Cameo Theatre


528 S. Broadway  
  | map

Los Angeles, CA 90013 

Lease and filming inquiries: Downtown Management Co. (213) 688-1100


Opened: October 1910 as Clune's Broadway.  There's conflicting information about the actual opening date. An orchestra of 10 pieces accompanied the films.

One source lists October 10 as the opening.  An article in the November 9, 1910 trade publication New York Dramatic Mirror located by Cezar Del Valle notes:

"Clune's new picture house, Los Angeles, Cal., seating 900 people and costing over $50,000, was opened to the public at 10, 15, and 20 cent prices Oct. 10."

Cezar also found a brief item from the trade publication New York Clipper of November 5, 1910 that suggests a late October opening date, (he surmises perhaps October 28):

"The opening of Clune's Broadway Theatre, last week, added a most attractive moving picture show house to the many now established in Los Angeles, CA. It has a seating capacity of nine hundred and is strictly up-to-date. Manager Wm. H. Clune is now operating three first class places in this city."

A November 12, 1910 item in Moving Picture World notes that Clune's "has been completed and will open within a day or two." A February 11, 1911 article in Moving Picture World gives November 10 as the opening date.

W. H. Clune (Billy) was a pioneer exhibitor and filmmaker. The Clune Studios in Hollywood at Melrose and Bronson still exists -- known today as the Raleigh Studios. At various times Billy Clune also operated other theatres -- see the exhibition timeline below.


A Clune's Broadway lantern slide. It
 went for $12.77 to the lucky bidder.

Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for
spotting this on eBay!

An article in Moving Picture World for July 15, 1916 talks about the theatre:

"Clune's Broadway...is now considered one of the finest motion picture houses on the Pacific coast. This theatre also has a magnificent electric sign. It is 30 feet high and 50 feet wide and contains about 3,000 lamps controlled by a seven-story electric flasher. It announces 'Clune's Broadway - The Time and the Place.' 

The time is written every minute in three-foot electric figures simultaneously on the sign and in the house. This Clune's clock is a real feature and is remembered by people all over the country."

Theatre historian Cezar del Valle, in a Theatre Talks post about Clune's Broadway, quotes an item he found in the Moving Picture World issue of December 23, 1911 about the booth at Clune's Broadway:

"Excerpts from a letter sent by Frank Chartrand, chief operator, Clune’s Broadway Theatre:

'Have seen several pictures of operating rooms but none equal to our own. It is up to date in every respect. Every convenience possible is employed, even to toilet and wash room.

We have two Hallberg motor-generator sets supplying current from 110 volt D. C. circuit, three Motiograph machines, two being in use, alternating to avoid  any wait between pictures. We also have dissolver, cyclopticon for rain, snow, fire and cloud effects, color wheel and spotlight.

Picture is 25 x 22, projected 110 feet.  Can pull 30 to 50 amperes, but only use 32 to 35 on account of having a very bright screen. The switchboard shown in one of the pictures, was built by Mr. Loper, our manager, who is an  electrician  of note.

It is the best of its kind I have seen for some time. We can throw over from generator to rheostat or vice versa, without any stop. We also have a motor re-wind and many other conveniences. Size of [projection] room is 18 x 22 feet  by 22 in height. House seats 990, has nine-piece orchestra. Show runs 11 A.M. to 11:30 P.M.'

Moving Picture World replies [excerpt]:

It certainly is a pleasure to look at that room. It is, of course, larger than is really necessary but that is a mighty good fault and one not often found. Lack of space obliged me to trim top and bottom of photo so realization of the height (22 ft.) is lost.”

I must correct you as to size of picture. If it is 25 feet wide it would be 18 3/4 high. Height is approximately 3/4 of width, you know.”


A photo of the Cameo's projection booth from Moving Picture World
in 1911. Note the open front switchboard on the booth's front wall.
full size view

Moving Picture World magazine is available on the Internet Archive.

Clune's Broadway was remodeled in 1924 and reopened as the Cameo.  The July 4, 1924 edition of Southwest Builder and Contractor noted that A. Godfrey Bailey was the architect for the remodel for William Cutts that involved "removing toilets and enlarging foyer."  Nick Bradshaw did some research and located a July 20, 1924 article in the L.A.  Times:

"'The best and most luxuriously appointed ‘small’ theater on Broadway when the renovations are completed.' That’s the promise of O.D. Cloakey, manager of the Cameo Theater, the newly named film playhouse, which takes the place of the old Clune’s Broadway.

