Million Dollar Theatre

307 South Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Unfavorite 52 people favorited this theater

Million Dollar Theatre auditorium

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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”. Following the hype over its price tag, it soon became 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, neoclassic 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. 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 South 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, Rialto and Metropolitan-later Paramount) 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), 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 to 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.

Contributed by Ken Roe, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 229 comments)

silver
silver on February 12, 2012 at 11:46 pm

An interesting article: “Archive screens film classics in historic downtown movie palace” from UCLA Today Jan 19,2012. http://today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/ucla-film-tv-archive-on-broadway-222412.aspx

Unfortunately it says that they’re only typically getting 200 people in attendance. Hope this weekly UCLA programming series can survive…

Danny Baldwin
Danny Baldwin on February 14, 2012 at 12:25 am

200 is significantly more than the crowds when I’ve gone…

jackfmurphy
jackfmurphy on February 14, 2012 at 2:11 am

Re: The projection booth, how about that fancy masking on the window? Two pieces of paper taped to the booth window. Isn’t the masking supposed to be in the film gate? I guess that it works, so why not.

Danny Baldwin
Danny Baldwin on February 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Pretty common trick when the aperture plate doesn’t stop some light from spilling onto the screen masking…

silver
silver on July 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Bummer development.
The tenant (and apparently a good one at that, who spent $1 million (ironically) in renovations) couldn’t make a go of it.

Too bad the corporation that owns the theater didn’t reduce the rent so that tenant could’ve hung on. Any guesses on its future? Back to being leased again by some fringe church?

“Million Dollar Operator Terminates Lease” (excerpt) “After six years of running the Million Dollar Theater, Robert Voskanian, the 1918 venue’s operator since 2007, terminated his lease on the property in June.

Voskanian said that despite holding events like concerts, a Wednesday night film series in partnership with the UCLA Film Archive and renting the venue for filming, they were still not making enough money to cover their bills.

“I love the place, it’s gorgeous and it really broke my heart but financially it was too difficult,” he said. … When Voskanian took over the property the theater had been vacant for about two years. Before that it had served as the headquarters for two churches and once housed the Metropolitan Water District.“ full article: www.ladowntownnews.com/news/million-dollar-operator-terminates-lease/article_cd24e73e-d81d-11e1-a1d1-0019bb2963f4.html

CTCrouch
CTCrouch on October 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm

The image is of the barbershop located inside the theatre.

cclopez123
cclopez123 on January 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm

This theather brings a lot of memories..when I was little ,my mom use to bring me and my brother to see the Mexican stars..beautiful performances..beautiful theather..everybody spent good part of there Sunday afternoon just enjoying life..these days are long gone but the memories live on ..thank you for the memories..they will remain my heart for ever..:)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 4, 2013 at 9:13 pm

These members get 1st purchase opportunity to March 23 rare screening of director’s print of Blade Runner: http://www.lahtf.org/

MJuggler
MJuggler on February 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Sunday, March 2 at 5:00pm Doors open: 4:00 pm Tickets: $20; LAHTF Members: $15 Click here to purchase tickets: http://goo.gl/YuvRUO 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 12:54 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:

“SEVERE TEST FOR REINFORCED CONCRETE STRUCTURE

“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.”

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater