Mayan Theatre

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1038 S. Hill St.    | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90015

(213) 746-4674

Website: Go to for a a great video tour of the Mayan Theatre.

Architect: Morgan, Walls & Clements. Facade sculpture is by Francisco Cornejo. 

Morgan, Walls & Clements also did the Belasco Theatre (1926) just to the south of the Mayan. The project was financed by developer F.N. Stowall and oil magnate Edward L. Doheny. The Mayan and the Belasco were an attempt to get a new fashionable legit theatre district going west of Broadway.

A look at a Sanborn insurance map located by
Jeff Bridges that shows the Mayan and Belasco.
full size view

Opened: August 15, 1927 as a legit theatre focused on musical comedies. The opening attraction was the musical "Oh, Kay!" with Elsie Janis.

Seating: 1,491. The main floor has been terraced and no longer has fixed seating.

A floorplan of the theatre in 1927 appeared in the book "American Theatres of Today" by by R.W. Sexton and B. F. Betts.  Note the two side stages.

The main floor of the Mayan in Volume 2
of "American Theatres of Today." 
 larger view

The two volumes were published in 1927 and 1930 by the
Architectural Book Publishing Co, New York.
It got a reprint as
one volume in 1977 and 1985 by
the Vestal Press, New York
Theatre Historical Society did another reprint in 2009.
on Amazon |

Main floor and balcony floor plans are also available on the USC Archives site where you can use a slider to enlarge the image -- the resolution is quite good.

History:  The theatre continued as a legit house until a little experiment with movies in mid-1929. Thanks to Jeff Bridges (aka Vokoban) for finding this August 16, 1929 article in the L.A. Times:


The Mayan Theater has gone talkie. Commencing Thursday evening, September 5, the Eleventh and Hill street playhouse, hitherto devoted to spoken plays, will inaugurate a policy of talking pictures to be shown twice daily. The opening attraction will be 'Marianne,' a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer screen musical comedy. Gerhold O. Davis, manager of the Mayan, believes that the best entertainment of the future is to be in the form of talking pictures, and he is installing the finest equipment for reproduction, including a new device which he declares to be sensational in its improvement over the present devices. 'I am thoroughly convinced that the public has taken the up-to-date talking, singing and dancing picture to its heart and prefers it to all other forms of entertainment,' declared Davis last night. 'For that reason I am going to a great expense to equip my theater.' Mr. Davis announces that he will present only the best talkies available. Arrangements are being made for a typical gala premiere."

An ad
for the September 5, 1929 world
premiere of "Marianne" at the Mayan.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the find.
full size view

Sid Grauman was involved in the Mayan in 1931 not as a film presenter but as a legit producer. In January 1931 he presented the west coast company of the George S. Kauffman - Moss Hart satire of Hollywood "Once in a Lifetime."  Of course in ads it was "Sid Grauman's Once in a Lifetime." On April 9 he opened a production of  Elmer Rice's "Street Scene" that ran until mid-May. 

Next was "Mrs Bumpstead-Leigh,"  a comedy starring Mrs. Minnie Maddern Fiske.  "The Man in Possession" starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.  was his last show at the theatre. It opened June 19 and closed July 21, 1931. After that the Mayan went dark.

An ad for "The Man in Possession" at the Mayan
 in 1931. Note that Sid is offering "Summer Prices."
 Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad. 
full size view

In the late 30s the Mayan was being used for WPA Federal Theatre project productions such as "The Weavers, " "Follow the Parade," "Volpone" and many more.

A 1937 ad for W.P.A. Federal Theatre productions
at the Hollywood Playhouse, Mayan and
Mason theatres. Ken McIntyre found it for
his Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
 full size view  | on LAtheatres.blogspot

The Library of Congress collection includes
 this poster for the WPA Federal Theatre Project

 production of Gerhart Hauptmann's

"The Weavers,"  c.1936-41 at the Mayan. 

full size view

A poster in the Library of Congress collection
 for "Green Grow the
Lilacs" in 1937 at the Mayan.
full size view

Also in the LOC collection:
| "Allison's House" -c.36-38  |  "Noah"  | "Censored" - 1936  |
| "Dr. Clitterhouse" -1938 | "Alien Corn" -1938 |
| "The Sun Rises"  | ... and lots more

Also see the
Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection items
 at George Mason University
, where you can search
 their collection by theatre name.

A scene from Duke Ellington's production
 "Jump For Joy" at the Mayan in 1941. It's a
 Los Angeles Public Library photo.
 full size view

 Ellington's "Jump for Joy" with Dorothy Dandridge and Ivie Anderson
one of the more interesting shows to play the theatre.  It ran for 101
performances beginning July 10, 1941 to integrated audiences and caused
quite a stir at a time when many downtown venues were still segregated.

