Million Dollar Theatre

307 S. Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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Million Dollar Theatre auditorium

Sid Grauman’s first major theatre was named Grauman’s Theatre when it opened on February 1, 1918 with William S. Hart in “The Silent Man” and a personal appearance by W.S. Hart. Following the hype over its price tag, it was immediately known as Grauman’s Million Dollar Theatre, although it was not officially named this until 1922. The auditorium was built behind the twelve story Edison office building, the exterior is a magnificent example, of a variation of Spanish Rococo style, known as Churrigueresque. Deeply molded features decorate the theatre entrance and higher up on the facade are heroic figures of the arts, with symbols of western Americana, such as bison head, eagles and longhorn steer skulls, all the work of sculptor Joseph Mora.

The 2,345-seat auditorium, which is 106 feet long and 103 feet wide, is decorated in a similar style to the exterior and has a curved proscenium arch 40 feet wide and 40 feet high. The ceiling has a coffered dome and there are numerous statues and niches. The organ grilles on the side walls are in the style of Spanish Colonial altar screens. Architect William Lee Woollett is credited with the design of the interior. The proscenium, with its flanking columns, and the coffered ceiling, foreshadowed the later design by Woollett for Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre (later Paramount) which was his most fantastical achievement in movie palace design. The eclectic, fantasy design of the Million Dollar Theatre in 1918 contrasted with the more conventional, Neo-Classic look of most movie palaces at that time. By the end of the 1920’s, exotic themes and atmospherics were the rage in movie palace design, and many early movie palaces looked dated, but the Million Dollar Theatre still looked fresh (and almost a century later, still wows.

Although designed specifically as a movie palace, full stage facilities were installed. Within two months of opening, Sid Grauman began to stage spectacular prologues prior to the film show on the 35 feet deep stage, which was 103 feet wide. Seating was provided for 1,400 in the orchestra and 945 in the balcony. An unusual feature was the positioning of the projection booth at the front of the balcony, rather than the usual position at the rear of the balcony. This gave a shorter throw to the screen which resulted in a brighter picture. There was a 30-piece orchestra. Initially a small 2 manual, 7 rank Wurlitzer organ was installed and it was opened by Jesse Crawford. This organ proved to be inadequate, and it was replaced on 23rd December 1918 by a larger 2 manual 16 rank Wurlitzer organ. The original organ was transfered to the Rialto Theatre on S. Broadway, which Grauman also operated.

Among the famous names who attended the opening night were: Jesse L. Lasky, Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett, Hal Roach, Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle.

Grauman sold his interests in his downtown Los Angeles theatres (the Million Dollar Theatre, Rialto Theatre and Metropolitan Theatre-later Paramount Theatre) to Paramount-Publix in 1924, in order to focus on Hollywood, notably running the Egyptian Theatre and planning the Chinese Theatre. In 1929, Paramount transferred the huge chandelier that had been hanging in the short-lived Broadway lobby entrance of Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre (later Paramount Theatre), and hung it in the domed ceiling of the auditorium of the Million Dollar Theatre. The theatre was leased out to Fox West Coast Theatres briefly, but by 1930 the Great Depression was hurting theatres and they closed it down. Late in 1930 it was taken over by an independent operator named Lazarus. By 1941 it was being operated by Popkin & Ringer Bros. who operated nine other theatres in downtown and had their headquarters at the Million Dollar Theatre.

In 1945, the theatre was taken over by Metropolitan Theatres, who breathed a new lease of life into the building by presenting live shows starring Billy Holiday, Cab Calloway and Lional Hampton and His Orchestra. Frank Fouce took over the management of the theatre and from August 30, 1950, the Million Dollar became a film and stage venue exlusively for Spanish speaking audiences. It was the first downtown Los Angeles theatre to have this policy and stars such as Maria Felix and Delores Del Rio appeared on stage. During the early 1960’s, the foyer area was ‘modernised’ with a drop ceiling suspended, and the walls were covered, all of which hides the original plaster decoration. From 1975 it was showing new general release films, dubbed into Spanish and live Mexican vaudeville shows one week in every month. Metropolitan Theatres closed the Million Dollar Theatre on March 1, 1993.

The Million Dollar Theatre was immediately taken over by a church and damage was done by painting over chandeliers and original wall murals with white paint. The name ‘Million Dollar’ was removed from the marquee at this time. In 1998, the church moved out and along Broadway into the former (Loews) State Theatre, and the Million Dollar Theatre was shuttered.

In October 2005, the Million Dollar Theatre was leased by former nightclub owner Robert Voskanian and work soon began on a restoration of the theatre. As of the end of February 2008, one million plus dollars had been spent to refurbish the Million Dollar Theatre. New marble flooring was installed, the proscenium’s stone archway was refurbished, and the theatre was redecorated with a new red and gold paint scheme.

