Burbank Theatre

548 S. Main St.
map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

Opened: 1893 as a project of dentist Dr. David Burbank (also the namesake of the city).   The theatre had troubles and went through a succession of managers without any lasting success.

Then in 1900 it was leased to Oliver Morosco and known as Morosco's Burbank Theatre.  Morosco was later involved in the Majestic Theatre on Broadway (which opened in 1908) and got a house named for himself when he opened the Morosco on Broadway (now the Globe) in 1913.

Oliver Morosco in front of the Burbank's
 entrance. It's a photo from the
1913 issue of Theatre Magazine.

Architect: Begun by James M. Wood and finished by Robert Brown Young.

J.M. Wood evidently had quite a career erecting opera houses all over the country. The 1892 book "The Bay of San Francisco" has some intriguing info on him. RootsWeb also has an entry, with the same information.

Seating: 1,844 initially. Later capacities were listed as 1,703 and 1,580 and 1,027.

The Burbank, and Morosco's arrival there, was featured in an article in the November 1913 issue of Theatre Magazine, available on Google Books:


"Some years ago a capitalist in Los Angeles erected a theatre near the corner of Sixth and Main Streets. It was a brick structure, plain but commodious; ornate but with a huge and well-built stage and a thoroughly practical interior. Los Angeles was a scraggly, overgrown village. The theatre was a financial failure. A new management took it and failed. Another tried with the same result. Still others tempted fate until at last twelve managers drifted on the rocks while trying to guide the playhouse into the harbor of success.

This was in June, 1900 and just about that time the treasurer of the Grand Opera House in San Francisco, a young man of twenty-three, quarreled with his father -- who owned the theatre, because he was expected to be treasurer, press-agent and even janitor, all in one, for fifteen hours of work each day, for which he received $15 per week, upon which he was supposed to support an invalid wife, his mother-in-law, and an infant son. As the Spanish War summer went on, the pay of the 'Frisco treasurer did not mount with the thermometer, nor was the outlook for the Burbank Theatre in Los Angeles any more promising than before.  About August 1st the Burbank manager departed for more profitable fields, and the young San Francisco treasurer, taking his sick wife, baby and mother-in-law under his metaphorical wing, wrathfully shook the dust of his father's Thespianic temple from his feet, and went to Los Angeles. He rented two furnished rooms and the Burbank Theatre. No deposit on the latter was required by the disgusted owners; which was fortunate for the new manager, counting his total cash assets after the transfer from San Francisco, found that he possessed exactly seven dollars. The thirteenth manager to try this experiment took charge of the Burbank on August 13, 1900.

The new manager's name was Oliver Morosco, and thirteen had always been his lucky number. He had no company, and no means to assemble one. Traveling shows were all controlled by the Syndicate's magnate in Southern California, the late H. C. Wyatt. In a dilemma he suddenly thought of his friend, T. Daniel Frawley, an enterprising actor-manager with a company on the North Coast, but with few places in which to play, Frawley came to Los Angeles, his opening production being 'Madame Sans-Gene,' with Mary Van Buren and Mary Hampton the two principal women of his company. He had scarcely 'caught on' in Los Angeles when Morosco hurried him away, the manager believing that a rolling stone is the only one which gathers no moss in the show business. Again the problem of finding an attraction. The next attraction was James Neill, presenting a company with Edythe Chapman as leading woman and the late Frank MacVicars as character man. The ingenue was a promising though very shy little girl named Julia Dean -- last seen on Broadway in 'Her Own Money.'

larger view

The Neill company was followed by the Oliver-Leslie company -- so-called because it was jointly owned by Oliver Morosco and his elder brother, Leslie -- headed by William Beach and Helen McGregor. There were no prominent names in this organization, but its steady success paved the way to the Neill-Morosco corporation which was also a success.

Then was organized the Oliver Morosco company, a galaxy of players whose record of good all-round performances has, in all probability, seldom been surpassed in American theatricals. The fortunes of the Burbank Theatre now began to mend. Morosco was able to secure plays as rapidly as released for stock, and, by following the traveling companies in quick succession, he became a dangerous competitor of the high-priced organizations sent out from the East."

