Belasco Theatre

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1050 S. Hill St.     | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90015

(213) 746-5670

Website:  www.thebelasco.com


Opened: November 11, 1926 as the second theatre built in Los Angeles with the Belasco name.  The first Belasco Theatre, at 327 S. Main St. is discussed on our Follies Theatre page.

The opening attraction at this elaborate Hill St. venue was "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" by Anita Loos.

Architects: Morgan, Walls & Clements.

This was an unusual design from a company that produced a number of great theatres, including the Mayan-- built next door as soon as the Belasco was finished.  The entire auditorium is covered by a huge gilded dome. Some of the auditorium wall surfaces hare plaster but have the appearance of gathered draperies.

In addition to the theatre, the building has an upstairs ballroom (with a separate entrance) that can hold 400.

Seating: 1601 originally. Currently the main floor seating has been removed. The fairly shallow balcony now has loose chairs and cocktail tables.

History: The Belasco was intended primarily as a house for straight plays, while the Mayan was designed for musicals. The house was built for Edward Belasco, a brother of the more famous producer David. Another brother, Frederick, had operated the earlier Belasco Theatre on Main St.

The big bankroller for both this and the Mayan Theatre was oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny, who hoped to get a new more fashionable legitimate theatre district started away from Main Street.

The venue was a hotspot for Hollywood performers and directors checking out the latest dramas. A number of attractions first appearing in Los Angeles at the Belasco were subsequently filmed.  Many of the productions were offered in conjunction with the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.

For the decade that Edward Belasco was managing the theatre, the format was generally legit plays on two week runs. He had a knack for getting Hollywood talent with legit theatre roots to appear in his productions. 

A 1931 program listed the management as Los Angeles Theatres, Inc. with Edward  as president.  Edward died in 1937. The Montreal Gazette had an obit:

"EDWARD BELASCO DIES - West Coast Theatre Producer Succumbs at Age 63  San Francisco, October 10 (AP) -- Edward Belasco, West Coast theatrical producer and brother of the late David Belasco, died Saturday night. He had been ill for several years. He was 63. Mr. Belasco operated theatres in san Francisco and Los Angeles at the height of his career several years ago. He brought to the West Coast many Broadway actors and actresses who eventually became screen stars, among them Edward G. Robinson, Fredrick [sic] March, Helen Gahagan, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold and Boris Karloff."

Performers appearing at the Belasco included Fay Bainter, Tallulah Bankhead, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Bennett, Richard Bennett, Billie Burke, Ruth Chatterton, Ina Claire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Glenda Farrell, James Gleason, Betty Grable, Helen Hayes, Hedda Hopper, Leslie Howard, Gertrude Lawrence, Edmund Lowe, Alan Mowbray, Ken Murray, Edward G. Robinson, May Robson, Flora Robson, Gilbert Roland, C. Aubrey Smith, Sidney Toler,  Fredric March and Warren William.

In the late 1930s, the Belasco was used for several WPA Federal Theatre Project productions.




The Library of Congress collection contains
this
poster for the WPA Federal Theatre Project
 production of "Bird of Paradise" at the Belasco
sometime between 1936 and 1941. 
full size view



A poster for "Festival of American Dance"
at the Belasco, a "Federal Music Theatre," in 1938.
It's in the Library of Congress collection.
full size view

Also in the collection:
  | "High Tor" - 1937 | "Day is Darkness" - 1939  |

Also see the
Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection
items at George Mason University
|  "High Tor"  |




The Eric Lynxwiler collection on Flickr
 includes this ad for "Abie's Irish Rose" from
 a 1944 issue of Playgoer magazine.
 full size view

The theatre occasionally ran films. One program in 1949 was "French Nudists" and "He Was The Virgin Man."  A film capitalizing on Robert Mitchum's 1948 drug bust  played the Belasco with the star making an appearance. It's all detailed in 2940dxer's Noirish Los Angeles post #5919.



A This Book Is For You post "A Quick Detour Into
the Exciting World of Expoitation Film..." gives us the
 story of Lila Leeds, involved in the Mitchum drug bust.
She appeared at the Belasco with her 1949 film "Wild
Weed," later retitled "She Shoulda Said No."

The Belasco closed in 1952 as a regular theatrical venue. It was in use as a church until 1984. It got a renovation in the mid-80s but until 2011 had seen only occasional film shoots and other rentals.

Status:  It's been all spruced up for renewed use as a bar, dance club and restaurant. Christina and John Kim put almost $10 million into restoration and improvements to the structure after securing a long term lease from building owner Mehdi Bolour.

The 2nd floor dance studio space will sometimes be used for events separate from the main theatre space. There's also a downstairs lounge, a street level wine bar Vintage 10 Fifty) and two restaurant spaces.

Ryan Vaillancourt of the Downtown Los Angeles News ran a story on August 2010 "Bringing Back the Belasco" about the Kims' struggles with the City of Los Angeles and next-door neighbor the Mayan about the re-opening of the theatre.

