Vision Theatre

3341 W. 43rd Place,
Los Angeles, CA 90008

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Leimert

Viewing: Photo | Street View

A large neighborhood movie palace, this 1931 Spanish-tinged Deco wonder has retained its importance to the community for over 80 years since it first opened as the Leimert Theatre in 1931. It was built by multi-millionaire Howard Hughes as a showcase theatre for premieres. It became a neighbourhood movie theatre soon after opening and was operated by Fox West Coast Theatres. Designed in a classic southern California streamlined Spanish Colonial style, the tall steel frame on top of the lower stucco clad tower originally had the theatres' name on it, and is a landmark for the area.

After showing first run films for decades it was closed in 1968 with Warren Beatty in “Bonnie and Clyde”. The theatre was renamed the Watchtower in the 1970’s, when the Leimert Theatre was converted into a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.

Actress Marla Gibbs purchased the theatre in 1990 and renamed it the Vision Theatre.

The theatre fell on hard times after the 1992 riots and the economic recession which hit this area of Los Angeles. The bank foreclosed on the property in 1997 and the city took it over.

The theatre was later converted into a performing arts center and participates each year in the Pan African Film Festival.

The Leimert Theatre was used as a location for the movie “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” starring Martin Lawrence.

The Vision Theatre completed a $11 million renovation in 2012.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 51 comments)

Lands
Lands on March 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

***Don S: I’m so bummed I missed the tour last October. If you have an pictures from the event, and more details, that would be awesome.

I thought I’d leave some memories. I attended Jehovah’s Witness conventions at the theatre for 2 or 3 years way back in the 80’s. It obviously left a mark, as I still think of it today. Back then the place seemed very big.

My brother and I would explore. We’d stand out front and look at the mosaic on the sidewalk.

During the talks, I’d gaze up at the amazing mural on the ceiling. I remember the blues and golds, along with sparkles in it: View link (wish I had a color photo)

The Gold rails you see here: View link Would shock you as you touched them from walking on the plush carpets. The seats were comfortable but often squeaked.

There was a long steep downward walkway on the left side of the auditorium. You’d walk there to go to the cafeteria.

Back then I always assumed the place had been built by the church because so much of it fit into it’s art and architecture imagery.

Is the mural still there? Is the cafeteria? Any way to visit it? Boy I hope they don’t change much if they ever manage to renovate it.

DonSolosan
DonSolosan on March 25, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Lands, thanks for the great post! My photos from that day are posted on Facebook at the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation’s page. I don’t think you have to become a “fan” to look at them. The mural on the ceiling is still there, looking very good in fact. As for the cafeteria, I don’t know about that. It sounds like it would have been in the retail space on the side, and we didn’t get into that.

Hey, you might be able help us solve a little mystery… Do you know where the water fountain was located?

Lands
Lands on March 26, 2010 at 1:07 am

Thanks for the fast reply Don. I found the pictures and they are great. I doubt that awful burgundy of the interior section was the same back when I was there. I remember it as dark browns and ocre gold. Maybe dark blues too? Could be wrong. Glad some of the originality survived though.

I really remember those golden columns at the side of the stage. I remember the drinking fountain as being here as shown in the corner of the picture: View link

As you can imagine,

there was always a line of kids waiting to use it. Back then, there was a soft serve ice cream station. I can’t remember if it was in what looks like a coat check room in the above picture, or if that was an information booth.

I know I have at least one picture backstage from a convention. I’ll try and find it soon. Looking at the current site on Google maps, I’m not sure where the cafeteria actually sat. I remember walking through the parking lot…

Hopefully they’ll improve the theatre to it’s original luster and improve conditions around the place as well. Even back then it was bad, but I hear it’s gotten much worse.

BTW – the water from the fountain was always cold, which was nice cause the theatre would get hot.

DonSolosan
DonSolosan on March 26, 2010 at 3:48 am

Thanks for the info. I’ve seen that photo before, but couldn’t tell if that was the fountain or not. We even searched the walls looking for evidence of pipes, etc.

And I agree that it would be nice if they get this place restored. The plans that they presented at our event were very ambitious. For one thing, they talked about building a new floor in the auditorium so they would have stadium seating — but they would preserve the original walls.

Art1956
Art1956 on August 12, 2013 at 7:08 am

I don’t understand why it’s listed as the Vision Theatre. For the 40 or so years it was a movie theatre it was called the Leimert.

DonSolosan
DonSolosan on August 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Art1956, because Vision is the most recent name of the theatre. Leimert is listed as a previous name.

DonSolosan
DonSolosan on November 28, 2013 at 2:26 am

Recently, the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation toured the Vision/Leimert theatre following the successful completion of stage 1 of its restoration. If you missed it, you can get an Insiders Peek here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gputY94V2yU

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm

People keep asking about the drinking fountain in the lobby Of the Leimert Theatre, and a couple of members have linked to a photo of the lobby with the drinking fountain at left. Unfortunately they have linked to the copy at the California State Library, which is an unstable site that doesn’t offer anything like a permalink, so the links are dead.

Fortunately, the more reliable web site of the Los Angeles Public Library also has a copy of the photo, so I think that link should stay alive. Unfortunately, the LAPL’s scan is a bit dark and the background detail gets lost, but the fountain is visible, if a bit too contrasty. It’s probably the best we can do for now, though.

People have also been asking if the drinking fountain is still there. Sadly, judging from this photo by Bill Counter, dated 2010, the fountain is gone.

Both of those photos are featured on the Leimert / Vision Theatre page of Bill Counter’s excellent web site More Los Angeles Movie Palaces which, along with his sites for downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Wilshire district theaters (all linked from that page) is the most extensive single online resource for information about historic Southern California movie theaters. The Leimert page has dozens of photos, both vintage and recent, and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in this venerable suburban survivor.

Lands
Lands on December 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thank you Joe and Don for your updates. I must say I’m shocked to see that the renovation has actually moved forward. I checked on and off after my post 3 years ago (wow) and would only find the original announcement.

It’s very nice to see that they seem to be restoring more that they are trying to update. It’s got some wonderful art deco in it.

The water from that fountain was COLD, as was the soft serve ice cream that was sold out of the booth next to it. If you look on Google maps, you’ll see a building across the street from the parking lot behind the theater. Looks like a cultural center now. Back then it was the cafeteria for the church and also had baptism pools.

I hope it all stays on track. Take care.

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