boulevard Theater, posted by ken mc. They brought back a lot of memories for me as my father, Manager of the Boulevard from 1945-57, often took me to the offices with him when he attended manager staff meetings, when I was 5-7 years old. If I recall correctly, the Division Manager, a Mr. Bowser(?),held the meetings in his office, which looked similar to the offices shown in the pictures. I remember his secretary’s name was Mrs. Scofield, as I was left in her charge while the meetings were held. My father would also often take me to the in-house barber for my haircuts. The offices were very palatial by the standards of the day. a lot of wood paneling and large conference rooms.
One additional observation. Several times the offices are listed by commentators as being in the sub-basement of the building. I don’t think this is correct,as one would use the elevator to access the offices on the buildings 2-4 floors, with the penthouse occupying the 5th floor. The only FWC facilities I ever saw on the first floor was the the FWC cafeteria bordering Washington Blvd. and the 50 seat screening room used to preview motion pictures on the Vermont Ave side. The theater and commercial spaces occupied the rest. My father’s office was just off the second landing of the stairs leading to the theater’s balcony. One could access the FWC offices from both sides of the first landing and opposite my father’s office on the second landing. The only spaces I ever saw below ground (basement area) was the theater’s heating and a/c control room.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 6, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Here is the Fox-West Coast office in the sub-basement, from the CA state library:
View link
View link
View link
View link

noloss36
noloss36 on July 7, 2007 at 8:57 pm

Interesting, as I was working there at the time. Do not remember my father mentioning a fire. Must have been a minor blaze. Would have thought my dad would mention anything significant, especially if it involved the theater. I remember the janitor of the theater at that time. Really nice European gentleman, always accomnpanied by his dog. This was a Chow dog that could retrieve a bottle cap thrown into the dark auditorium. It was pitch dark in there and that dog would invariably retieve a thrown bottle cap. This was back when we poured Coke/Pepsi colas from bottles, just prior to the conversion to soda fountain type dispensers.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 7, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Mr. Skouras was evicted from the penthouse on 8/7/54, according to the LA Times:

THEATER OFFICE FIRE ROUTS CHARLES SKOURAS

Fire in the general offices of Fox-West Coast Theaters Corp. early yesterday briefly routed Charles P. Skouras, president of the company, from his penthouse bed before the blaze was controlled by seven Los Angeles fire companies.

Spokesmen for the theater chain said that damage was confined to offices at 1825 S. Vermont Avenue, in a sub-basement beneath the Boulevard Theater at 1611 W. Washington Boulevard. Skouras and his wife were awakened after a janitor discovered the fire at 4:30 a.m. The theater executive returned to bed after firemen assured him that there was no danger to his residence structure atop the theater.

noloss36
noloss36 on November 19, 2006 at 9:55 am

BOULEVARD THEATER PENTHOUSE
One of the above commentators mentions knowing of the penthouse, but had never had the opportunity to see it. I was in it many times when my father was managing the Boulevard. I, also, was assigned to operate the elevator serving the penthouse(nothing like knowing the boss) when I was working as an usher (1952-57) for several of Mr. Skouras' parties.

The penthouse was on the fifth floor and the elevator opened onto a fairly good sized rooftop patio with numerous planters. A 20' walk led directly into the penthouse, although a side path took one to the stairs to the upper level full sized projection booth that provided movies to the main penthouse living room.

Once inside the penthouse entryway, you could either step down a stair or two into a very large, white carpeted living room or walk up to another level with a full bar. The living room had a very high ceiling, to accomodate the higher bar level. This also enabled a large, but scaled down Cinemascope screen to electrically descend from the ceiling for the screening of movies. When lowered this screen covered the room’s large fireplace and mantle. The decor was mostly light colored furniture and blonde wood, typical of 1950’s style furnishings. An interesting item, to me at least, was a small box that contained an old fashioned rotary telephone dial that, instead of numerals, allowed one to dial any one of a number of radio stations to automatically tune in the AM radio. Primitive by today’s electronic standards, but very high tech for that time. Not surprisingly, I do not recall a television set, as this was during the height of the TV vs Motion Pictures war.

The upper bar level also contained two, floor to ceiling, glass enclosed, lighted shotgun display cases with several dozen shotguns.
Mr Skouras was an avid duck hunter, and my father periodically brought home various cooked duck based entrees made from fowl bagged by Mr. Skouras.I do not recall ever going into any of the bedrooms, so I do not know how many the penthouse contained. I do recall being impressed by it’s luxuriousness. My impression of Mr. Skouras, on the one or two occasions I saw him, was that of a rather short, stout and pleasant individual, whose presence was not overly intimidating, despite his iconic stature in the industry. My father always spoke well of him.

