Art Theatre

551 S. Main St.
   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

Opened: June, 1918 with a policy of art and foreign releases. Later it became a grind house running lots of westerns.  In the late 70's it changed to a porno policy.

The Howell Hotel Building that housed the Art Theatre was a pre-1907 structure. The hotel entrance was the doorway just north of the theatre, 549 Main St.

The assumption is that the Art Theatre occupied the space in the building just north of what was once the Bijou Theatre, 553 S. Main St.  The Bijou was running at least by 1909 and evidently lasted only several years. Other information is scarce.

A section of a 1931 insurance map from the
Los Angeles Public Library showing the Art,
Optic, Star and Gayety  theatres. 
full size view  |  more maps

Seating: 350

Status: Demolished September 1988 - the site is occupied by a parking lot.

The Art in the Movies:

A fine view of the Art's signage from the great epic
 "Maidens of Fetish Street" (Cameo Pictures, 1966).
The film is also known as "Girls on F Street."

 A big thanks to Beaudry including screenshots from
 the film in his Noirish Los Angeles post #29000.

Visit Something Weird Video for more about the film.
"Maidens" also has views of the Follies and the Galway Theatre.
See our "Maidens" Theatres In Movies post for those shots.

We get a look at the Art in the "The Swinger" (Paramount,
1966). The film stars Ann-Margret and Tony Franciosa. She's
a journalist posing as a swinger to get magazine editor Tony
 to publish a story she wrote while he wants her to pose for
the centerfold instead. Thanks to Cinema Treasures
contributor Chris B for the screenshot.

We get a look at the Art behind James Coburn in
 "Hard Contract" (20th Century Fox, 1969). The screenshot is
 from Larry Harnisch on the blog The Daily Mirror where he
 notes that the film used a number of Main St. locations.

The film also features Burgess Meredith, Lee Remick
and Karen Black. That's the Spring side of the Arcade
building on the right of the frame. 
Thanks, Larry!
larger view | on the Daily Mirror

In the shot above we're actually inside the boxoffice
of the Burbank Theatre. See our Theatres In Movies
post on "Hard Contract" for several Burbank views.

We get a fuzzy view of the Art in "Inside Deep Throat"
 (Universal, 2005), a documentary about the making of
 the film and its later influence. The film didn't actually
 play the Art, but we're just exploring the underbelly
of the film business.

 Our Main St. drive-by in "Inside Deep Throat" also hits
the Optic and we visit the Sunset and the Monica as well. 
See our Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.

More Information: See the Cinema treasures page on the Art Theatre.  There's a color photo of the exterior from 1983 on American Classic Images.

A view when the Art was still running as a grindhouse.

photo: Gary Graver - 1976

 [ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

A view looking at the northwest corner of 6th
and Main.  The Art Theatre is at the far right.

photo: Gary Graver - c.1980

A look at the rear of the auditorium during demolition.

photo: Gary Graver

     Cinema Treasures

A great color view by John Rice of the
Art Theatre entrance in the porno days.
on Cinema Treasures | on Photos of LA

     L.A. Times

A 1911 L.A. Times photo looking north from the
Pacific Electric Building at 6th & Main.  Over on the left,
the 2nd building beyond the intersection is the Howell Hotel
Building. Later it would house the Art Theatre. Presumably
at this time the
Bijou Theatre was a tenant. 
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

Thanks to Tom Ohmer for posting
this one on Photos of Los Angeles.

A detail from the photo above with the Bijou/ Art
Theatre building at the left.
The "vaudeville" sign
down the street is for the Star Theatre. The Bijou's
facade appears to be in the center bay of the building.

The Art's entrance would later be in the north bay.
A narrow doorway beyond that, at the north end of
the building, was the hotel's entrance.


     Metro Transportation Library

A great 50s view looking north on Main Street toward 5th.
The Burbank Theatre (with the "Follies" vertical) is on the right.