A half-hundred carpenters, electricians, decorators and upholsterers are in possession of the place now. The auditorium is a chaos of wreckage, but out of this chaos William Cutts is devising a new orderliness from which will rise a new theater adequately equipped to take its place alongside Broadway’s best.

Its old seating capacity of 800 will be slightly increased by the new space arrangement. A larger orchestra pit is being made to make room for the sixteen players who will be directed by Theodore Henkel, newly appointed musical director. The projection-room will be widened.  A suite of drawing and sitting-rooms is being fitted out in luxurious style on the second floor, where women patrons will find quiet, comfort and opportunity for rest."

The reopening was scheduled to be in July 1924 with a Wallace Beery feature "The Signal Tower." The theatre was later operated by H.L. Gumbiner who would also build the Tower Theatre (1927) and the Los Angeles (1931). 

In the early 30s, the Cameo was operated by Fox West Coast. Later operators included Pacific Theatres and, finally, Metropolitan Theatres.

The Cameo is between the Arcade Theatre (to the south) and the Roxie (to the north). The Roxie is on a site that once was the location of Quinn's Superba.

Architect: Alfred F. Rosenheim, a leading Los Angeles architect, who became the first president of the LA chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Among other projects, Rosenheim had done the Arrow Theatre (inside Hamburger's Department Store (1908) and later did the Morosco/Globe (1913).

Seating:
900 originally, about 600 in later years, all on one level. Moving Picture World noted in 1916 that 200 are loge seats at the back up on "quite an elevation."

Projection Throw: 112 feet.

Status:  Closed as a theatre in 1991. Currently there's retail in the lobby. The auditorium has had the seats removed and is being used for storage. The 1910 decor is pretty much intact.

The building (along with the Roxie Theatre, Arcade Theatre and the adjacent Arcade Building) has been owned since the early 90s by Joseph Hellen. 

His company, Downtown Management (also known as Mideb) also has a number of other properties in the area. Ryan Vaillancourt had a nice 2010 story in LA Downtown News about Mr. Hellen: "The Survivor."  

See the main page on the Arcade Theatre for more about Mr. Hellen and his plans to build a parking garage and housing complex behind the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade. It's a move that could limit the future usefulness of the three theatres by restricting access to the rear of the buildings.

The Cameo in the Movies: In Arthur Hiller's "W.C. Fields & Me" (Universal, 1976) we see a number of downtown theatres including the Los Angeles, the Cameo and the Arcade.



The Cameo and Arcade theatres in "W.C. Fields
 & Me" with Rod Steiger and Vallerie Perrine.

Thanks to Escott Norton of the
 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation
for the screenshot.

More information: The Cinema Treasures  page on the Cameo has lots of interesting facts about this historic theatre.  Cinema Tour  has a few more exterior photos. 


     Clune's exhibition timeline    


5th & Main -- In 1908 (or 1909) Clune's Theatre opened on the NW corner. Razed for the Rosslyn Hotel building which opened in 1915.

729 S. Main -- It's unknown whether this was offices, a shop, a developing lab or what. All we know is that Clune had it around 1909 and 1910. It may have been a theatre.

730 S. Grand -- Sometime around 1910 Clune was operating this venue as Clune's Grand Street Theatre. By 1912 it was under different management as the Mozart Threatre.

528 S. Broadway -- In 1910 Clune's Broadway opens. After 1924 it's known as the Cameo Theatre and now used for retail.

Ocean Park -- In December, 1910 the magazine Nickelodeon reported that "A large theatre will be erected on Fraser's Million Dollar Pier for W. H. Clune and Associates, who have secured exclusive rights to the vaudeville and moving picture privileges. The auditorium will have a seating capacity of 1,000 persons."  Perhaps this was the Starland Theatre. It's unknown how long Clune was involved with the pier -- if at all.

Pasadena -- In 1911 Clune's Pasadena opens. The venue was later operated by Fox West Coast. It's now a Crate & Barrel.