There had been concerns about noise, congestion and drug use with a doubling of crowds on the block with two theatres running.  Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation noted at the time that this was precisely the kind of action the buildings were designed for.

The re-opening of the Belasco had been awaited for years. The theatre got a write up by Eric Richardson in 2007 in  Blogdowntown in the story "Historic Belasco Theater Awaits its Next Act.  

Stage Specs:    Stage depth: 38'     L+R wing space: 50'   Dressing rooms and a large green room are in the basement.  There is a pit but it's currently covered.  The stage has a movable paint bridge.

The Belasco in the Movies:


We get a fine proscenium view of the Belasco in
the
1933 Paramount musical "Too Much Harmony," starring
Bing Crosby and Jack Oakie.  Thanks to Marc Chevalier
 for posting the shot on the LAHTF Facebook page.
  larger view

Marc notes that the entire film is on Vimeo:
"Too Much Harmony"



Peter Hyams' "End of Days" (Universal, 1999) with Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Gabriel Byrne is set in New York but we
 spend a lot of time in L.A. Locations -- sometimes with strange
geography. We enter a door at the Tower Theatre and find
ourselves, as shown here, in the Belasco lobby. We continue
on from here into the Tower auditorium.
 larger view

We get a brief glimpse of the Belasco interior in
"Being John Malkovich" (1999) which also features a
view from the stage of the Los Angeles Theatre. 

The Belasco has also been featured in "Swordfish" with
John Travolta (2001) and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005).

In Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (Touchstone/Warner
Bros, 2006) with Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine we get
several  interior views of the Belasco.  It's functioning as the
(very cluttered) workshop for Jackman's final illusion. 




The Belasco in "The Prestige."  We're at balcony level.
Movie-Locations.com has a page on "The Prestige." The film
also features the Palace and Los Angeles Theatre interiors.
  
larger view


A main floor view from "The Prestige."
  larger view

Paul Rudd stages a Graham Parker concert at the
Belasco in Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" (Universal, 2012).


We're in Jersey but a club there somehow has a lobby
 identical to the Belasco's in Clint Eastwood's "Jersey Boys"
 (Warner Bros., 2014). The film features Christopher
Walken, here with his back to us.

The film also uses the Palace and Orpheum theatres.



Christopher Walken advises the guys in
another lobby shot from "Jersey Boys"


A number later in "Jersey Boys"
using the Belasco's auditorium.

IMDb has a page listing films that
have been shot at the Belasco.


The Belasco on Video: See Don Solosan's terrific "Belasco Theatre Construction Montage," a one minute thirteen second tour via construction photos taken by the George Adair Photo Service.

More Information:

See the Cinema Tour page on the Belasco for some more photos, including some nice interior shots by Bob Meza.

The Cinema Treasures page on the Belasco Theatre has lots of historical lore.  Jeff Bridges (aka vokoban) did the research on the Belasco's days as a movie theatre that finally got a page for this venerable building. Also see the Mayan Theatre page on Cinema Treasures for lots of discussion about the Belasco that went on before the theatre got its own page.

Fine photos by Elizabeth Daniels accompany Dakota Smith's March 2011 Curbed L.A. story about  the Belasco reopening: "After 26 years...."  See Steve Shriver's 2011 "Belasco Theatre & Downtown Walkabout" photo set for some nice views taken at the 2011 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building.

See the photo sets by Jeff Bridges, Al Domasin, Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr for lots of interesting views.

Danni Bayles-Yeager's Performing Arts Archive has a program from "Bad Girl" playing the Belasco in 1931

Thanks to the researchers of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for some of the information above.




     L.A. Public Library Collection    

www.lapl.org



A c.1927 exterior view from the Library's
collection.
Note the Mayan to the left.
 
full size view





An early look at the entrance. On the boards:
David Belasco's production of "The Bachelor
Father."  The photo is in the Library's Security
 Pacific National Bank Collection.
 full size view




A 1989 "For Lease" facade view after a
church group had vacated the building.
It's a Steve Grayson photo.
full size view


More LAPL exterior views:
| facade and vertical sign - airbrushed sky - "Blondes" |
|
from across the street - "The Bachelor Father" |
 | 1927 -- Belasco and Mayan - looking south
|
| north on Hill - 1930 - "Journey's End" |
| Mayan and Belasco c.1937 - Mayan: "Days Without End" - Schultheis |
|
facade 1938  - Federal Music Theatre - "Androcles & The Lion - All
Negro Cast" -- note "Dancing Academy" on the 2nd floor awnings  |

| facade 1938 - less damaged copy of "Androcles" |





The Belasco, hiding behind a tree. The faded sign on
the right advertised a church -- gone since 1984.

photo: Bill Counter- 2007

 [ click the image above to enlarge ]


 about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will
direct you to a full size version on the website hosting it.
Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.