A 1908 ad for Morosco's Burbank and other legit
houses of the period posted by Ken McIntyre on
Photos of Los Angeles.
"The Fact Is You Can't Go
Wrong If You Go to the Burbank Tonight."
full size view | on Photos of LA

A 1911 ad for the Burbank's stock company: "World's
Greatest." Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for spotting this one.

In a 1919 ad it's called Pelton's Burbank, featuring the New Burbank Musical Comedy Company.  It's in the 1921 city directory as Gore's Burbank. It was a newsreel house in the 1930's, got a deco makeover in 1937 and  by the 50s it was turned into the Burbank Burlesque Theatre.

A matchbook cover featuring the Burbank Theatre
and the Dreamland dance hall on the second floor of
 the building. Ken McIntyre located the matches to
add to the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
full size view
on Photos of LA

A 1945 ad for "The Amazon Yolanda" at the
Burbank. Ken McIntyre dug it out for his
Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
 full size view | on Photos of LA

Cold war burlesque at the Burbank at one point
featured "Atom Bomb Dancers" as part of the
cast of 60. Douglas Rudd found this ad for
the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
full size view |
on Photos of LA

The ad above also appears on the
Noirish Los Angeles Post #967.

After 1952 the Burbank was known as the New Follies Theatre or New Follies Burlesque when the team previously running the Follies Theatre (337 S. Main St.) moved to the Burbank, thus frequently leading to confusion about the two theatres. 

See Leslie Zemekis' great 2013 article for Huffington Post "A  School for Strippers: The ABCs of Stripping" about life at these theatres. In the 1960 phone book the Burbank was still listed as the New Follies Theatre.

Larry Harnisch, in a 2007 post on his L.A. Times blog
The Daily Mirror that was mostly about the Wonderland
Theatre (later called the Jade) gives us this nice ad for Suey
Sin, "China's Foremous Stripteuse" at the Burbank.
full size view | on the Mirror site

A 1953 ad for the "New Follies" at the Burbank
from the L.A. Examiner. It was posted on
Vintage Los Angeles by Jeff Klein.
full size view | on Vintage LA

Another ad featuring Patti Waggin, "The Co-ed With the
Educated Torso," as the headliner.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre
for the find, added as a comment, with many other Burbank
items, to a post of his on Photos of Los Angeles.
full size view | on Photos of LA

By the 60s the Follies show that once had a cast of 60 was down to about eight girls, a comic and a straight man. The specialty acts were gone. Eventually the band was replaced by taped music and the end was near.

Status: Demolished in March, 1974 according to Ken Roe on Cinema Treasures.

The Burbank in the Movies:

In "Foot Patrol" (Los Angeles Police Dept., c.1946) we
teach the new recruits that they need to keep an eye on
 various trouble spots, including the local burlesque houses.
larger view

See our Theatres In Movies post about "Foot Patrol"
for several views of the Follies, down the street.

Our police lieutenant Max Showalter visits the
Burbank to visit a dancer (Marian Carr) who knows
"The Indestructible Man" (Allied Artists, 1956). The
 film stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the man in question

The "Follies Stage Entrance" of the Burbank in
"The Indestructible Man."  We go inside to a
dressing room, but the interior shots were
done on a soundstage somewhere.
larger view

A night view from "The Indestructible Man."  You
probably don't want to sit through this one but we do
also get nice visits to Angels Flight and the Bradbury
Building -- where we throw a body down from
the top floor of the atrium.
larger view

Ken McIntyre located this view of Main St. during the
filming of "The Voice in the Mirror" with Julie London and
Walter Matthau
(Universal-International, 1958) for his

 Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
larger viewon Photos of LA

Across the street the Burbank is advertising "Patti
Waggin And Her Educated Torso" as their featured attraction.

 The photo also appears on page 31 of the Arcadia
Publishing book "Location Filming in Los Angeles."

A view of the facade from "Crimson Kimono"
The Burbank
Theatre makes an appearance early in
Samuel Fuller's Columbia Pictures epic.

