Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 270
If you lived in the greater Los Angeles area from 1932 to early 1937 and wanted to see an Ann Dvorak film, you probably would have gone to one of a handful of Warner Bros. theaters around town. This was back in the days of vertical integration when the studios controlled the production, distribution, and exhibition of their films, so it make sense that in a city as big as Los Angeles there would be a few theaters.
Here are some of the the places we might have seen Ann during her Warner Bros. days (all photos from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection).
Warner Bros. Downtown – 401 W. 7th
The Warner Bros. Downtown was originally a Pantages theater until the vaudeville impresario moved his operations to Hollywood in 1930. This beauty ran Warner films until the 1960s and like many of the downtown movie palaces, operated as a church for a time. It’s now a retail jewelry shop, and while the seats have been removed, the interior decor is still intact and visible. Just don’t try to snap photos – the security guards will not be amused.
Warner Bros. Hollywood – 6431 Hollywood Blvd.
The Warner Hollywood was a crown jewel for the studio and was supposed to have been the location of the Jazz Singer premiere. However, construction ran longer than expected, so the Al Jolson gala was moved to New York. Unfortunately, Sam Warner who oversaw the theatre project died unexpectedly in the Los Angeles, so none of the Warner brothers were on hand for their great sound success. The theater was operated by Pacific Theaters for a number of years and is still standing, though it was drastically altered to accommodate Cinerama and eventually triplexed. It’s closed now, and sometimes doubles as a church. I went to a couple of screenings here including a digital showing of Cover Girl in 2005. Despite the hack job inside, it still possesses many of its charms.
Warner Bros. Western (aka the Wiltern)- 3790 Wilshire Blvd.
This gorgeous 1931 Art Deco theater is part of the Pellissier Building and located at the busy intersection of Wilshire and Western in the neighborhood now known as Koreatown. It was only a Warner theater for a relatively short time and for most of its existence has been known as the Wiltern. The theater underwent an amazing restoration in the 1980s and now operates as a live concert venue. I have been to a number of concerts here and the interior and exterior of this beauty never fail to take my breath away.
Warner Grand – 478 W. 6th, San Pedro
The Warner Grand was one of three “sister” theaters designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca. It opened in 1931 and after falling into decline, was purchased by the City of Los Angeles in 1996. The Department of Cultural Affairs now manages it, and the non-profit Grand Vision Foundation has been promoting a gradual restoration. I have been to the Warner Grand a couple of times – once for a screening of Gone With the Wind (fabulous), and another time for The Poseidon Adventure (not so fabulous, it was a 16mm print). No matter what’s showing on the screen, it’s a movie palace fit for Ann-D.
Warner Huntington Park – 6714 Pacific Blvd, Huntington Park
This is the second of the Priteca sister theaters and opened in 1930. I actually have an Ann Dvorak story for this one: She was supposed to make a personal appearance at the Warner Grand in San Pedro for a screening of one of her films, and showed up in Huntington Park instead (I didn’t claim it was much of a story). The theater is still standing, though unused and apparently for lease.
Warner Beverly Hills – 9404 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Here’s the third of the sister theaters designed by B. Marcus Priteca, which opened in 1931 – and demolished in 1988 (and we had been doing so well!). What is it now you ask? Why a parking lot of course.
Warner Bros. Forum – 4050 Pico Blvd.
I have to admit that I stumbled upon this one while looking up street addresses for the other theaters. Unlike Hollywood, Western, and the three sister theaters, the Forum was not originally a Warner theater and I’m not sure how long it lasted. It was in operation in 1936, and could have possibly shown Midnight Court, so it made the cut – plus it’s gorgeous. Mercifully, the building is still standing and operates as a church, though it sounds like not much of the decorative interior remains.
And just in case you want to take a look at the locations today, above is a handy dandy map of all the theatre addresses.
Additional info on the movie theaters can be found at [More] Los Angeles Movie Palaces and Cinema Treasures.