LA Walking Tour: Broadway Theatres

Roxie Theatre, an art deco movie palace.

Roxie Theatre, an art deco movie palace.

The Los Angeles Conservancy offers walking tours of iconic locations throughout Los Angeles. One of their tours takes you through the history of Broadway, which was LA’s prime spot for vaudeville, theatres, and early movies. The street’s history echoes of a bustling past with movie stars, successful business tycoons, and opulent department stores. Present day, the street doesn’t seem like much, but organizations like the Los Angeles Conservancy work to renovate and reimagine uses for the run-down theatres, lofts, and buildings that occupy Broadway today.

One of the first stops on the tour is the Los Angeles Theatre. The name seems really simple, but the interior of the theatre is anything but simple. These “movie palaces” were constructed anywhere between 1910 and 1930. The Los Angeles Theatre was built in 1930 to resemble a French Baroque style of architecture. In its heyday, this theatre premiered Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, among many other movies. The high ceilings in the lobby add to the elegance of the venue. We were there after Halloween, and walking in the trash of last night’s party. Turns out there had been a huge Hollywood party there the night before, which a bunch of famous people in attendance!

Our tour took us through the lobby of the theatre and into the auditorium. The architecture was so unique inside, and the stage was still lit up. Our tour guide told us some great facts about the building and its history, like what décor was original versus put in years later, and how the ceiling had a lot of water damage over the years. This theatre has been featured in many TV shows and movies. Here it is in Capital Cities’ music video.

After the interior tour of the Los Angeles Theatre, our guide led us to an art deco theatre called the Roxie Theatre. Art deco is one of my favorite architectural styles, reminiscent of the glam of the 1920s. Many of the theatres along Broadway now look very unimpressive and many have been converted into shops and restaurants. One of the theatres, the State Theatre, is now a church, where the designers were very respectful of the space when they adding their renovations. Another theatre, the Rialto, is now an Urban Outfitters. This reusing of old, obsolete space is called “adaptive reuse,” wherein the theatre is renovated into a new place, while still keeping its original appearance.

One example of this adaptive reuse is the jewelry mart on 7th Street. This was one of Alexander Pantages’ first Pantages theatres, which then became a Warner Bros. theatre. Walking into the shop, you end up on the stage of the old theatre and look out into the shopping space, which is where the audience would have been seated! The reuse was constructed seamlessly and takes the viewer a while to realize they are in an old performance space.

For lunch we dined at Grand Central Market, which is a huge, bustling underground eatery that houses a bunch of different restaurants. Among the many to choose from, we had Wexler’s Deli, a sandwich place, and we were lucky enough to eventually find a seat!

Bradbury Building featured in ‘The Artist’ – photo from Google

Across the street from Grand Central Market is the Bradbury Building. This unassuming building was something I actually recognized when I walked in! It’s been used in countless movies… I recognized it from 500 Days of Summer and The Artist. The design and architecture of the building was so cool, and the glass ceiling added a lot of light into the space.

Click here to read the story I wrote about being transported to the early days of movies.

Enjoy photos below!

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3 thoughts on “LA Walking Tour: Broadway Theatres

  1. Lauren, again you took me to places I’ve never been. Perhaps I’ve walked past them, but through your creative words I was able to see them in my mind and they “spoke to me” of another time. Loved it.

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