638 S. Alvarado Street,
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The Westlake Theatre is located in the MacAthur Park area near downtown Los Angeles. It had a gala opening September 22, 1926 with Monte Blue and Marie Prevost in “Other Women’s Husbands” on screen, supported on stage by Charlie Nelson and his Band and a Franchon and Marco “Idea”. The original seating capacity was for 2,000. The theatre was equipped with a 2 manual, 10 rank Wurlitzer organ (which was later removed and eventually destroyed). The theatre’s large roof-top sign has not only survived, it is still in use, as it was renovated in 1987. Other theatres located near the Westlake Theatre were the Park Theatre (now a store) and the Vagabond Theatre (now a travel agency).
Built and operated by West Coast-Langley Theatres it was designed by architect Richard M. Bates in a Spanish Colonial Revival style on the exterior, with Spanish Rococo details, known as Churrigueresque. This style is carried out throughout the theatre. Inside the auditorium there are decorative side grilles beside the proscenium, behind which were the organ chambers. A large painted panel is located above the proscenium.
Operated by Fox West Coast Theatres for many years, in 1935, architect S. Charles Lee was commissioned to modernise some features of the theatre, mainly the ticket office, marquee and some work in the foyer. The Westlake Theatre was a first run-movie theatre, but in later years, Metropolitan Theatres bought the theatre and ran it as a second and third run movie house, and eventually switched to only Spanish-language films. The Westlake Theatre closed on June 26th, 1991. Like many Los Angeles theatres, the Westlake was transformed into a swap-meet. A level concrete floor was poured in the orchestra area and traders stalls now operate from this and the foyer. The balcony remains intact, but out of bounds. All the original decorative treatment remains.
In February, 2008, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles purchased the theatre for $5.7 million and adjoining properties for an additional $5 million dollars. The agency wants to resell the space to a buyer who will restore the theatre into a movie and performing arts space, and redevelop adjacent property with affordable housing, retail and parking. The swap-meet moved out the building in 2011. In the summer of 2017, the Westlake Theatre was put up ‘For Sale’, with any future use/redevelopment to be considered. It was sold in March 2018 with plans to restore.
The Westlake Theatre is designated a Historic Cultural Monument.
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