Liberty Theatre

266 S. Main St.   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Opening: 1911. An article discovered by Cezar Del Valle in the April 1, 1911 issue of Moving Picture World says the facade notes the date of erection (1910) but also notes that it was "completed early in the year," meaning they didn't get open until 1911.

Architect: A.C. Martin.  Martin was a well known Los Angeles architect. His other work included the building housing the Million Dollar Theatre.

Seating: 540

The construction firm of P.J. Bolin built the structure for proprietors Kaiser, Sturm and Hughes.  The building is described at length in the Moving Picture World article:

"The 'Liberty' is one of the city's eight first-class moving picture theaters. The selection of the theater site was chosen with exceptionally good judgement. The theater is located in the heart of the business district at 266-68 South Main Street, at the intersection of Third and Main Streets.

The front facade is of stucco and plaster-covered brick, the paneling and cornices outlined in small electric lights at night. The gold leaf statue crowning the cornice is ten feet in height, and, symbolizing liberty, holds aloft an electric torch. At the base of the statue in a laurel leaf gilded shield is the date of erection, 1910. Below this, on the crown of the shell-shaped lobby ceiling, is a second shield in gold leaf with the theater name 'Liberty.'

The floor of the lobby is of white tile, inlaid with a series of swastika design borders in green tile. The side walls of the lobby are wainscoted in white Italian marble to a height of eight feet, crowning which is a twelve-inch molded cap of mahogany. The entrance doors are of mahogany, their bases trimmed in brass, and their upper panels of plate glass.

The box office is roomy. It is also wainscoted in marble, the woodwork of the upper part  being in mahogany and the windows of plate glass. The brick wall of the lobby contains a beautiful leaded art glass window, semi-circular in shape, with a landscape design of beautiful coloring, especially so when seen illuminated at night. Bordering the design are the words 'Continuous Performance.' Radiating from the art glass window, which forms the nucleus of the shell, are a series of stucco shell ribs, each containing fifteen clear-globed eight-candlepower lights.

The inner lobby leading to the auditorium is 15x20 feet in size. The floor is of white tile, with six inch baseboard of marble. The lobby is paneled in oak to a height of 30 inches, above which it is covered with an imitation leather fabric.

Opening off the lobby are retiring rooms for both men and women, the rooms also being finished in tile and marble. A narrow stairway opening off the lobby leads to the office, operators booth and organ loft. The operators booth is roomy and is equipped with the latest apparatus, including two Edengraph projectoscopes and a stereopticon. To the right of the operator's balcony is the organ loft, containing a large pipe organ, a valuable addition to the orchestra in accompanying religious and special films.
The [auditorium] seats are of wood with iron standards. The side walls of the auditorium are paneled to a height of three feet in oak, above which are a series of five landscape paintings on each side, the borders of which are outlined with stenciled designs of a darker shade than the light green color scheme of the side walls. The height of the auditorium is twenty-four feet, and the stage is sixteen feet square. Facing the stage on each side are singing booths.

The auditorium is illuminated by ceiling lights and ten pairs of art glass side lights of tulip design with green globes. The ceiling is of white plaster with cream trim, and from it are suspended five electric fans.

The theatre is showing four first-run licensed films, and one illustrated song, except on Saturdays and Sundays, when two songs are used. The theater employs ten people. Girl ushers look after the seating arrangements. Five cents admission is charged to all parts of the house.

The theatre was completed early in the year and has played to good business ever since."

Thanks, Cezar!

The 1911 city directory lists it under "moving picture theaters" both as Kaiser, Sturm & Hughes and as the Liberty. In the 1913 directory it gets a listing as Sturm, Hughes & Rittigstein. It's in the 1915 city directory as the Liberty (but not the 1914 edition). It was still in the 1929 city directory but perhaps it had closed by 1930. 

The Liberty was on the Baist 1914 real estate
survey map, a detail of which showing the 3rd & Main
 intersection is seen here. Note the jog 3rd made
at the time appears on this 1914 map detail.
larger view
| more maps

The map is from from the website of Historic Mapworks.
It's from the 1914 Baist's Real Estate Survey map Plate 002.

Status: Part of the property was lost when 3rd St. was pushed through to eliminate a jog at Main St. The theatre sat squarely at the east end of the street.

The triangular building remaining at 3rd and Main which is what's left of the Liberty Theatre. The angled deco facade is obviously grafted on to a much older building.

The building now houses a wholesale merchandise distributor. The current address of the building is 103 E. 3rd St. as it no longer has much frontage (or an entrance) on Main St. The City Planning Department lists the building as being constructed in 1910 with substantial remodeling in 1926.

A 2010 look at the building.

photo: Bill Counter

[ click on either of these for larger views  ]

A look down 3rd. St toward Main in 2010.
Before the jog was smoothed out, the Liberty
anchored the end of the street. 

photo: Bill Counter

More information on the Liberty: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Liberty Theatre. Also see the Cinema Treasures page on the Tally's location at 311 S. Spring St. for many comments about his 262 S. Main St. location as well as the Liberty Theatre. 