As a side note, I soon learned that although the Skouras family was wealthy and powerful, and lived in a world far from mine, all was not well in paradise. My father, from the adjacent parking lot, witnessed Mr Skouras' daughter’s suicide, when she jumped from the penthouse garden patio. She impacted the street below close by the entrance to the small lobby area where the penthouse elevator was located.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 3:28 pm

Here’s a few excerpts from the Stevenson visit:

(Oct. 16, 1952)
….south on Figueroa to Washington Blvd, west on Washington blvd. to the Boulevard Theater, 1609 W. Washington Blvd., where at approximately 3:45 p.m. he(Adlai Stevenson) will give a 15-minute talk to the teamsters convention….

(Oct. 17, 1952)
Central Ave. roared its welcome yesterday to Adlai Stevenson. Crowds thronged the sidewalks as the Democratic nominee’s procession of cars passed the district. Everywhere, store windows carried large pictures of Stevenson and children shouted in carnival spirit. Stevenson’s car halted briefly at the Elks' Temple, 4016 S Central Ave., before continuing to the Boulevard Theater to address the teamsters' convention.

(Oct. 17, 1952)
JAM OF HUMANITY
The motorcade wormed through a jam of humanity surrounding the Boulevard Theater, where Stevenson gave a five-minute talk before the Teamsters Union delegates and conferred briefly with top teamster officials. At the theater, while the capacity audience roared lustily, Stevenson was greeted by Dan Tobin, international president of the teamsters.

noloss36
noloss36 on February 22, 2006 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for asking. I referred back to my Jan 10, 2004 entry where I stated my Dad worked there from 1946 to 1957. I was in error by a year as he obviously was there in 1945. My mistake, but I was only five years old in ‘45 so my memory is a little scanty. He previously managed the Carleton in 1943-44. Before that the Princess Theater in Milwaukee from 1934 to our departure for California in 1943. I worked the Boulevard from 1952-57 as an usher, as did my brother before me. The only picture we have is my Dad leading Adlai Stevenson to the stage at the Teamsters Convention held at the Boulevard during the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential campaign. The picture also includes my brother in his gold braided usher’s uniform.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 8:37 am

Wow, that’s pretty interesting Patrick. I wondered why the amount was pretty small on both of those robberies. Did your father ever take photographs of the theater? How long did he work there? It would be nice to see some photos that aren’t the regular stock photos on the library’s website.

noloss36
noloss36 on February 22, 2006 at 8:15 am

My father, Leonard J. Howard, was the Manager of the Boulevard at the time of the 1945 robbery. I recall him telling me he was in the cashier’s booth at the time and advised Ms. Arbuthnot to quietly hand over all the money she had in the cash drawer. He figured no amount was worth anyone getting shot. Besides, as with most theaters, cash was routinely (hourly?) deposited in the double drop safe in the booth and was not retrievable until it was removed by the manager with a separate key.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 8:10 am

I think I found the answer to my own question. Here’s a part of a really long LA Times article:

(July 19, 1966)
…While they wait that out, they(the ICCC) contemplate refurnishing the theater, which still has popcorn on the floor although its last movie played there in August, 1964. This, they say, can go on concurrently with some of their early productions. Use of the theater and other rooms is the gift of the Thriftimart Co., which bought the building, once the seat of the Skouras movie empire, from Fox West Coast Theaters….

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 8:02 am

I wonder if they sold the space before the ICCC (Inner City Cultural Center) took over the space or if it was rented to that group.

hadabob
hadabob on February 22, 2006 at 7:29 am

Thriftimart had a chain of supermarkets in Southern California as I recall. They were different than Thrifty Drug Stores. At the time I saw the interior in 1980 they were using the auditorium for storage – boxes mainly. Similiarily, the nearby Midway Theatre saw the same usage ‘til around 2000.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 7:16 am

Thriftimart must have only used the Fox offices in this theater since there is only a two year span from the time of the last movie until it was converted to a community center/theater in 1966.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 7:13 am

I wonder if Thriftimart is the same as Thrifty Drugs. I know that films were shown here until 1964. At least it wasn’t turned into a drugstore before they tore it down.

(Jan. 24, 1960)
The Thriftimart Co. has purchased the 76,000 sq. ft. Fox West Coast theater building at the corner of Washington Blvd. and Vermont Ave. for use as executive offices. The air-conditioned office building and adjoining parking lots were purchased for a sum reported in excess of $750,000. Harold and Leonard Jaffe, of the Jaffe Realty Co., represented both the buyer and seller.

vokoban
vokoban on February 22, 2006 at 7:05 am

Here’s a few LA Times items about robberies at this theater:

(Nov. 8, 1932)
Two taxi bandits armed with revolvers escaped yesterday with $150 cash from the Boulevard Theater, 1615 West Washington Boulevard, after they had bound and gagged the manager, Max Duncan, while he was alone in his office, according to police. Duncan reported the bandits surprised him as he was leaving to make a deposit in a near-by bank. He said they walked from the theater and escaped by a taxi.

(June 4, 1945)
Two men, one armed with a gun, held up the cashier at Fox West Coast’s Boulevard Theater, 1609 W. Washington Blvd., Saturday night and escaped with $148. The cashier was Yvonne Arbuthnot, 809 S. New Hampshire Ave.