110 S. Main St. -- In 1912 Clune is operating the Grand Opera House as Clune's Grand.  He's out of there prior to 1916.

547 S . Broadway -- In 1914, Clune was exhibiting films here suitable for women and families and calling the theatre Clune's Exclusive.  Later, as the Shell Theatre, it was a bargain house operated by Clune. The building also housed his offices. The building still stands, with retail on the ground floor.

5th & Olive -- From 1914 until 1920 Clune operated the Auditorium as Clune's Auditorium, also known as Clune's Theatre Beautiful.

Santa Ana -- Clune operated a theatre there according to a 1916 article in Moving Picture World


     More About Billy Clune    


From a page on the Polar Palace, an ice rink at 613 N. Van Ness (between Melrose and Clinton) where numerous shows were staged comes this bio of Mr. Clune:

"The property was owned by the Clune Memorial Trust, part of a parcel of 40 acres bought in 1915 by motion picture pioneer William H. Clune. Clune was born in Hannibal, Missouri, in 1862. He came to Los Angeles in 1887 and began with a pushcart on Main Street. He eventually built one of the first Los Angeles nickelodeons. His success and faith in director D.W. Griffith got him involved in Birth of a Nation, which held its world premiere at his Clune's Auditorium (later the Philharmonic Auditorium on Olive and 5th Street, home for years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera). Clune also had motion picture palaces on Broadway between 5th and 6th, in Pasadena, Santa Ana and San Diego.

Clune built one of the first soundstages in Los Angeles and produced a film of the play about California, Ramona, and it was the first motion picture to bear the legend, "Made in Los Angeles." The forty-acre property was later occupied by United Artists, followed by Columbia Pictures, Inspiration Pictures, Lillian & Dorothy Gish Productions, among others, as well as, of course, Polar Palace.

There were rumors around the rink in the 1950s that Polar's ice surface was built for Sonja Henie, and was originally part of the adjoining motion picture lot, but it wasn't true. Fox built Sonja her own rink on its home lot on Pico Boulevard.

William Clune died in his apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club on October 21, 1927 at the age of 65. The Los Angeles Times reported that Clune left his considerable fortune to his son J. W. Clune. He was also survived by a sister, Mary. Presumably, this fortune formed the basis of the Clune Memorial Trust, which still owned the land when Polar Palace burned in 1963. Because of permafrost, which extended 40 feet into the ground (Polar Palace never melted down its ice in the summer, as the Palais de Glace and most eastern rinks did), the site was unbuildable for many years and held Walter Allen Plant Rentals, a greens service for the Hollywood studios. It now houses Raleigh Studios."



A 1920 photo of Clune (on the right) with a bear. 
It comes from the Boise State University collection. 
full size view



In the booth at the Cameo.

photo:
Joël Huxtable - 2011



A look into the auditorium from the booth.

photo:
Joël Huxtable - 2011



     American Classic Images    

www.americanclassicimages.com


A 1983 look at the Cameo from the American
 Classic Images collection.
full size view



Another 1983 night view -- Roxie,
Cameo and Arcade Theatres.
full size view



     California State Library    

www.library.ca.gov



A 1978 exterior of the Cameo by
William Reagh from the State Archives.
full size view


     eBay    

www.ebay.com



An early postcard look at Clune's, with
the famous signage atop the facade. It's been sold
but at last look the bid was up to $25.33.
Note that it's around 1910 and Clune hasn't yet
added the clock to the display. Thanks to Michelle
Gerdes for finding the card on eBay!



     Huntington Digital Library    

hdl.huntington.org/cdm


A 1913 G. Haven Bishop photo from the
Huntington Library. Clune's is at the left,
the Pantages at the right.

full size view


On the Huntington Library page you can
use the slider to get a larger image -- then you
can pan around to explore details.



A detail of Clune's  from the 1913 Huntington
 Library photo. Click on it to enlarge.




Another detail from the 1913 view.
Click on it to enlarge.



A wonderful 1915 view unearthed by Ken McIntyre.
Beyond the Superba are the Cameo and the Pantages. It's a
G. Haven Bishop photo for Southern California Edison
Company that's in the collection of the Huntington Library.
 

larger view

In the view above note the nicely lit upper
story and the stud lighting between the vertical
signs of the Pantages / Arcade Theatre.




A detail from the 1915 Huntington Library photo.
Click on it to enlarge.



