Lyceum Theatre

227 S. Spring St.   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Opened: 1888 as the Los Angeles Theatre. The theatre was built by William Hayes Perry and the building containing it was known as the Perry Building.

Architects: F. J. Capitain and J. Lee Burton. The building has also been credited to John Paul Kremple. See "A History of California..." by James Miller Guinn on Google Books for more information on Kremple.

Seating: 1,488 originally on the main floor and two balconies. Moving Picture news in 1914 reported that as J.A. Quinn had increased the capacity to 2,000.
They were only using 800 during its last days as a movie theatre. 

Mr. Perry himself comments on the building:

" I ... owned the 1st theater known as the Los Angeles Theater back in the 1890's. When my daughter Mamie (Mary Barker Modini-Wood) returned from her vocal lessons in Italy in 1881, she became an instant celebrity in the city. Her first opera performance was a sellout in just hours and she was commanded to make many performances throughout her life... Later when my daughter married Carlo Modini-Wood, he became manager of the opera house." 

The quote appears in Floyd Bariscale's Big Orange Landmarks story about the current Los Angeles Theatre (615 S. Broadway).

A portion of a 1900 vintage drawing of downtown
that Ken McIntyre located while researching the Lyceum
 for Cinema Treasures. The theatre is visible in the upper left.
full size view  | on Photobucket

An ad for the Los Angeles Theatre discovered
by Ken McIntyre for Photos of Los Angeles. Here
the theatre is running vaudeville under Sullivan
and Considine management.  
full size view

"Where Everybody Goes"
 We get photos of Sullivan and Considine as well as a lovely
showgirl in this poster for vaudeville at the Los Angeles Theatre.
The poster image has been turned into, of all things, a refrigerator
 magnet. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for finding it on eBay.

In 1903 this interesting Richardsonian Romanesque building became the Orpheum - the second home of Orpheum Circuit vaudeville in Los Angeles. Previously they'd been at the Grand Opera House.

A c.1910 postcard for Captain George Auger and his troupe
 in "Jack, the Giant Killer," a play he wrote that premiered on the
Orpheum circuit and kicked around for about ten years. Auger, known
 as the Cardiff Giant, was about 7 1/2 feet tall. He'd been in Queen
Victoria's guard (she gave him the honorific of Captain) and
 appeared with Barnum & Bailey, among other adventures.
Auger evidently did the play at least twice in Los Angeles. The October
4, 1910 Los Angeles Herald mentions an engagement then as being his
second. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for finding this strange item!

Orpheum moved on in June, 1911 to their new home at 630 S. Broadway (now the Palace Theatre).  After the Orpheum operation moved this building became known as the Lyceum. The 1911 city directory lists it under the new name.

In 1912 it's listed as Fischer's Lyceum when it was operated by the Mr. Fischer of Fischer's Theatre on 1st St.  Oliver Morosco then tried his hand at running it as well.

A 1911 ad for the theatre as Fischer's Lyceum
that was discovered by Ken McIntyre.
full size view

An L.A.Times article in 1913 discusses the end of vaudeville and legit at the Lyceum as the theatre turns to movies:

"LYCEUM OPENS WITH 'MOVIES."  Popular Playhouse Takes Unique Place Here.  Tomorrow afternoon will mark the re-opening of the Lyceum Theater, ending a brief period of darkness, and with the re-opening it will mark the establishing in Los Angeles of a real feature picture theater of the better class devoted exclusively to the showing of the biggest and most attractive feature films now being produced in the American and foreign markets.

Particularly timely and appropriate are the opening pictures "The Battle of Gettysburg," for it was just fifty years ago that this great three day battle came to an end..."

A nice article on the Internet Archive about J.A. Quinn and his theatres is in the Moving Picture World issue of March 28, 1914.  After talking about the Bijou and the Garrick the article discusses Quinn's management of this theatre, as Quinn's Lyceum:

"The next step in Mr. Quinn's ascension to the limelight of picture theater proprietors was the leasing of the old Orpheum, on Spring Street, from Ollie Morosco. He had the entire house redecorated and had the seating capacity increased to two thousand.

Three thousand additional incandescent lights were added to the front illumination, and the name was changed to Quinn's Lyceum. The admission price to this house is five cents, and we learn from the Quinn company that it is the biggest and best five-cent picture theater in the world. Heavy newspaper and billboard advertising brought to the yes of the public that Quinn is doing things on a phenomenal scale.

Business is exceedingly good at this house. Big feature reels are constantly introduced as additional attractions, and according to a representative of the Quinn company, concerns with meritorious special features go to Quinn first as he spares no money to gives [sic] his patrons the best.

It is said that prior to the leasing of the old Orpheum Theater, the house had had a career of almost incessant failures. It was known as a theatrical graveyard, but in spite of all this Mr. Quinn leased the house, converted it into a big picture theater, and has been reaping a harvest of greenbacks ever since. "

A view of the Lyceum all in lights
from the 1914 Moving Picture
World article about J.A. Quinn.
 larger view

Later the theatre was just known as the Lyceum Theatre. It's just listed as the Lyceum from the 1916 city directory onward. 

Status: Closed in 1941 as the Lyceum and was demolished the same year. The site is now the L.A. Times parking garage.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Lyceum for a great discussion.  