The Million Dollar Theatre reopened on February 28, 2008 with a performance by Mexican singer and Latin Grammy Award winner Pepe Aguilar. Since then, currently with 2,008 seats, it has hosted classic film screenings, movie premieres, stage performances and concerts. Sadly, this venture, though popular, failed to meet a profit, and the operator ended his lease in June 2012. In 2014 it began monthly screenings of classic movies, and the theatre is available for film shoots and special events.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 229 comments)

HowardBHaas on March 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm

These members get 1st purchase opportunity to March 23 rare screening of director’s print of Blade Runner:

MJuggler on February 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Sunday, March 2 at 5:00pm Doors open: 4:00 pm Tickets: $20; LAHTF Members: $15 Click here to purchase tickets: Tickets also on sale at the door on event night (pending availability)

-Enjoy the glamour and spectacle of the most famous awards show of them all – telecast live on the BIG screen of Sid Grauman’s Million Dollar Theatre. Join us in honoring the best movies of 2013, on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, where Hollywood began! -Come early, have dinner at one of the exciting new eateries or enjoy an old favorite at the Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway. -Walk down Broadway’s Red Carpet, duck the paparazzi and make your grand entrance to the Million Dollar Theatre – right next door. -The ABC broadcast will be projected on the Million Dollar’s big, BIG screen. -Official Red Carpet coverage begins at 5:00 pm -The Main Attraction, the Awards broadcast, begins at 6 pm

Come alone, bring a friend, assemble your own entourage and experience awards night in a grand new way – with a live audience in a legendary theatre.

Participate in games, win prizes, laugh, cry, cheer in triumph, groan in defeat – experience it all in Grauman’s first Los Angeles movie palace – the fantastic Million Dollar!

No-host bar
Attendees are invited to dress in formal attire, vintage clothing or costumes keyed to your favorite contender. Prizes will be awarded.

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, in association with Grand Central Market, presents this special evening open to all.

This event is not sponsored by or affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, a 501©3 non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, restoring and sustaining the operation of Southern California’s historic theatres.

Please pass this info on!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm

For those interested in construction, here is an interesting article about the reinforced concrete arch supporting the balcony (called the gallery in the article) of the Million Dollar Theatre, published in the September 14, 1917, issue of Southwest Builder and Contractor:


“The reinforced concrete arch, and the reinforced concrete cantilever gallery which it carries, in the theater building at Third and Broadway, now being erected for the Stability Building Company, was given a severe test by the city building department, acting under instructions from the Board of Public Works, and the results show that the structure is without a flaw either from a theoretical or constructive standpoint. The structure, including the arch and gallery and side supports are monolithic and constitute what builders and technical men consider a bold piece of engineering. The idea of designing the structure in reinforced concrete was conceived by Albert C. Martin, the architect and engineer, when it was found that structural steel for the gallery as originally planned could not be obtained without unreasonable delay.

“The cantilever gallery is carried on an arch 10 ft. wide, with a clear span of 104 ft., so as to give an unobstructed view of the stage from all parts of the ground floor. A three-hinged arch was first considered, being the simplest and easiest type of construction, but it was found that the hinges alone would cost $15,000 and to eliminate this excessive item Mr. Martin decided upon a bow-spring arch with a segmental curve. The arch, which has a maximum rise of eleven feet, is tied at the haunches with steel rods aggregating 154 sq. inches in area, which are anchored at either end in steel plates with nuts and encased in concrete. Great care was taken also in designing the cantilever trusses for the gallery, plates and nuts being used at the juncture of various members. The gallery has a maximum overhang of about forty feet, the structure being evenly balanced upon the arch.

“Under the requirements of the city building ordinance the gallery was designed to carry a weight of 125 pounds per square foot and the test was made by placing upon it a load of double that amount, 250 pounds per square foot. A total of 1,400,000 pounds of cement in sacks, bricks and sand was placed on the gallery extending the entire length and covering that portion which is carried directly by the arch. A week was consumed in placing the great mass of material, all of which is to be used in the building, and the full load was allowed to remain for a period of about 48 hours.

“The greatest deflection in the arch under this tremendous strain was only one-quarter of an inch and the greatest deflection in the cantilever gallery was three-eighths of an inch. The greatest deflection at the haunches of the arch was one-eighth of an inch on each end, making a total spread of only one-fourth of an inch. Theoretically, the spread of the arch should have been greater as the 104 feet of steel, under a load of 16,000 lbs. per square inch, which it was figured to carry, would stretch five-eighths of an inch. With double the load figured the steel should, theoretically, have stretched twice five-eighths of an inch, or one and one quarter inches. The actual small deflection is explained on the theory that a part of the load which would have been borne directly by the arch is, in reality, taken up by the vertical arches on the exterior of the structure.

“The test, besides proving satisfactorily the calculations of the engineer, demonstrated the thorough character of the construction. Greatest care was exercised in pouring the concrete for the arch and gallery and it was permitted to stand for sixty days before being stripped of the forms. The. R. H. Arnold Company is the general contractor on the building.”

Robert L. Bradley
Robert L. Bradley on December 14, 2014 at 2:44 am

I was there tonight to see THE GODFATHER. They had an excellent 35mm print but it was very dark and much of the sound was unintelligible due to bad acoustics. They did use the curtain at the beginning and end. I sat in the balcony. There was a very large crowd.

spectrum on April 22, 2015 at 9:26 pm

The Million Dollar Theatre is again available for rental, for events, private functions and film shoots. It is also showing classic movies recently on a more or less monthly basis. Website is It is run as part of the “Grand Central Square Project” which includes the apartments above the theatre, the adjacent Grand Central Market, and Grand Central Square and adjacent parking garage. Good to see it is still in use!

pnelson on November 1, 2015 at 11:18 pm

The exterior of the Million Dollar Theatre is shown in a scene from Blade Runner. The marquee. Great film and other Los Angeles sights are in the movie too.

DavidZornig on November 12, 2017 at 8:38 pm


artpf on September 15, 2019 at 4:55 pm

This theatre is features briefly in the 1949 classic Film Noir, D.O.A.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 4, 2020 at 1:39 am

There is a quick shot of the marquee near the end of movie The Killer that Stalked New York (1950)

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