A 1916 view by G. Haven Bishop. Here we're
looking north along Broadway at the Pantages,
Clune's and Superba theatres. 
full size view


Note that the Arcade Building hasn't yet been
built on the corner of 6th & Broadway.



A detail from the 1916 Huntington Library photo.
Click on it to enlarge.

Also in the collection:
looking north 1928 -- Clune's signage visible  |



     Chris Roman on Flickr   

www.flickr.com/photos/croman65


An auditorium photo that Chris took in 2012.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres



     Roxie Theatre on Facebook    

facebook.com/roxietheatre


A nice 1977 view of the Roxie, Cameo
and Arcade theatres.

full size view



     Julia Solis - Stages of Decay   

stagesofdecay.com | stages.darkpassage.com



Julia's Stages of Decay blog post about The Cameo
 includes this 2011 look toward the screen.
The auditorium's sidewall.
A 2011 exterior shot.
Julia Solis' Dark Passage journal chronicles the abandoned
 movie theatres she explored for her book "Stages of Decay "




     Theatre Talks - Cezar Del Valle    

 www.theatretalks.com | Cezar on Facebook



A postcard view of the marble boxoffice of Clune's
Broadway Theatre from Cezar's collection.
 full size view

The card also appears in our
 LA Theatre Postcards set on blogspot.




A dazzling night view of Clune's (later the Cameo) and, to the
left of Clune's, Quinn's Superba -- later replaced by the Roxie.
And we get the Pantages (later the Arcade) vertical on
 the far right.  The card bears a 1916 copyright date.
full size view




In this c.1915 view we get the same string of
theatres but looking south: Quinn's, Clune's
(a bit lost here) and the Pantages. 
full size view

Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian.
Thanks, Cezar!




     A Visit to Old Los Angeles    

www.csulb.edu    



Here's the interior of the theatre when it was
Clune's Broadway.  Except for the seats being gone,
 it's not very different today.
full size image

The painting on the curtain is the harbor at
 Avalon, Catalina Island. The card also appears in the
 Hollywood Postcards collection of Brian McCray and
 in our LA Theatre Postcards set on blogspot.




A postcard view looking north at the east side
of the 500 block with the Pantages ("vaudeville")
 at far right, then Clune's (now the Cameo). Just
 beyond the Cameo is Quinn's Superba.
 full size view  |  more photos from csulb.edu

 These views are on the Broadway Tour Part 3
created by Brent C. Dickerson using lots of
vintage postcard views of downtown.  

See the other version of the card from
 the Cezar Del Valle collection.




in the same block:
| roxie theatre | arcade theatre |
| superba (demolished) |




A view of the Cameo Theatre marquee. The twinkling
lights are now selling electronics
gear in the lobby.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

 [ click any of these to enlarge ]




The large billboard above the Cameo used

 to display 24 sheet movie posters.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The Cameo with its neighbors on the 500 block
of S. Broadway, the Roxie and the Arcade.

We're looking north.


photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A look up at the Cameo lettering.

photo:
Joël Huxtable - 2011

 


A detail of the sidewall of the
auditorium.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



Another sidewall view.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click any of these images to enlarge ]



Looking back at the booth.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007




Looking toward the proscenium. The screen
 is still in place and ready for a show. Sorry, no seats.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



A view of the ceiling.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The foyer at the rear of the auditorium.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The auditorium is at the left through the curtains.
The stairs head up to the restrooms and the booth.



On the roof of the Cameo Theatre
looking toward the billboard.


photo: Bill Counter - 2011

That's the auditorium and office building
 of the Arcade Theatre on the left.




A closer look at the seismic retrofit
work on the back of the Cameo.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A 2007 view from Spring Street.


photo: Bill Counter

The Arcade/Pantages is at left (beige), the Cameo (brick)
is in the middle with no stagehouse. The corner of the
Roxie (unpainted concrete) is at right.


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     Bringing Back Broadway    

www.flickr.com/photos/josehuizar



A postcard view looking toward the
rear of  Clune's. It's part of Jose Huizar's
 "Historic Broadway" set on  Flickr.
 full size view



     Broadway Theatre Tour    

www.gmrnet.com



A look at the Cameo in the 90s on Grace
Market Research's Broadway Tour page.
full size view




    Elizabeth Fuller's Old L.A. Postcards    

www.flickr.com/photos/zilf


Elizabeth Fuller's Old Los Angeles Postcard collection
has this nice 20s view of the Arcade Building and
Dalton's Theatre (later the Arcade Theatre) beyond.  

