El Centro Theatre
804 N. El Centro Avenue,
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Operating as the Ivy Theatre by 1915, when it was listed as a motion picture theatre in the Los Angeles City Directory, this was one of Hollywood’s earliest movie houses. It was later converted into a garage for a mechanic. It is now a 45-seat theatre called the Chaplin Stage, and is part of the El Centro Theatre.
The history of the El Centro Theatre as a stage house began in 1946, when a group of UCLA students converted a grocery store just south of the Ivy’s former building into the Circle Theatre, as a home for their budding theatre company.
With some assistance from Charlie Chaplin, the company was a success, and later expanded into the former movie house next door, calling their second stage the New Theatre. This two-stage complex has since been the home of several small theatre groups, and one of the most significant venues of the Little Theatre movement in Southern California.
The 99-seat main stage of the El Centro Theatre remains in the former grocery store at the corner of El Centro and Waring Avenues. The current operators of the house have renamed the performance space in the former Ivy Theatre’s building the Chaplin Stage, in honor of the movie star who helped the original Circle Theatre company in its early years. The buildings have been gradually undergoing renovation for several years.
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