If you look closely, you can see the arched sign
of the Art Theatre on the left. The vertical sign for the
Rosslyn Hotel can be seen at center. It's part of the
Metro Downtown Los Angeles set.
full size view

The view also appears on the Facebook pages
Photos of Los Angeles and Vintage Los Angeles.


     Photos of Los Angeles

A look north on Main St. from 6th with the Art
Theatre on the left and the Burbank on the right. 
full size view

Farther down the block are the facade of the Optic (to the right
of the Kent sign) and the hotel building that housed the Star.
The hole before we get to the Rosslyn is the site of the Gayety.

The photo also appears as a contribution
 by Bill Gabel
on Cinema Treasures.

Tom Wetzel's great site about (among other things) the
development of transit in Los Angeles has this wonderful 50s
map showing lots of downtown theatre locations.

You'll find the Art on the west side of Main St.
just above 6th.  See the full size view on
Tom's Subway Area Tour page.

The Art Theatre as it neared the end.

photo: William E. Ault - 1979

Thanks to L.A. transit historian Sean Ault for the photos from his
 collection. The 1979 views were taken by his grandfather, William E. Ault.

See some on the Optic, Cameo and Million Dollar pages as well.

 [ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

A closer look at the entrance.

photo: William E. Ault - 1979

A 1956 view with the yellow sign of the Art
Theatre behind the rear of the bus. 

photo: Sean Ault collection

We're looking north on Main St. toward 5th.
In the shadows on the
right is t
he Burbank Theatre, with " New Follies" on the vertical.

Thanks, Sean!  You can see many more items
from his Osiris Press transit archive on YouTube.

The photo above  also appears on our Los Angeles Theatres
Facebook page. Other versions also appear on Photos of LA,
 Vintage LA and the Metro Transportation Archive on Flickr.

Another view looking north on Main. 

photo: Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press.

Up the block we get a glimpse of the Optic Theatre
 and, beyond it, the Gayety. All gone.

A view of the facade. The Art went
 to a porno policy in the early 80s.

photo: Gary Graver

Gary Graver (1938-2006) was a noted filmmaker and cinematographer.
 Over several decades he took many photos of theatres in Los Angeles and
Portland, OR.  More can be seen on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and
"Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photos.

photo: Gary Graver

the view toward the screen.  It's an open air cinema
at this point. That's Mr. Graver in the photo.

photo: Gary Graver collection

A signage detail.

photo: Gary Graver

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     California State Library  

This William Reagh photo from the State
Library collection dates from 1967.  
full size view | data page

     L.A. Public Library Collection  

A wonderful c.1903 view looking west on 6th St.
prior to construction of the Santa Fe Building (1907)
on the northeast corner of 6th & Main.
 full size view

Note the Todd's
Men's Furnishings store on the on the
right and, on the far edge of the frame, the Howell Hotel
building that would later house the Bijou and Art Theatres. 
That's the Pacific Electric Building (1903) on the left.

Also in the collection:
later view west on 6th --  showing a bit of Todd's  |

In the Library's collection is this exterior view
of the Art Theatre -- possibly from the 70s.
full size view

Also in the Library's collection:
north on Main from 6th  |

     SoCal Historic Architecture

A look southeast toward the Santa Fe and Pacific
Electric buildings at 6th and Main. James Staub
took the photo from the back of the LA Theatre
Center on Spring St. around 1987. 
full size view

In the center of the photo above we almost have what looks
like the north side of a theatre but evidently is not.  South of the
Art we had
the Bijou Theatre around 1909.  It evidently was
 in a Howell Hotel building
space just south of where
 the Art ended up. And it was only 128 seats.

The photo evidently is after the demolition of the Art and we're
seeing the side of the Todd's Men's Furnishings building remaining
on the northwest corner of 6th & Main -- with the wallpaper from
the south rooms of the Howell Hotel building that housed the Art.

     USC Archives

A 1939 view in the USC Archives from the Dick
Whittington Studio. We're looking north on Main
with the Art in the middle of the photo.
full size view

A detail from the image above --
note the Art Theatre's vertical sign.