There's a record of an organ being installed at the Liberty in 1907 that's mentioned in a post on Cinema Treasures. Perhaps that bit of data is wrong -- or perhaps there was an earlier Liberty Theatre in Los Angeles. A Liberty Theatre is not listed in the 1908 city directory.

Vokoban (Jeff Bridges) has a nice aerial view and vintage insurance map of 3rd & Main on Flickr.

The building that remains from the Liberty is featured in an interesting Noirish Los Angeles post #3286 by Gaylord Wilshire. The post also has several nice views of recent construction just north of the building.

A couple doors north: Just north of the Liberty was Tally's Electric Theatre (later the Lyric), considered to be the first purpose built structure in Los Angeles for film exhibition.  The 262 S. Main location of Tally's/Lyric is on Cinema Treasures under a later name, Glockner's Automatic.

Nearby: See the Main Street Theatres page for several others in this block including the Denver, the Union and the Linda Lea. A new theatre on the Linda Lea site, the Downtown Independent, continues the long history of film exhibition on the block.

The other Liberty Theatre: In the 40s the theatre at 136 S. Main St. used the Liberty name. See the listing on our Main Street Theatres page for that one under its earlier name Novelty TheatreAlso see Cinema Treasures page about that 136 S. Main Liberty Theatre

     Los Angeles Public Library

A 1991 view of the building in the LAPL collection.
full size view

     USC Archives

An undated view east on 3rd toward the Liberty
 from the California Historical Society collection.
It's pre-1918 -- there's no Million Dollar
Theatre at 3rd & Broadway.
 full size view

A detail from the view above.

A great 1922 view from the USC Archives
. We're looking
east on Third from atop the Third St. tunnel. The building in
the way where Third meets Main is the Liberty Theatre.

The lower photo is on Photos of Los Angeles as a post by Paul
Wisman. It also appears with some additional Angel's flight
photos on BifrayRock's Noirish Los Angeles post #12293.

A look down the block south toward 3rd before the
Liberty got built. A sign for Glockner's Automatic Theatre
shows up on the left at 262 S. Main. That theatre was
 earlier called Tally's Electric, opening in 1902.
full size view

The sliver of a building with a restaurant just beyond
Glockner's will be demolished for the Liberty Theatre. Beyond that,
 we see the Gray hotel building on the NE corner of 3rd & Main.

USC dates the photo above as c.1918 and as looking south from
3rd.  But it's earlier (like pre-1911) and we're actually looking toward
3rd -- a 200 something address can be seen on an awning.

See the L.A. City Historical Society
straight-on 1929 view of the buildings.

A glorious postcard view of the Liberty facade.

It shows up in several versions. There's a larger view of this
one as a post by
Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.

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     Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks |

Another version of the Liberty card with
 different coloration is this one in Cezar's
collection postmarked 1918. The message
 read "Just one of our many 5 cent theatres."
 full size view

A view of the theatre from the April 1, 1911
 issue of Moving Picture World.
full size view

See Cezar's 2012 post about the
 Liberty Theatre  for the full article.

Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian. For other
 interesting material see his website Theatre Talks
and visit him on Facebook.

     Huntington Digital Library

A 1912 view looking east on 3rd toward the
 Liberty Theatre. It's a view by G. Haven Bishop
taken for Southern California Edison.
full size view

On the Huntington Library pages you can
use the slider to get a larger image -- then you
can pan around to explore details.

Also see another version the HDL
dates as a January 7, 1911 shot.

A detail from the Huntington Library photo.
Usually Mr. Bishop's photos are crystal clear
 but, sadly, this one isn't.

Another 1912 G. Haven Bishop view giving us a closer
look at the Liberty's great facade. Again, it was a photo
commissioned by Southern California Edison.
 full size view

A detail of the stained glass above the
entrance doors from the view above.

A 1960 view of the 3rd & Main intersection looking
west by Palmer Connor. That diagonally sheared off
 building on the right is the remnant of the Liberty.
full size view

The photo is taking note of the building straight ahead
that's getting lopped off to become a one story building.
 It was designed by A.M. Edelman, architect of
the Empress and Follies theatres.

     L.A. City Historical Society     

A delightful September 24, 1929 look at the Liberty
 from the Los Angeles City Archives Department of
Engineering Historical Photos collection.
full size view | LACHS data page

We're running "The Primrose Path," a 1925 Clara Bow feature.
Also on the bill is "Adventures in the Far North,"  a 1923 travel film.

That's the Gray Hotel on the right, coming down soon. Perhaps the
Liberty is also in its last days. The Harris Hardware store building
 on the left was once the home of Tally's Electric Theatre,
later called the Lyric and Glockner's Automatic.

Thanks to FredH, who included the photo in his
 Noirish Los Angeles post #23527.  And also to ace theatre
photographer Hunter Kerhart for sending it our way.

     A Visit To Old Los Angeles

A view of the Liberty from several blocks west on
3rd St. 
You jogged right to continue east on 3rd.
slightly larger view

Check out Brent Dickerson's Tour of Main Street.
 It's just one of many interesting adventures on his
site. Details are on the
site's index page.