Our feature attraction at the Burbank Burlesque,

Sugar Torch,
dodges a bullet in her dressing room but
soon gets shot during a run down the middle of Main St.

larger view

We get some scenes with hit-man James Coburn at the
Burbank at the beginning of
"Hard Contract" (20th Century
 Fox, 1969). The film also features Burgess Meredith,
Lee Remick
and Karen Black.

See our Theatres In Movies post on "Hard Contract"
for several more Burbank views including one inside the
boxoffice where we see the Art Theatre across the street.

In "Uptown Saturday Night" (Warner Bros. / First Artists,
1974) we get Main St. Los Angeles subbing for Chicago. Sidney
Poitier and Bill Cosby are crossing the street with the Burbank
behind them. The theatre is closed and awaiting demolition.
larger view

The Theatres in Movies post on "Uptown Saturday Night"
also includes another shot from the film showing the Burbank
 as well as one looking north toward the Follies Theatre.

The Burbank's signage is included in an array of archival burlesque
footage with the titles of the 1993 made for TV version of "Gypsy"
starring Bette Midler. See the Theatres in Movies post for
that title shot as well as views of the  Orpheum, State
and the Palace from the film.

More information: An extensive history is on the Cinema Treasures page for the Burbank Theatre. Also see Time magazine's  obit of Oliver Morosco

Check out Leslie Zemekis' great 2013 article for Huffington Post "A  School for Strippers: The ABCs of Stripping" about life at the Follies and at the Burbank with owner Robert Biggs, manager Lillian Hunt, and Lillian's daughter Pepper Aarvold, who grew up backstage. Also putting in appearances are Tempest Storm, Lily St. Cyr and Patti Wagon. Leslie is the author of "Behind The Burly Q."

Jeff Bridges "Main Street Then and Now" posts for the Los Angeles Conservancy's Historic Theatre Committee blog  has some interesting period photos of Main Street theatre sites plus modern views.

The Other Follies Theatre: The other principal burlesque theatre on Main Street was the Follies at 337 S. Main. It opened as the Belasco.

The other Burbank Theatre: There was also a theatre in Burbank called the Burbank Theatre. It opened as the Victory Theatre in 1919.

     Vintage Los Angeles    


Historic Los Angeles Theatres -- The Burbank -- on Main St.

A delightful view of the signage and displays at the Burbank
with the feature attraction "Patti Waggin." It was added to
the Vintage Los Angeles collection by Robert Stone II. 
full size view

A nice Life Magazine shot of some displays for
the Burbank Burlesque. "89 Darlings on the Stage."
 It was added by Kliph Nesteroff to the Vintage
 Los Angeles collection. The next show is at 2:30!
full size view

The photo above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles and on the
 Noirish Los Angeles Post #967

     A Visit to Old L.A.    


An early postcard view of the Burbank facade.   
full size view

Check out Main Street part 2 for a nice tour down the
street.  One of many great adventures on this site curated
by Brent Dickerson. Details are on the site's index page.

A colored postcard version of the
1905 California State Library photo
full size view 

The postcard above also appears on
Photos of Los Angeles as well as on our
 Los Angeles Theatres Blogspot page.

 about photos from other
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     Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press    

A 1956 view looking north on Main St. toward
5th from the Sean Ault Archives.
In the shadows
 on the right is the Burbank Theatre, with
" New Follies"
on the vertical.
full size view
| on FB/LATheatres

Behind the rear of the bus is the
yellow signage of the Art Theatre.

A detail from Sean's photo above.
larger view

A 1967 look north on Main with the Pacific Electric
 Building at the right. Across 6th is the Santa Fe
Building and, down the block, the Burbank.
  full size view | on FB/LATheatres

A 1968 view looking north. Note the sign still visible
behind the bus on the south wall of the Burbank.
full size view  | on FB/LATheatres

A detail of the sign from the photo above: "Morosco's
 Burbank Theatre The best players and the best plays
in America for the money."
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.

     Julius Cahn's Theatrical Guide    

On Google Books

"Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide"
 1897 edition (volume 2) lists information for
 the Burbank Theatre in its Los Angeles Theatres
section on P. 193:

Fred A. Cooper, Mgr.  J.M. Shawhan, press agt.