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

Other theatres called the Los Angeles include the current Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway and another one on Spring St. that was later called the Empress.

     L.A. Times

The November 11, 1922 Armistice Day Parade passes
the Lyceum Theatre. It's a George Watson photo for the
 L.A. Times. Thanks to William Noviello for posting it on
the Facebook page America in the 20s -- and Harriet Neal
 for sharing it on Photos of Los Angeles.
full size view
| on America in the 20s

     USC Archives

Looking north on Spring toward the
Lyceum Hall and the Lyceum Theatre.
 USC dates this as c.1905.
full size  view

A narrower version of the photo above. On the
 left, the building with the big arch on the 2nd floor
 is Lyceum Hall. Just beyond is the tower of the Lyceum
Theatre - just above the back of the first streetcar. 
full size view 

A detail of Lyceum Hall and the Lyceum
Theatre beyond from the USC photo above.

Look at this wonderful view looking north
on Spring Street toward City Hall.  The Lyceum
 is advertising "Hear Every Word."
full size view

Over on the far left of the view above we get a glimpse
of Broadway including the Mason Theatre.
The signage reads "Erlanger's Mason."

A 1939 view by the Dick Whittington
 Studio from the USC Archives.
full size view

"Best Sound on Earth"
"Best Programs 10 cents"

A detail of the USC Archives image above.

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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 Los Angeles Theatre (as the Lyceum was
 called then) in its Los Angeles Theatres
section on P. 193:

H.C. Wyatt, Mgr.  and Bus. Mgr
Len Bekymer, Press Agt.

Orchestra, $1  Balcony, 75c and 50c
Gallery, 25c Admission, $1.

Orchestra, 532   Balcony, 406   Gallery,  550

Illum., elec. Volt., 110. Westinghouse
Wm. Sumner, elec.

Width prosc. opening, 30 ft.    
Height prosc. opening, 29 ft.
Footlights to back walls, 35 ft.
Distance curtain line to footlights, 4 ft. 
Distance between side walls, 60 ft. 
Distance between fly girders, 48 ft. 
Stage to rigging loft, 72 ft.  
Depth under stage, 10 ft.
Number of traps, 3rd and 4th entr., center.
Scene room
Theatre on ground floor.

F. Teaburry, scenic artist
Ed. Spinger, prop man

10 in orchestra   Harley Hamilton, leader

It's also listed in the Cahn's 1900-1901 edition.

It's listed in the 1907-1908 Henry's Theatrical Guide
(as the Orpheum Theatre) but with somewhat different specs.

     California State Library

The State Library collection has this c. 1897 view
of the Lyceum Theatre published as a souvenir card
by J.B. Blanchard & Co.

The Lyceum is the turreted building in the center. It
would have been still called the Los Angeles Theatre at
the time of the photo -- which is how the label reads.

 The building on the left was later known as Lyceum Hall.
full size view | data page


     Huntington Digital Library

A 1919 view taken from the roof of the Million Dollar
Theatre building. It's a photo taken by G. Haven Bishop
taken for for Southern California Edison -- they were the
tenants of the building housing the Million Dollar
-- then known as the Edison Building.
full size view

A detail from the photo above showing the rear and west
side of the Lyceum Theatre. Note the Orpheum signage.
But Orpheum had moved out in 1911 to the theatre on
 Broadway now known as the Palace.
Click on the image for a larger view.

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

     L.A. Public Library Collection 

A c.1890 view of the entrance to what was
then called the Los Angeles Theatre.
 full size view

 Looking north toward 2nd Street.
 Lyceum Hall is in the foreground
with the Lyceum Theatre farther north
with the turreted roof.  
 full size view

An exterior view while called the Orpheum --
note the Orpheum flag flying. This was the second
home of the Orpheum circuit in Los Angeles. 
full size view

A 1919 exterior shot from the
Library collection.
full size view

Another later view from the north. Note that
the Lyceum Hall building to the left has
 been demolished. 
 full size view

A Herald Examiner photo of the theatre in 1941,
the year of its demolition.  On the marquee:
"Best Programs Ten Cents" 
"J Hersholt in Meet Dr. Christian 
"T Ritter Down The Wyoming Trail"
The Library's caption for the photo:
"Street view of the Lyceum Theatre, located at 227 South Spring
Street, is the second oldest showhouse built in the city. Originally
 known as the Los Angeles Theater, where stars of yesteryear appeared,
the theater will be razed to become a parking lot. Beneath it is one
of the original springs from which Spring Street derived its
 name. Photo dated: January 15, 1941."

An interior shot of the balcony sidewall
from 1941, prior to demolition. 
full size view

A 1941 look at the house right boxes.
full size view

More exterior views from the library collection:
| backwall c. 1903 - 1910  - with "Orpheum"signage |
facade - 1920 |  facade - 1920 - better version |
| looking south on Spring - 1920  |
| exterior - 1935 - "Talking Pictures"  |

     Photos of Los Angeles

A c.1903 view discovered by Ken McIntyre. We're
looking south on Spring St. from 3rd. Note the
Orpheum signage on the side of the building.
 full size view  |  on FB/LAtheatres

A detail from the view above.

A look north on Spring in 1902 -- a bit different
than the USC version. It's post of Murray Cohen
on Photos of Los Angeles.
Thanks to Deanna Bayless for
spotting this lower photo!