Clune's Theatre

453 S. Main (
N.W. corner Main and 5th)     
| map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

Opened: May 15, 1909.  This early nickelodeon was operated by Los Angeles theatre operator and movie making pioneer Billy Clune.  This was an attempt at a "high class" operation, eschewing the more sensationalistic product that was rampant at the time featuring violence, endless chases, and mayhem.

Clune's first manager was Robert A. Brackett,  a film culture reformer who had earlier exhibited his refined programs (including Gaumont sound films and educational lectures) at the Royal Theatre on Broadway and the Chronophone Theatre on Spring St.,  a venue later known as Horne's Big Show.

Cinema Treasures contributor Nick Bradshaw found a July 11, 1909 L.A. Times article under "Houses, Lots and Lands" about the lease:

“RA Rowan & Co report the following recent leases through their agency: For the Century Company to the Clune Theater Company was rented the northwest corner of Fifth and Main streets, with a frontage of 70 feet on Main and extending back 150 feet to an alley. The term of the lease is five years and the monthly rental is reported at $1175 which would make the total rent $70,500.”

Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for locating an article in Moving Picture World for July 15, 1916 about early Los Angeles film exhibition. It gives a 1908 opening date and mentions that 5th & Main was the heart of the business district at that time.

The article notes:

"Clune's electrical display on this theatre was a real achievement. The theater had entrances on both streets and over both entrances were built gorgeous electric signs that cost many thousand dollars. The interior of this theater, I have been told, would be hard to improve upon even today. It was most beautifully appointed and unusually comfortable, with wide, luxurious seats.

This theater made W.H. Clune famous from coast to coast and was a a continued success and a veritable gold mine for four years, when the lease expired and the building was razed to make room for the present twelve-story Rosslyn Hotel."

Clune opened Clune's Broadway (later the Cameo Theatre) in 1910 and also had other exhibition adventures. The Cameo page gives a timeline. The 5th & Main theatre suffered a fire that was reported in the L.A. Times on September 24, 1913. Presumably it was back in business soon thereafter.

Usually it's just listed as at 5th & Main but the 1913 city directory gives us the 453 S. Main address.

A detail of the 1910 Baist's Real Estate Survey from
Historic Mapworks showing Clune's at 5th & Main.
 larger detail view | more maps

Thanks to Hoss C for his investigations of 5th &
Main on his Noirish Los Angeles post #21527.

Seating: 1,000

Status: The building was demolished to make way for the Rosslyn Hotel building on the site which opened in 1915.

In a 1919 LAPL view of Main looking south toward 5th you can see the Rosslyn Hotel building (the tallest of the three -- with the roof sign) that replaced Clune's. In this photo the Rosslyn building on the south side of 5th had not yet been constructed.

More Information:  A c.1903 USC Archives view shows 5th & Main before Clune's was built. Platt's Popcorn Palace had a stand there.  Hoss C, on his Noirish Los Angeles post #21527, zooms in on a 1907 USC Archives view to find Platt's still in business at that time.

The Clune's Theatre page on Cinema Treasures has some information about the 5th & Main location and also discusses a possibly mythical Clune's theatre at 729 S. Main St.

That 729 S. Main location was possibly a shop or office for Clune. It appears in the 1909 and 1910 city directories under the heading "Moving Pictures and Machines." The 1910 listing just says "Clune." This 729 building appears on a c.1909 map on the Big Map Blog with the label "W.H. Clune" on the roof of a two story building.

     Ken McIntyre on Cinema Treasures    

Courtesy of Ken McIntyre, a section of a vintage
downtown map showing the Clune's location:

A huge version of a similar map
can be seen on the Big Maps Blog.

 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.

     Huntington Digital Library    

One of the few photos to exist of this building -- and
Ken McIntyre found it in the Huntington Library collection.
We're looking at the Main St. side of the theatre. Around
the corner to the left would be the entrance on 5th.
full size view

It's a 1912 photo by G. Haven Bishop taken for the Southern California
Edison Co. On the Huntington Library pages you can use the slider
to get a larger image -- then you can pan around to explore details.

| more of the So Cal Edison collection  |

More Clune's signage -- perhaps around on 5th.
full size view

Looking south on Main toward 5th in 1912 Clune's
is on the right. In the gloomy distance, one can
make out the vertical sign for the Optic.

Another view by G. Haven Bishop
looking south in January 1911.
full size view

On the right,
Clune's is down there beyond the two Rosslyn
buildings. The Rosslyn building nearest us is the earliest
and the one that later contained the Rosslyn Theatre. 

Also see:
another 1911 view looking south  |
| another 1912 view looking south  |
yet another 1912 view  |