Grand Opera House

110 S. Main St.   
| map |

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Opened: May 24, 1884 as Child's Opera House but was also known even initially as the Grand Opera House. The address before street renumbering was 10 S. Main.

Sarah Bernhardt performed in "La Tosca" at the Grand on September 14, 1891.

Starting in December 1894 this became the Orpheum -- the first home for Orpheum Circuit vaudeville in Los Angeles.  Orpheum moved in 1903 to what was later known as the Lyceum Theatre

First Film Exhibition in Los Angeles: On July 6, 1896, the theatre was the site of the first commercial exhibition of motion pictures in Los Angeles. Several films from the Edison studio were projected by Billy Porter, who went on to become a noted silent film director. 

"Before The Nickelodeon - Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company" by Charles  Musser (University of California Press, 1991) has a fine account of early film history. In Chapter 4 of the book the first film showings in Los Angeles are discussed. Head to page 81 for all the details.

The equipment then went on a tour of other vaudeville houses for several weeks before being set up at the rear of Tally's Phonograph & Vitascope Parlor on Spring St.

Later Years at the Grand: In 1912 the theatre was known as Clune's Grand. With increased competition from newer theatres, the Grand became a showplace for Mexican stage shows and movies in the 20's as Teatro Mexico.

Architects: Ezra F. Kysor and Octavius Morgan, whose firm later became Morgan and Walls (Arcade Theatre) and later Morgan, Walls and Clements (Mayan, Belasco and many others).  Kysor had earlier designed the Merced Theatre.

Seating: 1,500 initially. Later listed as 1,440 and 1,311 depending on the date and source.

Status: Closed April 5, 1936 and was soon demolished for a parking lot. It's now the site of the California Department of Transportation building.

More information: A good history of the Grand by Joe Vogel and other contributors as well as a lively discussion of other early Los Angeles theaters is on Cinema Treasures.

See the Cameo Theatre page for an exhibition timeline for Billy Clune.

     L.A. Public Library Collection  

An early facade view. The Grand is
running "Uncle Tom's Cabin." 
full size view

Another facade view -- possibly around 1920 -- "Best
Show In Town."  Notice the change in streetlights.
    full size view

A view of the facade from the
Library's collection. Possibly 1929. 
full size image

A late 20s street view looking south. Note the
 Teatro Mexico sign on the stagehouse.
   full size view

A look at the facade in 1936 when
 the building was closing. 
full size view

More exteriors from the Library's collection:
| 1889 view looking north -- same as USC photo |
| another version of the 1889 photo |
| 20s street view looking north
| another facade view -- 10 cent movie house  |

Sidewall and boxes of the
 Grand Opera House.
  full size view

A detail of the boxes taken in 1936.
  full size view

A sidewall detail from 1936.

An 1898 view of the rear of the house taken
 while the theatre was the Orpheum.
full size view

More interiors from the Library collection:
  | performers backstage -1936 | props backstage  |

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     Julius Cahn's Theatrical Guide    

On Google Books

"Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide"
 1897 edition (volume 2) lists information for
 the Orpheum Theatre (as the Grand was
 called then) in its Los Angeles Theatres
section on P. 193:

Chas. Schimpf, Mgr.

Prices 50c, 25c, 10c

Illumination, gas and electric

Width prosc. opening, 31 ft.    
3 bridges at back
Height Prosc. opening, 31 ft.
Scene Room.       
Distance between side walls, 70 ft. 
4 grooves.
Distance between fly girders, 45 ft. 
Stage to rigging loft, 65 ft.  
Depth under stage, 10 ft
3 traps.

F. Getzler, stage carpenter
M. Cullen, prop man

7 in orchestra  
D. Romandy, leader

It's also listed in the Cahn's 1900-1901 edition
with the seating capacity as 1,650.

Note: The 1907-1908 Henry's Theatrical Guide says
the proscenium height was only 28'. Henry's tells us
that the Grand had a stage depth of 40 feet.

     Jeff Bridges on Flickr  

A nice mapping job by Jeff (aka vokoban)
 for Cinema Treasures shows the positioning
of the Grand Theatre. 
 larger map

Also see Jeff's Mainly Main poster set on
 Flickr for maps of the theatres on Main St..

     California State Library  

An 1890 view of the facade
of the Grand Opera House.  
  full size view | data page

     Huntington Digital Library

A look west toward the stagehouse of the Grand
 (here as the "Teatro Mexico") and on toward
Broadway. Photographer and date are unknown.

A detail of the barn-shaped Teatro Mexico
stagehouse from the image above. The tower
beyond is the old L.A. Times Building.
larger detail view

Thanks to BifRayRock for including the
image in his Noirish Los Angeles post #22357.

     Photos of Los Angeles

A communist demonstration in 1930. A great
view looking north that shows the "Teatro Mexico"
 in relation to City Hall.
 full size view

     USC Archives

A wonderful view of Main Street looking
north c.1889. That's the Grand Opera
House on the right. 
full size view

The view above also appears in
the Huntington Digital Library.

The program for the first Orpheum circuit
vaudeville presentation at the Grand in
December 1894 from the USC Archives. 
full size view