Theatre at the Ace Hotel

933 South Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90015

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United Artists Theatre - Los Angeles, CA

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The downtown United Artists Theatre was opened on December 26, 1927 with Mary Pickford & Buddy Rodgers in “My Best Girl”. Built by the founders of United Artists Pictures; Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, who needed the massive Spanish Gothic style movie palace as a venue for world premieres of their movies. The castles and cathedrals that Fairbanks and Pickford saw on their honeymoon in Spain, inspired them to instruct architect C. Howard Crane to design their movie palace in that style. It was replicated the following year in the United Artists Theatre in Detroit, Michigan.

The 13 story office building which fronts the United Artists Theatre was designed by the architectural firm Walker & Eisen, in a Spanish-Gothic style. There is a double height ogival window over the theatre entrance and many niches containing statues on the facade, including one of a figure holding an early movie camera. On top of the main tower feature is a large highly decorated clerestory and sky-sign.

The interior of the theatre was designed by noted theatre interior designer Anthony B. Heinsbergen. In the lobby the ceiling is painted to imitate stained glass, while in the main foyer the vaulted ceiling is painted to resemble tapestries, and has the look of an old Spanish cathedral. An open balcony runs across the foyer at mezzanine level, whilst on the opposite wall are huge gold edged mirrors. Under the foyer was located a private screening room for Mary Pickford.

Seating for 2,214 was originally arranged in orchestra, mezzanine and balcony levels. The deep recess in the ceiling is covered with tiny mirrors, which glitter when the cove lighting plays on them. On the two side walls are magnificent murals by Heinsbergen depicting heraldic Medieval scenes with painted characters depicting Fairbanks and Pickford and other Hollywood figures, including the heads of United Artists board members serving in 1927, tacked onto voluptuous bodies of flying gods and goddesses. The organ screens, serving the Wurlitzer 3 manual 17 ranks organ, and the proscenium arch are highly decorated in an elaborate Gothic style.

The theatre was a great success and was operated by United Artists Theatres circuit for the majority of its life as a movie theatre. During the 1950’s, a new wide-screen process was installed, and a giant curved screen was erected in front of the proscenium arch. Although little damage was done here, the mezzanine was totally removed to acommodate a new projection booth, which gave a straight throw onto the new screen.

In its later years, the United Artists Theatre was operated by Metropolitan Theatres and it closed as a full time cinema in the summer of 1989, screening Spanish language movies. It briefly became a legitimate playhouse, staging Spanish language comedies, dramas and musical comedies for adults.

In the fall of 1989, it was taken over by Dr. Eugene Scott for church use. Volunteers from his organization toiled for many hours to remove years of smoke stains and grime from the building, which now looks as good as it did on opening night, back in 1927. The former United Artists Theatre became home for Los Angeles University Cathedral. Upon the death of Dr. Eugene Scott in 2005, the church continued to use the building for a few more years. It was put up ‘For Sale’ in 2010, and was sold in the fall of 2011, to a developer, with plans to convert the office space part of the building in a hotel.

In January 2014 the Ace Hotel opened in the former office space fronting the building, and on February 14, 2014 the former United Artists Theatre opened as a concert venue known as the Theatre at the Ace Hotel, when British rock band Spiritualized performed.

Contributed by William Gabel, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 172 comments)

oknazevad
oknazevad on January 11, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Well it’s now 2014, and the hotel on the upper floors is about to Koenig not already. Best part is they have kept the theatre for use as a performance venue, with the first concerts already scheduled. Good to see it preserved like that.

larc919
larc919 on January 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

The Theatre at the Ace (former United Artists Theatre) will host its first performance on February 14, 2014, with the British rock band Spiritualized. Chalk up another resurrection! :)

CStefanic
CStefanic on January 24, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Bastards. They told me they were going to preserve the screen for repertory screenings. I will be really put out if this is not the case.

CStefanic
CStefanic on January 24, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Just to let it be known – I drove past and spoke with one of the guys on site. The lobby and auditorium still look marvelous – I really don’t trust them with their doing!

CStefanic
CStefanic on January 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm

The HBS (Historical Building Society) told me it WOULD be operating as a movie theater. I am so confused.

Cliffs
Cliffs on February 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Well, they’re showing Back to the Future there on June 21st, so it looks like it will still be a movie theater, from time to time. https://www.laconservancy.org/events-tours/last-remaining-seats

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on March 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Scarlett Johansson’s new film “Under The Skin” will be the first film in 25 years to premiere there.

http://www.thewrap.com/scarlett-johansson-film-under-the-skin-to-premiere-at-ace-hotel?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=contactology

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm

If they’ve gone to the expense of installing digital equipment for the Scarlett Johannson movie they must be intending to show movies frequently. You don’t spend that much for something you’ll rarely use.

hillsmanwright
hillsmanwright on March 25, 2014 at 11:38 pm

A new 4k projector and surround system has been installed – permanently. Ace Hotel plans to maintain the UA’s original purpose as a movie palace, in addition to live events. cinespia has an agreement with AH to stage premiere’s and special screenings.

hdtv267
hdtv267 on May 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm

The reunion special, naming of the winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race and wedding of season 6 contestant Josyln Fox to his husband was recorded at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. outside view of marquee featured and the inside looks nicely re-done.

Nice to see the ‘old girl’ coming back to life!

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