Orchestra, 388   Balcony, 340  Box Seats, 98 
Orchestra Dress Circle, 374  Bal. Family Circle, 346 
Gallery, 250  Loges, 48

Illumination, gas and electric

Width prosc. opening, 37 ft.    
Theatre on ground floor
Height Prosc. opening, 33 ft        
Depth footlights to back wall, 45 ft.
Distance between side walls, 80 ft. 
Distance between fly girders, 50 ft. 
Height grooves from stage, 20 ft. 
Stage to rigging loft, 65 ft.  
Depth under stage, 16 ft
Number of traps, 6.
 Scene room.

Geo H. McKeune, scenic artist  
Thomas Reyes, prop man

10 in orchestra  
Louis Hammon, leader

Dates read, Burbank Theatre      
Geo McLain, bill poster  
 Printing required, 20 stands,  450 1-sheet lithos, 
100 3-sheets,  450 1/2 sheet Fred Katkmeyer, adv. agt.

It's also listed in the 1900-1901 edition.

     California State Library    


The State Library has this view of the Burbank Theatre
circa 1905 by Martin Behrman in its collection. Playing
 at the time: "My Wife's Husbands."   
full size view | data page

The photo above is also in a larger format view in
the USC Archives. It's also in the Huntington Library,
where they date it 1903 and attribute it to C.C. Pierce.

A detail from the Huntington Library version
 of the photo. Click on it to enlarge.

Here's a 1964 exterior by William Reagh in the
Library collection. The star this week of the
stage show" is Baby Bubbles. 
full size view | data page


     L.A. Public Library Collection    


An uncredited c.1903 look south toward the Pacific
Electric Building at 6th & Main. That brick facade on
the lower left is the Burbank Theatre.
 full size view

An exterior view from the 20s in
the Library's collection.  
full size view

The back wall of the theatre with
the Morosco sign still in view.  
full size view

A view of the gentlemen's
lounge in 1898.   
full size view

A view of the proscenium in 1912.
 full size view

The Burbank's neon at night. 
full size view  |  similar shot

A great show at the Burbank: "Wild Wooly
 Beaver - The Best in Town." At least we get a nice
look at the theatre's later moderne facade.
full size view

A look north on Main St. from
6th in 1973 after the closing.
full size view

Los Angeles Theatres - The Burbank on Main  St.

A look at the facade prior to demolition.
On the marquee: "Biggest Bust of All"
and "Nation's Greatest Stripper -
Cleveland Wrecking Co."

full size view

Looking north at the doomed Burbank in 1974.
full size vie

More exterior views from the LAPL collection:

another rear wall view  |  
| later marquee view  |  marquee prior to demolition |
 | another marquee shot - 1974 -"Biggest Bust of All" |


     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 | on FB/LATheatres

A lovely view of stripper Patti Waggin
 in front of the Burbank's entrance. 
It's from Bill Gabel's collection. 
full size view | on Photos of LA

Another view of Ms. Waggin with one of her
displays. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this one,
added as a comment, with many other Burbank
photos, to a post of his on Photos of Los Angeles.

     Rob Stills on Flickr    


A vintage sign displayed at Cole's
P.E. Buffet at 6th & Main. 
full size view

Also see:
| Tempest Storm - 2008  |

     USC Archives    


In the USC archives is this 1907 view is looking down
on the Burbank Theatre from the Pacific Electric Building.  
Note the "Morosco" signage
on the side of the building,
which appears at the
bottom of the photo.  
full size view

The theatre was set back deeply from the street.
The  auditorium is the structure to the right.

Across the street to the left, we're looking north at
the west face of the 500 block of Main St.  The squat
 building on the far left housed the Optic, with the Star
 later in the building with the wallpaper sign.  The
 Gayety was in the building just to the right.

Another 1907 view showing the stagehouse --
extending back almost to Los Angeles Street.
full size view

A view of the facade from the USC Archives c.1918. 
full size view

Also in the USC Archives:
 |   c. 1903 - 05 exterior - similar to the California Library photo |