Gayety Theatre

523 S. Main St.   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

The Gayety Theatre opened as the Novelty in 1905. It was also known as the New Peoples (1906), then just as the Peoples through about 1909.

It's listed in the 1907-1908 Henry's Theatrical Guide as the Peoples with a Frank Haggerty as manager.

When operated by Charles Alphin, he called it the Olympic. It's the Olympic in the 1910 and 1911 city directories. The business was sold to Mr. Robert F. Woodley (of Optic Theatre fame) for a while, but when Alphin took control again in 1914, he renamed it the Alphin

It was known as the Century beginning in 1913  after J.A. Quinn took over.  The 1913 and 1914 directories list it as such. A nice article on the Internet Archive about Quinn and his theatres is in the Moving Picture World issue of March 28, 1914. 

After talking about the Bijou, the Lyceum and the Garrick the article discusses Quinn's management of this theatre, as Quinn's Century:

"Flushed by the success of his preceding ventures, Mr. Quinn later added a third moving picture theater to his list. This house is located on Main St., and as soon as he had closed a seven year lease on the property with Loewen Brothers the painters and decorators were working "like mad" in order to get the house ready on time.

To the facade of the house, 2,500 additional electric lights were added. This house was opened under the name of the Century. Mr. Quinn soon made this theatre one of the dominant attractions on Main Street. Feature pictures form the entertainment."

"Quinn's Big Show" at the Century. It's a photo
from the 1914 Moving Picture World article.

It continues as the Century after Quinn's tenure until about 1916 ( including spells as a burlesque house) and is then called the Omar (1917-22). It was leased to the Gore Brothers in 1922 and became the Moon (1923-36).

It was the Gayety from 1938 onward. As the Gayety it was a burlesque house with films. It was located within the Waldorf Hotel building. In the 1960 city directory, the Waldorf is still there, but no listing for the Gayety anymore.

What a block! Just south of the Gayety was the Star Theatre and the Optic was in the building just south of that one. South of the Optic down at the end of the block was the Art Theatre. Across the street were the Galway, Sherman and Burbank theatres.

A section of a 1931 insurance map from the
Los Angeles Public Library showing the Art,
Optic, Star and Gayety  theatres. 
full size view  |  more maps

Architect: Robert Brown Young

Seating: Estimates range as high as 1,200 (Henry's Guide). 700 is more likely toward the end.

Stage Specifications: In the 1907-8 Henry's Guide it's listed as being illuminated with both gas and electricity.

Proscenium width: 27'10" 
Proscenium height: 20'4"  
Stage depth: 20' 
Grid height: 42'10"  Wall to wall: 40'

Status: Demolished. A parking garage is on the site.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for the theatre they like to spell Gaiety.  

There's a Martin Behrman view of the block in the California State Library (dated c.1922) where you can see the top 4 letters (CENT..) of the theatre's vertical sign -- which means that photo is more like c.1916. 

See our page on  Quinn's Superba for more about J.A. Quinn and his other theatre adventures.

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     Huntington Digital Library    

A 1911 view by G. Haven Bishop looking south from
5th & Main. The Gayety was called the Olympic at the
time.  Beyond, note the "Vaudeville" vertical sign for the
 Star Theatre and the arched entrance of the Optic.
full size view

A detail from the Huntington Library photo.
larger view


     L.A. Fire Department Archives    

Here from the LAFD collection is a January 1913 shot of the
Brennan Hotel fire.  The Brennan building housed the Star. At the
left is the Optic with the Century/Gayety Theatre at the right.
full size view

 At this time the Optic's vertical sign
was mounted on the hotel building.

For more photos go to the "Major Incident" page and
look for "Brennan Hotel Fire, 1913" in the index on the left column.
On the Brennan page, click on "see completion LAFD photo
album photo collection" under the photo for more views.

     L.A. Public Library

This undated view shows a bit of the Gayety
 Theatre marquee on the left as we look north. 

The Gayety was in the Waldorf Hotel Building. You
can see the "Hotel" signs on the doorway just to the
right of the marquee in the full size view. Looking
farther north toward 5th are the buildings
 of the Rosslyn Hotel.  
full size view

     Photos of Los Angeles

A look at the Gayety marquee discovered
by Ken McIntyre. "Sex Maniac," aka "Maniac"
was a film released in 1934

Also on Photos of Los Angeles:
| 1947 view looking north - Gayety marquee visible at right  |

     Michelle Gerdes collection    

A view looking north on Main toward 5th St.
 and the Rosslyn Hotel buildings. The Gayety is
 over on the left. Thanks to ace theatre researcher
Michelle Gerdes for finding the photo!
 full size view | on FB/LATheatres

     UCLA - L.A. Daily News Negatives

A fine 1946 shot looking north on Main with the
Star in front of us and the Gayety down the block with
James Cagney, Merle Oberon and William Boyd on the
marquee. Not all in the same feature, of course. Our
people in front?  It's the Truancy detail in action.
It's a Los Angeles Daily News photo. Their caption:
Woman talks to boys skipping school outside a movie theater
in downtown Los Angeles. The truancy problem prompted the
10th District Congress of Parents and Teachers to recommend an
expansion of the truancy detail, which would include increasing
personnel in outlying portions of the district as well as on beaches."

Thanks to Eitan Alexander for
spotting this one in the UCLA archives!

     USC Archives

A 1907 C.C. Pierce view looking north along the west side
of the 500 block. The building that would later house the Star
is the one with "G. A. Theil Wallpaper" sign on the side. The
Waldorf Hotel building, with the Peoples (later Gayety)
Theatre is just beyond.
full size view

A detail from the photo above showing
the facade of the Peoples Theatre.
larger view

A New Year's Day 1907 view, looking north from the Pacific
Electric Building, also shows the Peoples Theatre. That's the
Burbank Theatre building with the Owl Cigar sign on it at
the bottom. Again a photo from the C.C. Pierce collection.
full size view

A detail of the Peoples Theatre from the 1907 USC
photo above. At left is the Brennan Hotel building,
later home of the Star Theatre.
larger view

Here's a c.1917 C.C. Pierce view from the USC
Archives showing the theatre as the Omar. Note
the south vertical saying "Burlesque."
full size view

The vertical of the Optic Theatre is at the far left -- but we don't see
the theatre itself in this photo. The Optic's sign was hung on the taller
building just north of the theatre, the Green Hotel. The hotel building
also housed the Star Theatre, in between the Optic and the Gayety.

A version of the photo above
is also in the LAPL collection.

A detail of the Omar -- with 3 vertical signs!
from the 1917 USC photo above. Note the light
bulb display in the center of the parapet.
larger view

A great Dick Whittington photo c.1938 showing
the west side of the block looking north toward 5th St.
The Optic Theatre is in the squat building in the foreground
with the Star and Gayety just to the right. 
  full size view

A detail from the 1938 USC photo above.
Note that they've tried to cover the vertical -- it still says
 "Moon" at the top and "Vaudeville" down the length.
larger view

Also from the USC Archives:
 |  another c.1917 view -- in the lower left the
Optic and Century (Gayety) vertical signs. |