     Architect and Engineer    

archive.org/details/architectenginee9128sanf



This late 1926 or early 1927 exterior view as well
as an auditorium shot appear in the January 1928 issue
 of Architect and Engineer. No Mayan next door yet.
full size view | both on Internet Archive

The photo also appears in the February 1927
 issue of Architect and Engineer as part of an ad
for Calacoustic sound absorbing plaster.

The California State Library also has several
versions of this Mott Studios photo.


     Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press    



We get a look west across the Belasco stagehouse
in this c.1974 view from the Sean Ault collection.
 Below the faded Belasco letters on the back wall one
can still see a bit of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,"
 the theatre's opening attraction.
full size view
  | on FB/LATheatres

Thanks, Sean! Sean Ault is a noted historian of transit
 in the Los Angeles area.
You can see many more items
from his Osiris Press transit archive on YouTube.




     California State Library    

www.library.ca.gov



The State Library has many exterior photos of the Belasco
during construction including this June 15, 1926 view
of framing and form work.   All these construction
views are by George F. Adair Photo Service.
full size view




September 21, 1926. Excavation has begun
for the Mayan Theatre to the north.
full size view




An October 5, 1926 view after scaffolding
 has come down from the facade.
full size view


More construction views from
the George F. Adair Photo Service:

 | prior to excavation - 1/19/26 |  excavation - 2/5/26 |
| more excavation - 2/17/26 | 
| foundation - 3/5/26  |  more foundation work - 3/19/26 |
foundation work continues - 4/8/26 |  steel framing - 4/19/26 |
more steel - 5/4/26 |  framing + concrete forming - 5/18/26 |
| concrete higher - 6/1/26 | continuing roof + concrete work - 6/29/26 |
| facade and stagehouse concrete work - 7/13/26 |
| facade work continues - 7/27/26 |
more facade work - 8/10/26  |  work continues - 8/24/26  |
fire escapes going in - 9/7/26 |  9/24/26 | 10/5/26 |
almost ready -- note painting of stagehouse - 10/20/26 |
 | completion -- note ongoing excavation for the Mayan - 11/3/26  |


See Greybeard's Noirish Los Angeles post #13336
for a nice time lapse sequence using some of
these construction views.



A 1926 or early '27 look at the Belasco with
 the opening attraction, "Gentlemen Prefer
Blondes," on the marquee. Note there's
 no Mayan Theatre next door yet. 
The photo above also appeared on Photos of L.A.
and on our Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.




Another early view -- here with the readerboard
 advertising Belasco's "The Son-Daughter." Note the
construction fence for the Mayan at the far left.
full size view

The view above also appeared on Photos of L.A.
 and on our  Los Angeles Theatres
Facebook page.

More 1927 Mott Studios facade views:
| looking south - Mayan & Belasco |
| looking south - another Mayan & Belasco view |
| marquee & vertical detail | facade with truck - "Blondes" |
| marquee & vertical - "Blondes" | facade with truck - "Son-Daughter" |
| looking north - with wires | looking north - airbrushed version |
| dance studio entrance | marquee detail - looking south |




A look at the boxoffice windows --"Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes" is on the milk glass display.
It's a Mott Studios photo.
full size view

Other ticket lobby views by Mott Studios:
| similar view - on readerboard: "Belasco's Son-Daughter" |

Also see:
| architectural drawing of facade |



     Photos of Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/groups/244565982234863



Looking north on Hill St. in February 1944.
It's a photo added to the Photos of Los Angeles
 collection by Ken McIntyre. Yes, that's
 snow on the ground. 
full size view


The view was offered on eBay. Ethereal Reality
had it on his Noirish Los Angeles post #3326.



     USC Archives    

 digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm


An early view of the Belasco looking north.
Note that we're still building the stagehouse
of the Mayan next door.  USC dates this as
1939 but 1927 would be more like it.
full size view




A 1931 view of the Belasco and Mayan stagehouses.
 In the distance to the left of the Western Pacific Bldg.
 is the Trinity/Embassy auditorium. It's part of
a three segment panorama.
 full size view




An undated view of the south side of the
 Belasco Theatre from the USC Archives.
full size view

In the view above, one can see a bit
of the RKO Hillstreet up at 8th & Hill.




A 1939 view up Hill St. from the south. The
 photo is by the Dick Whittington Studio.
  full size view

Note the signage on the
theatre: "Legitimate Drama."




Another 1939 Dick Whittington view
-- here looking east on 11th.
full size view



 
A late 30s view from the USC Archive.
We're looking north on Hill St.
full size view

Note the "Dancing" vertical sign for the ballroom space. The
sign on the front over their entrance says "Dancing Academy."

Also in the USC Archives:
| facade view - "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" |
| looking north - 1930 -- from Chamber of Commerce building  |
looking north - from C of C - early undated view  |
looking north - 1932 -- from the C of C Building  |
looking north on Hill - c. 1933  |   lo0king north from C of C - 1937  |
stagehouses - north from Broadway & 11th - c. 1939  |






  more belasco theatre pages:
 |
  recent exterior views  |  lobby areas  |  dance studio  |
 |  auditorium  | 
stage  |  basement  |