Beyond Dalton's is Clune's (later the Cameo).  Just north
of the Cameo is the building that until 1922 housed
Quinn's Superba -- with another distinctive roof sign.
 full size view

A slightly different version of the card appears
 in Brian McCray's Hollywood Postcards:
| Quinn's / Cameo / Dalton's  |



     L.A. Public Library Collection    

www.lapl.org



A bad day for the Cameo in 1941 as shown in
this photo from the Library's collection.
 full size view

Shoppers on Broadway in 1961 with the
Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres beyond. 
It's a William Reagh photo.
full size view




A great 1981 picture by Anne Knudsen
of the Cameo in its grindhouse days.
full size view



A 1987 look at the Cameo from
the Herald-Examiner collection.
full size view



A c.1999 look by Gary Leonard.
full size view


     Metro Transportation Library    

flickr.com/photos/metrolibraryarchive


A 1955 view looking north on Broadway at
the Cameo and the Roxie. It's part of the Metro
Downtown Los Angeles set. It looks like the Cameo
is getting some marquee work done. The Roxie
is running Jane Russell's "Underwater!"
full size view




     Movie Palaces   

SURVIVORS OF AN ELEGANT ERA

by Ave Pildas (photos) and Lucinda Smith (text)
Foreword by King Vidor

Clarkston N. Potter, New York, 1980
Hennessey + Ingalls, Santa Monica, 2000
ISBN: 0940512254

buy the book:
 | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |


A shot of the Cameo boxoffice c.1980 by Mr. Pildas
from his book "Movie Palaces." The book has lots of
great shots of other Los Angeles theatres.



     Photos of Los Angeles    

facebook.com/groups/244565982234863


A great view of the view of the Roxie and Cameo
theatres with hot rods on parade.  The photo was
taken in February 1934 and was used on the
March 1951 cover of Hot Rod magazine.
full size view

 Kay Francis is billed on the bottom line on the south
end of the Roxie marquee. Scott Santoro suggests that
the top line might read L (for Leslie) Howard. That leads
us to the 1934 film "British Agent."


The photo also appears on the
 Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page.

The March 1951 cover  of Hot Rod magazine, which
featured the photo, is also on Photos of Los Angeles.




An evocative marquee detail posted by Ken.
full size view




     Theatres in Los Angeles    

By  Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall
and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the rare photos in the
book are from Mr. Wanamaker's
Bison Archives.
Arcadia Publishing, 2008


A 1919 view of the facade of Clune's Theatre on
p. 21 of the book. The rare photo is from Mr. Wanamaker's
Bison Archives. Clune's is running "It Pays To Advertise"
with Bryant Washburn. On Google books:
full size view

  The photo is also online in the
 B'hend and Kaufmann Collection
on the AMPAS website.




A 1967 look at the Arcade, Cameo and Roxie
on page 20 of "Theatres in Los Angeles."
On Google Books: full size view




Another 1967 shot of the Cameo appears
on page 22 of "Theatres in Los Angeles."

On Google Books: full size view

The photo above also appears on our
Los Angeles Theatres Blogspot page.




     USC Archives    



A wonderful Dick Whittington Studio view of the Cameo
and the Roxie. On the marquee at the Cameo is a double feature
of "Trade Winds" and "Algiers," both released in 1938.
 full size view



A detail from the photo above.
larger view | detail of the Roxie next door




A 1938 Dick Whittington Studio view looking
south with the Cameo and the Arcade Theatres
visible behind a Shriners parade.
 full size view



A detail from the USC photo above.
larger view


     Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles



A look north on Broadway in 1958 featuring the Roxie,
Cameo and Arcade Theatres. It's another great view from the
Richard Wojcik collection that he's added to Alison Martino's
delightful Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.  
full size view


     Wikipedia    

http://commons.wikimedia.org


A dazzling 1920 view of the Superba, Clune's (Cameo) and
the Pantages (Arcade). It's from the New York Times Archive.
The Roxie Theatre is now on the site of the Superba.
 full size view