Mason Theatre

127 S. Broadway   | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Opened: 1903 as the Mason Opera House.   

Architect: Benjamin Marshall of Marshall and Wilson with John Parkinson evidently also involved. A 1927 renovation was by Meyer & Holler.  The Mason had an extremely long lobby with the theatre itself set back almost on Hill St.

That's Broad
way at the bottom in this detail from
plate 003 of the 1914 Baist Real Estate Survey map
from Historic Mapworks showing the
Mason auditorium
 ("B") and the entrance building ("A").
  That's 2nd St.
running vertically at the left.

The Mason was the leading stop for dramatic stars in Los Angeles for decades. Just a sampling:

In March 1907 we got a run of "The Free Lance," a comic opera by John Phillip Sousa.  In April, 1911 Sara Bernhardt appeared at the Mason for a four night engagement.  In March 1912 the Mason was running the hit Broadway musical "The Pink Lady." In March 1914 the De Koven Opera Company presented "Robin Hood" and later in the month the Stratford-upon-Avon Players presented seven productions as part of their first American tour.

In April 1918 noted Shakespearean actor Robert Mantell appeared for a two week engagement playing leading roles in King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and other productions. In March 1929 the Mason hosted the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performing "Ruddigore" and other Gilbert & Sullivan productions.  The list goes on and on.

In 1920 A.L. Erlanger was listing himself as owner with Charles Frohman, Inc, Klaw and Erlanger and Oliver Morosco as lessees.  W.T. Wyatt was the manager at the time.

Later in the 20s, the Mason was still part of the Erlanger legit circuit and known as Erlanger's Mason

A cover for an early program at the Mason
 discovered by Sean Ault. Thanks, Sean!
larger view

A 1908 program for the play "Paid in Full" at the
Mason that Larry Harnisch found on eBay. One of the
upcoming shows is to be "The Clansman," the play that
 was the basis for D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," also
titled (originally) "The Clansman." The Daily Mirror post
 "'The Clansman' Comes to Los Angeles" also has several
articles about the furor produced by the play.
An ad for "The Clansman" at the Mason in 1908.
A larger view is on Larry Harnisch's Daily Mirror report
 "The Clansman Comes to Los Angeles Part Two" which
 also has production photos and many articles
about furor caused by the play.

Griffith's film version played its first L.A. engagement
at Clune's Auditorium. Our page on the Auditorium
 includes a program for the film at Clune's from the
 Cezar Del Valle collection.

A cover for a 1913 program discovered on
eBay by Larry Harnisch. It's the subject
 of a post on his blog "The Daily Mirror."
 full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The cover for a 1920 production of "The Mikado"
at the Mason. Larry Harnish has a post about it on
"The Daily Mirror." The item appeared on eBay.
full size view

The draperies on the 1920 program continued
 to the rear cover where it became an ad
 for Jordan automobiles.
Thanks, Larry!

A cover of the 1926 program for "The Butter
and Egg Man" when the theatre was under
Erlanger management.  It's from the
collection of Danni Bayles-Yeager. 
 full size view | entire program

Visit Danni's website:
 Bayles/Yeager Online Archive of the Performing Arts

In the late 30s, the Mason was the site of a number
of Federal Theatre Project productions.

A Library of Congress collection poster for the
WPA Federal Theatre Project production of
 "The Alarm Clock" c. 1936-38 at the Mason.
 full size view

The poster for "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse"
 in 1938 at the Mason Opera House.  It's in
the Library of Congress collection.
 full size view

A Library of Congress collection poster for the
1938 production of "Why Men Leave Home."
 full size view

Also in the  Library of Congress collection:

 | "Brothers" - 1938 | "Counsellor at Law" - 1938  |
| "The Milky Way" - 1938 | "To The Ladies" - 1938 |
 |  "Dracula" - 1938  |

The Mason was later operated for years by Frank Fouce
showing Mexican films as Fouce's Mason Theatre.

Thanks to Ken McIntyre on the Photos of Los Angeles
Facebook page for posting this 1952 ad for the Cantinflas
 film "El Bombero Atomico"  at the Mason.
slightly larger view

Seating: 1,650 seats--2 balconies. Later listed as 1,552. In 1907 it was listed in the Henry's Guide as 1,400.

Stage Specifications: It's listed in the 1907-1908 Henry's Theatrical Guide as having both gas and electric illumination. Proscenium 44' wide x 32 ' high. Stage depth: 47'   Grid height: 86'    Wall to wall: 72'.  See also the specs at right from Cahn's Theatrical Guide.

The Mason in the Movies:

We get a view of the stagehouse of the Mason in this
publicity still for the Harold Lloyd film "Never Weaken"
(Pathe, 1921).

We're looking south on Hill St. The top of the
Mason over on Broadway is at the left -- look for
the three smoke vents on the stagehouse. 
full size view

See John Bengtson's Silent Locations post
 "LA's Early Hills, Tunnels Preserved in Noir-Silent Comedies."

See the Theatres In Movies post on "Never Weaken" for shots
of Loew's State and the Pantages/Warner Downtown from the film.

