College Theatre

441 S. Hill St. 
| map |

Los Angeles, CA 90014

Opened: December 14, 1910 by Arthur S. Hyman.  The magazine Nickelodeon on December 1, 1910 had predicted an opening on December 15th.

According to an article in Motography magazine in August, 1911 the Hyman circuit at the time included these theatres in addition to the College:

Hyman Theatre, 8th & Broadway -- later known as the Garrick

Hyman Theatre, Venice -- later known as the Neptune

Walker Theatre, 730 S. Grand -- later known as the Grand and other names

Rounder Theatre, 5th & Main --  possibly the Banner or the Galway

Royal Theatre - 246 S. Broadway  

also, not in the Motography list:

Luna Park Theatre -- earlier known as Chutes Theatre. 

A photo of Arthur Hyman, found by Cezar Del Valle
in the Moving Picture World issue of April 22, 1911.

Architects: Hunt & Burns. The cost of the structure was reported in the April 22, 1911 issue of Moving Picture World as $35,000.

The College Theatre was so named for its proximity to the nearby State Normal School on the block that is currently the site of the Library.

Theatre historian Cezar Del Valle has unearthed a May 27, 1911 article in Moving Picture World that described the theatre:

"The theatre is of brick construction and covers the full width and depth of the lot measuring 40x120.

The front of the building is decorated with an intricate design of white staff to the height of the three sculptural groups, the central figures of which hold aloft torches composed of white globes. Above the sculptured groups and extending to the roof cornice, the front is laid off in marked squares tinted in a light orange color.
"The lobby is wainscoted to a height of ten feet with selected white Italian marble. On the sides of the marble wainscoting, at a height of five feet, are placed four small decorative panels of leaded art glass; two on each side of the lobby. Above the marble wainscoting are five pairs of leaded art glass windows with mahogany sashes.

The box office is also wainscoted in marble. Above the plate glass extends a decorative bronze grill. The ceiling of the lobby is in white plaster from which is suspended  two square 12-inch drop lights with leaded art glass panels, each of the four panels representing a phase of college athletic life in which appear athletes in college athletic costumes.

The entrance doors are of solid mahogany. The exit doors facing the street are of Gothic design.

The height of the auditorium is twenty-nine feet. The walls are tinted in a light green, and the plaster decorations in a light orange with gold leaf and white trimmings. The ceiling is arched and paneled in white with stenciled borders in gold and green. The ceiling contains six circular ventilators with bronze grills. The side walls of the auditorium support four eighteen-inch fans on each side, and between them are hung art glass side-lights in miniature of the lobby drop lights. The railings about the orchestra, the bases, the door facings and stairway leading to the operator's room are of mahogany. The screen is roomy and on each side of it are two singing booths.

The tapestries of the auditorium are of velour with dark green inside face, and the other side plum colored. At the rear of the auditorium are retiring rooms for both men and women, with a maid in attendance in the latter. The seats are upholstered in light green leather, with brass-plated standards, and backs in ark green enamel. The seats are large and roomy and well spaced for the comfort of patrons. The carpets are of green. On the right of the auditorium an exit passage way four feet six inches in width connects with the side auditorium exits and extends down to the stage.

The orchestra consists of six pieces and is under the leadership of Miss Lillian May Lancaster, a noted composer, and known the country over as the newsboys' friend. The orchestra will feature the college music of the different universities.

A notable decorative feature of the auditorium is a series of banners six feet long by four wide containing the seals and pennants in gold and college colors of the following universities: Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Michigan, California, Standford, Southern California, and other well known universities.

The program consists of five reels of the best of first-run Independent films, and several song specialties. The admission prices charged are 10 and 15, with five-cent admission for the children. Young men ushers, in uniforms of blue, with white braided trimmings, look after the seating of patrons. The musicians' uniforms are white graduation college gowns and white square college caps to match."

In the 1911 city directory 447 S. Hill gets a listing under moving picture theatres for Chas Prochazka, evidently a partner of Mr. Hyman. In the 1912 directory the College is given an address of 439 S. Hill. Thomas Tally may have been involved in the operation around 1912.

