The Grand Theatre

730 S. Grand Ave.  | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Opened: December, 1908 as the Walker (built for George Walker) with programs of Sullivan and Considine vaudeville and movies. It was known as the Nielson in 1910 after a remodel for use by a stock company.  The Neilson name gets into the 1910 city directory.

In 1911 it was again the Walker and operated by Arthur Hyman. See the College Theatre page for more on the Hyman circuit.  The 1911 city directory has it moved over to 730 S. Broadway, a typo.

At some point it was called Clune's Grand Avenue Theatre. Then it was back to the Walker name. The 1912 city directory still has it as the Walker.

From August 1912 until 1915 it was the Mozart, (or the Grand Ave. Mozart) under the direction of Mrs. Anna M. Mozart.  It's the Mozart in the 1912 directory.

An ad in the July, 20 1912 issue of Moving Picture
 World from the Mozart -- looking for films and staff.
 larger view

Ladies only need apply: "The management will employ (only)
lady help -- from Manager to ushers -- MAKING IT THE ONLY

Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian
 Cezar Del Valle for finding the ad. It's featured
 in his Bijou Dreams post about the Mozart.

Also featured in Cezar's post are excerpts from an article he found in the Moving Picture World issue of August 17, 1912:

The new Mozart motion picture theater, which opened August 5, is unique in that it is conducted almost entirely by women. The only male employee on the premises is the operator in the projection booth. The proprietor and manager is Mrs. Anna M. Mozart. All her assistants–ushers, ticket sellers, doorkeepers, the  musical director–even the press agent–are women. There is a ‘policewoman’ on duty at each performance.

The new enterprise is housed in the Walker Theater, formerly a regular playhouse, on Grand Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. It has a seating capacity of about 900 and before it opened its doors Mrs. Mozart spent nearly $25,000 in getting ready.

The largest single item of expense was $10,000, which was invested in a Photoplayer, the first of its size to be installed on the coast. It is an instrument designed to take the place of a full orchestra but it can be operated by one person.

The one in the Mozart Theater is 25 feet long, eight feet wide and ten feet high and occupies the entire orchestra pit. Inside it are thousands of pipes and reeds, a piano and the necessary apparatus for producing 33 different sound effects, such as bird calls, locomotive bell and whistle, thunder, rain, horse trots, cannon, drums, cymbals, castanets and tambourine. Another feature is a set of reeds which reproduces the tones of the human voice.

Nothing but big special features will be shown in the house. Among the films advertised to be shown in the near future are Blanche Walsh in 'Resurrection,' 'St. George and the Dragon,'  'The Raven,' Nat Goodwin in 'Nathan Hale,' 'Custer’s Last Fight,' and 'The Odyssey.' Summer prices will be 10, 15 and 25 cents."

Another find of Cezar Del Valle is this ad in the
October 5, 1912 issue of Moving Picture World extolling
the virtues of the Fotoplayer installed at the Mozart.
 full size view

Anna Mozart disappeared at some point. In a 1915 ad the theatre had become the Brooks Theatre.

By February 1916 it had become the Strand, a film house, opening with Sarah Bernhardt in "Jeanne Dore," a 1915 release. Despite the name changes, there are still references well into 1916 calling it the Mozart Theatre Building. It's still called the Strand (at least on the back and one side) in a November 1917 photo.

In the 1917, 18 and 19 city directories it's called Walker Auditorium.  In 1918 L.A. Times ads it was running as legit house called Walker's Theatre Beautiful.  In the 1923 city directory it's the Walker. In 1923 and 1924 it was known the Grand Avenue. It was also known as the Fine Arts in 1924.  

It became the Orange Grove from 1924-29 and the Actor's Theatre from 1929-1935.  It was the Grand International Theatre (or Internationale) from 1935 to 1937.

A pass to get into the theatre for "Wedding Night" at a time
(40s?) it had "comfortable seating" and was known as the
Grand Playhouse
. It's from the collection of Walnut Park
based historian Wally Shidler.
 full size view

 Thanks to Wally and also to theatre explorer and archivist Michelle
Gerdes for photographing the item and sending it our way.

The theatre ended its life as just the Grand Theatre from 1937 to 1946 showing first run foreign films from Russia and Europe.

Architect: Eisen and Sons designed the 6 story building (called the Walker Auditorium Building) which contained a number of other halls (such as Lincoln Hall, Roosevelt Hall) and music studios in addition to the main theatre

The architectural firm evolved into Walker & Eisen and worked on many other theatres. See our blogspot posts on the the firm for photos of more of their projects.

Seating: 900

Status: Demolished in 1946 for a parking lot.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for the Grand Theatre  with lots of fascinating research by Joe Vogel and other contributors.  Scandals, bigamy and more! 

There's a lovely section on the Grand titled "Jinxed Exhibition -- Grand Avenue and the Mozart Theatre" beginning on page 132 of Jan Olsson's 2008 book "Los Angeles Before Hollywood - Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905-1915." The book is available as a pdf from the National Library of Sweden.

Jeff Bridges (aka vokoban) has unearthed many interesting newspaper articles detailing the mysteries of this building and did much of the research on the many names the Grand Theatre has used. 

Nearby: The Criterion Theatre, 642 S. Grand.

     L.A. Public Library Collection    

This July, 1946 view from the LAPL collection
 was taken shortly before demolition. 
full size view

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     California State Library

Here we're looking south on Grand from 7th Street.
Note the "Theatre" sign on the north side of the Grand
Theatre. The photo is by Martin Behrman,
possibly taken around 1912.   
full size view | data page

There's a larger version of this photo in the collection of
the Los Angeles Public Library. Note that the signage on
the building appears to have "Clune's" painted out.

     Huntington Digital Library    

A 1913 look at the Grand (then the Mozart) at
night by G. Haven Bishop. It's part of a set he did
for the Southern California Edison Co. 

full size view -- and then use the slider to enlarge

A detail from the photo above.

A 1913 view by E.P. Chase of the south side of
the building showing the signage advertising "Safest
Theatre in the City" and "Exclusive Motion Pictures."
full size view


     USC Archives

A c. 1910-1913 view with the theatre's stagehouse
on the left - as the Mozart Grand Ave. Theatre.
It's a photo by Bailey.
full size view

 We're looking northeast with 8th St. running left to
 right and Olive the north/south street. The theatre
fronts on Grand at 8th, off to the left.

In the distance note at center note Pershing
Square and the what would later be called
 the Philharmonic Auditorium.

The large whitish building in the center is the
Los Angeles Athletic Club at 7th & Olive. To its right would
rise the Pantages (later renamed the Warner) in 1920.

At the right there's Bullocks at 7th & Broadway.

A detail from the USC photo.

Also in the collection is the continuation of the view above
off to the right showing Hamburger's at 8th & Hill
| panel #2 |

A November 1917 look west from the Lankershim
Hotel on Broadway.  The street we're looking up at the
right is 7th. It's another view of that nice vacant lot at 7th
 & Hill where the Pantages would rise in 1920.
is panel #2 of a four part panorama by C.C. Pierce.
full size view

A detail from the image above showing the back of
 the theatre, at this time called the Strand. The signage
on the side says it's the Strand Picture House with
 exclusive feature films.
larger detail

Thanks to Hoss C, who posted the 1917 view
on his Noirish Los Angeles post #22830. He was
more interested in the smokestack.