We get a bit of the Mason's stagehouse in a view from the top of the Hill St.
tunnel in "He Walks By Night" (Eagle-Lion Films, 1948). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of the Olympic Theatre on 8th St. 

The film, directed by Alfred Werker and an uncredited Anthony Mann,
stars Richard Basehart as a quirky killer the LAPD is trying to catch.
The ending features a terrific chase through L.A.'s storm drains. On the
hunt are Scott Brady, Roy Roberts and Jack Webb. 

We get a peek at the Mason stagehouse on the right
beyond the old City Jail in this promotional still from
Douglas Sirk's "Shockproof" (Columbia, 1949) with Cornel
Wilde. That's the L.A. Times building on the left.

Beaudry has this promotional still from the film and lots
 on the jail building in his Noirish Los Angeles post #7413.

We get a look south on Hill St. in "The War
 of the Worlds" (Paramount, 1953). The Mason's
stagehouse is seen over on the left.
See our Theatres In Movies post about
"The War of the Worlds" for a couple of shots on 8th St.
showing the Olympic and the RKO Hillstreet.

Status: Demolished 1956 for a State of California office building. And now that building has been demolished as well. A new one is one the site.

More information: For more on the Mason see the Cinema Treasures page.  Los Angeles in the 1900s has a page about the opening of the Mason.

Pacific Coast Architecture Database has a listing on the Mason.

     L.A. Times

A lovely 1951 photo from the top of City Hall
by Ellis R. Bosworth for the Associated Press.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

A detail of the Mason from the photo above. On the side
of the lobby building: "Frank Fouce's Mason Theatre."
larger detail view

A 2009 photo with the Mason gone. And the
building that replaced it also gone. Just a big hole.
It's a Scott Harrison photo for the L.A. Times.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

Thanks to Kevin W. who included a whole series
of these in his Noirish Los Angeles post #8681.

     Noirish LA -

Ethereal Reality unearthed this wonderful
 view of the Mason Opera House facade for
Noirish Los Angeles post #1757.
It's a photo from the UCLA collection. 
full size view | on Imageshack

It's also on Photos of Los Angeles.

     Photos of Los Angeles

An undated look south along Broadway from 1st St. In the
center, at 3rd St., we see the tower of the Million Dollar.
In the lower right is the Mason, with signage saying "Frank
Fouce's Mason Theatre."  At the far right (halfway up) is the
stagehouse, all the way over on Hill St. 
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

Thanks to Bill Gabel for posting this great photo.

In the foreground on the left side of Broadway, the building with
 the slanted roof is the L.A. Times printing plant. Beyond, the
dome-like roof is the top of the Bradbury Building.

     USC Archives

A 1914 view looking east from Olive Street
  shows the hulking bulk of the side of the Mason
  Theater. We're looking at the side of the
and (to the right) the stagehouse. 

Far in the distance (left of Mason's) one can spy
the Grand Theater on Main Street.
full size view

A c.1908 view of Mason's Opera House
a 1948 issue of Overture magazine in
an article
titled "Music Halls of Yesterday. "
 article | full size view of the photo  

A 1956 view
by Rustan of the lobby
prior to demolition
It's from the
USC's Herald Examiner
full size view

A look south on Broadway c. 1904-5
from the USC collection. 
The Mason
 is on the far right.
full size view

     Vintage Los Angeles

A great postcard view looking south on Broadway added
 by Alison Martino to the Vintage Los Angeles collection. The
facade of the Mason is down there in the center of the card.
But even more prominent is the stagehouse on the far right
with its three smoke vents -- all the way over on Hill St. 
full size view  |  on FB/LAtheatres

The card is dated 1909. The message scribbled on
the front reads:
"We have ate in this restaurant many a time.
Broadway is the main street in Los Angeles - we can walk down
 here to the corner of First and Broadway from where we are
 staying in ten minutes. Bye Bye - Linda."

The card is also part of Los Angeles Past's
 Noirish Los Angeles post #847.

The site of the Mason Theatre.
photo: Google Maps - 2011

We're at 1st St. looking south on Broadway toward 2nd. This block
on the west side of the street with the Mason Theatre and other great
buildings was demolished in 1956 for a State of California office
building which has now also been demolished. 

Click on the image to enlarge or go
 to Google Maps for an interactive view

A new building is now on the site of the Mason.

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     The 1947 Project

A wonderful 3 1/2 minute video collage
of archival photos, newspaper articles and posters
 by Larry Harnisch of the 1947 project.

It's on the 1947 Project siteon YouTube

     A Box of Pictures

An early postcard view looking south with the
Mason's stagehouse and auditorium poking up
two-thirds of the way up on the left .
full size view  | on FB/LAtheatres

Whyaduck on Flickr offers a description:
"That's Broadway in the foreground, running across the lower
left corner of the picture. The five-floor building at left was on the
northwest corner of Broadway and 1st. To the right of it can be seen the
grey stone facade of the old LAPD building, fronting on 1st Street.

Behind the police building, the structure that looks like two
buildings with pitched roofs is the auditorium and taller stage
tower of the old Mason Opera House, which had its main entrance
 (out of frame to the left) on Broadway between 1st and 2nd. The
 date this picture was made has to be no earlier than 1903,
the year the Mason Opera House was opened."