In 1914 the College is listed with an address of 449 S. Hill St., in 1915 at 459 S. Hill. It's still listed in the 1929 city directory.

The theatre was later operated as Bard's College Theatre by Lou Bard, who also ran the nearby Hill Street (later called the Town) and Bard's 8th Street (later known as the Olympic Theatre).

An article in the magazine Motography for August, 1911 that was discovered by Cezar Del Valle discusses the Hyman circuit and the projection crew:

"One of the best known and most popular men connected with the amusement business in Los Angeles is L. M. Nelson, chief operator and electrician for the Arthur S. Hyman circuit of theaters.

Upon the opening of the first Hyman theater his services were secured by Mr. Hyman, and as the houses were added Mr. Nelson was given charge of the projection of the entire Hyman circuit, comprising the Hyman Theater at Eighth and Broadway, seating 900; the College at Fifth and Hill, seating 600; the Neptune at Venice, seating 600; the Walker at Seventh and Grand Avenue, seating 800; the Rounder at Fifth and Main street, seating 350, and the Royal at Third and Broadway, seating 300.

The distance separating the Hyman houses made the purchase of a runabout necessary, consequently some months ago Mr. Nelson invested in a Hupmobile, and since then the two (Nelson and the Hup) are to be seen on their journeys of projection at all hours.

At the College Theater the operating room is 9 by 18 feet with a ten-foot ceiling, having a 34-inch flue in the center of the ceiling for ventilating purposes, together with an exhaust fan.

The equipment consists of two Edison 'type B' machines, a double dissolving stereopticon, a Menchen spotlight and the necessary accessories. Two operators are on duty, giving a continuous performance.

The equipment is the same in all the houses with the exception of the Neptune at Venice, where the alternating current made the use of a mercury arc rectifier necessary.

Many and favorable are the comments heard on the projection in the various Hyman houses, which is no doubt due to the careful selection of skilled operators and the close personal attention given to the equipment by Mr. Nelson.

The action of the Hyman management in placing Mr. Nelson in charge of projection in all its theaters shows the care that is taken in the western city to get perfect pictures."

Thanks, Cezar!

More Information: See the discussion on the Cinema Treasures page devoted to the College Theatre.

Joe Vogel on Cinema Treasures calls our attention to a photo from the Metro Transportation Archive taken between 1928 and 1930 looking south on Hill St. (with the California Club building on the corner). It appears that the theatre may have been converted to retail at the time of the photo.

Status: Demolished. It's now a parking lot.  The closing date is unknown.  1929 might have been about the end.

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     Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks

A look at the facade of the college from a May 27, 1911
article in Moving Picture World. It's featured in
Cezar's post # 1 on the College Theatre.
full size view

A view of the boxoffice of the College Theatre
in a card from Cezar's collection.  We assume the
floral treatment is for the grand opening. Note
the great art glass above the boxoffice.  
full size view

The card above also appears on
A Visit To Old Los Angeles and the
Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.

A look at L.M. Nelson, chief projectionist for the
Hyman theatres in the circuit's Hupmobile. The photo
is from the August, 1911 Motography article featured
 in Cezar's post #2 on the College Theatre.
full size view

A look at the booth at the College
and its unidentified operators. It's from
the 1911 Motography article.
full size view

Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for the research!

He's a Brooklyn-based theatre historian with a
serious interest in Los Angeles Theatres. For additional
adventures, check out his Theatre Talks blog.

     USC Archives

This great view from the USC Archives is looking

 north on the 400 Hill Street in 1928.

Here on the west side of the block we have the
facade of the College Theatre and the Subway
Building beyond.  The California Club
at the extreme left.
full size view

A detail from the USC photo above.  The College
 is running "Blondes by Choice."
larger detail view

     A Visit To Old Los Angeles   

The California Club dominates this picture but there's
an early view of the College Theatre to the right.
 full size view

Visit Brent Dickerson's Hill Street Part 1  for
many more vintage views of Hill Street.

Also on the page:
| postcard of the boxoffice - same
as in Cezar Del Valle collection |