     Cahn's Theatrical Guide    

Stage specs from the 1906-1907 edition of the guide.  
larger view

     California State Library  

Here's an exterior view c.1950 by Arnold Hylen
  from the State Library's collection.   
full size view | data page

Another Hylen view, this time of the auditorium
and stagehouse (over on the left) as seen from
atop the Hill St. tunnels.
full size view

Thanks to Beaudry, who includes the tunnel
 view above (and similar LAPL shots by Ansel Adams) 
in his Noirish Los Angeles post #16062.

The Hylen photo above also appears on our Los Angeles Theatres
Facebook page -- with lots of comments.

As a bonus he gives us a shot of the south entrance
to the Hill St. tunnels from a private collection. He
notes that the whole thing got leveled in 1955-56.
See his Noirish post for the full view.

See John Bengtson's fine post
 "LA's Early Hills, Tunnels Preserved in Noir-Silent Comedies"
 for views of this area as an interesting film location -- you could
 look as if you were dangling over downtown.

Downtown Los Angeles Theatres: The Mason Opera House

A Bunker Hill demo 1955 view, also by Mr. Hylen looking
southeast toward 1st and Hill. The Times - Mirror Press
building can be seen at the left over on Broadway.

Note the stagehouse of the Mason (with its 3 smoke
 vents) almost to the right of the photo. It's an interesting view
 because it shows how deep the Mason building was with the
west side of the theatre almost fronting on Hill St. 

The two tone (lighter on top) building
 facing us on 1st St. is the old L.A. City Jail.

This lower photo came to our attention via
 Noirish Los Angeles post #417 by Gs Jansen.

     Cushman Photography Collection

A 1952 view by Charles W. Cushman of the 100
 block of S. Broadway. We get a glimpse of the
 Mason Theatre at the far right.  full size view

The photo also appears on the
Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.

     Elizabeth Fuller's Old L.A. Postcards  

Elizabeth Fuller has amassed a wonderful collection
Los Angeles postcards--659 at last count. Here's an
early view looking south on Broadway from 1st St. The
 Mason is the light colored building on the right. 
full size view

The card also appears on a
Mason Theatre Postcards
post on our Blogspot page.

     Huntington Digital Library    

A crowd waiting for a production of "Desert Song" at the
Mason in 1928. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo.
full size view

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

A detail of the entrance from the
Huntington Library photo.

A 1955 slide by Palmer Connor taken
 after the theatre had closed.
full size view

August 1956. Palmer Connor's image has us looking
 south on Broadway from 1st toward the Mason.
full size view

Another August 1956 look south. Over on the right
 we get a glimpse of the top of the Mason's stagehouse. 
The whole block was demolished.
 full size view

     L.A. Public Library Collection

A look backstage at the Mason in 1932. 
full size view

An undated view of the house left box.
 full size view

This 1955 interior photo is from
the Library's collection.  
full size image


A 1941 interior view with the ladies
out on a renovation.
full size view

The lobby in 1945. We're looking
 toward the auditorium. 
full size view

The lobby in 1945.
We're looking toward Broadway. 
full size view

More interior views from the LAPL: 

artist's conception - 1903  |  early rear auditorium view  |
lobby fountain - 1910  |    interior drawing - 1924  ladies lounge - undated  |
lobby fountain -1932  organ console - 1932  |
foyer looking toward auditorium - 1947 |  foyer toward Broadway - 1947  |
backstage - 1945  |  auditorium rear - 1945 |
another rear view - toward house right |  screen - 1945 |
 |  vaudeville act - 40s  |
  senoritas onstage - 1949  |   
 |  proscenium view - "The Curtain Falls" - 1955  |

This Ansel Adams photo has us on top of the
now-vanished Hill St. tunnel looking south. That's
the stagehouse of the Mason at the upper left.
full size view  | another shot | yet another

Thanks to Beaudry, who references the Adams
photos in his Noirish Los Angeles post #16062.

See John Bengtson's fine post
 "LA's Early Hills, Tunnels Preserved in Noir-Silent Comedies"
 for views of this area as an interesting film location -- you could
 look as if you were dangling over downtown.

A 1956 look at the theatre after it had
closed and was awaiting demolition.
More exterior views from the LAPL:
| early facade view | facade - "La Vera Dale"  - 50s |
facade - 1940 "Erlanger's Mason" vertical  |
  facade - 1945  |  after closing - 1955 | display cases  |
another entrance view  -"Antonio y Cleopatria" - 1947 |

     A Visit To Old Broadway 

An early postcard view of the facade of the
  Mason Opera House from Brent Dickerson's
  tour of Broadway (Part 2).  Sorry,
that's as big as this one gets.

Another version of the card above appears on
Photos of Los Angeles. It's also on a Mason Postcards
post on our Blogspot page.


Also on Brent's site is this postcard view looking

south on Broadway. The Mason Opera
House building
 is at the
extreme right of the picture.
 slightly larger view

See the USC photos for the black
and white originals of these 2 views.

The bottom view is also in
Elizabeth Fuller's collection:
 | Mason Theatre  |