The production is
discussed at length on page 33 of R.J. Smith's
 "The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 40s," Public Affairs, 2006.

A 1943 ad from Ken McIntyre found for his
 Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page has Bill
Robinson (and a cast of 50) appearing at the
Mayan in the revue "Born Happy."
 slightly larger view

An ad in a 1944 issue of Playgoer magazine from
 the Paper Ephemera set of Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr.
 Dorothy Dandridge is in "Sweet 'N Hot", an
"All Star Colored Musical Revue."
 full size view

A pass to get into the "lusty" production of "Desire Under The
Elms" at the Mayan from the collection of Walnut Park based
historian Wally Shidler. Thanks to Wally and also to Michelle
Gerdes for photographing the item and sending it our way. 
full size view

There were occasional forays into adult "artie" films at the theatre as early as 1947 and 1948.  The Mayan then went to Spanish language films throughout the 50s and continued to host occasional stage shows.  It was then operated by Frank Fouce, who was also involved with exhibiting Spanish language product at the California, the Mason and the Million Dollar.

From the late 60s onward it was the "Fabulous Mayan" - a porno venue operated by Carlos Tobalina.  He triplexed it in 1969, work that fortunately has been undone. The theatre closed as a film house in 1990.

Status: The Mayan Theatre is now thriving as a nightclub, Club Mayan.

 about photos from other
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We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
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     The Sean Ault Collection    

It's hard to believe this is the 1000 block of S. Hill St.
with these buildings north of the Mayan gone for decades.
We're looking south in this 1950s view at the sign on the
 north side of the stagehouse.
full size view
| on FB/LATheatres

Thanks, Sean! Sean Ault is a noted historian of transit
 in the Los Angeles area.
You can see many more items
from his Osiris Press transit archive on YouTube.

     California State Library   

The State Library's Mott Studio collection includes
view of the Mayan and Belasco facades -- note
the early version of the roof sign.

full size view | data page

A 1927 Mott Studio look toward the
Belasco from under the Mayan's marquee.
On that readerboard above the entrance is the
theatre's opening attraction "Oh, Kay!"

full size view | data page

The ticket lobby, originally open to the street, in a 1927
 Mott Studio photo. We're looking south toward the boxoffice
windows. Later, the Mayan got an island boxoffice.
 full size view
| data page

More from the California State Library:

The Library has over 60 Mott Studio photos of the Mayan
Theatre from 1927, cataloged rather haphazardly including
duplications as well as alternate takes. Here's what they have:

| set # 001412054 - 16 views including 11 exterior shots - data page |
| set #
001386186 - 16 views including 5 exterior shots - data page |
| set # 
001442998 - 17 views - 16 interior + 1 of ticket lobby - data page |
| set # 001412080 - 14 views - 13 interior + 1 of ticket lobby - data page |

     USC Archives 

A Broadway panorama shot  from 1928 shows a
view down Broadway and the early version of
the Mayan's roof sign (on the lower left).
full size view

 Also visible is the side of the Belasco and its dance studio
windows just to the left of the Herald-Examiner Building.

A 1927 view of the outside ticket lobby looking north.
The boxoffice window is behind us. This area is now
enclosed with new doors at the street -- on the left.
 full size view 
[ also includes a balcony lobby shot ]

Many of the photos in the USC Archive duplicate
holdings at the Los Angeles Public Library collection
-- but frequently at higher resolution in the USC versions.

More exterior views in the USC collection:
  | Mayan and Belasco facades  |  Mayan facade at opening |
| exterior rendering and floorplans  - Morgan, Walls & Clements |
  |  across the street - "Oh, Kay!" |
| facade doorway detail - also in the LAPL collection |
| from across the street -  "Pop Goes the Weasel" - Whittington photo |
| stagehouses - north from Broadway & 11th - c. 1939 |

The Mayan Theatre - one of the most outrageous of the
remaining downtown Los Angeles
movie palaces.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

 [ click on the photos for larger views ]

A facade detail.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

Another facade detail. The painting
scheme dates from the 60s.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

The Mayan in the  Movies:

The Mayan makes it's first of many movie appearances
in "It Couldn't Have Happened - But it Did" (1936).

In "Save The Tiger" (Paramount, 1973) Jack Lemmon
has a business meeting in the balcony. The view here
is a shot outside the Mayan looking north on Hill St.
 larger view

Looking into the lobby in "Save The Tiger."
larger view

A nice shot of  some plaster ornament
from "Save The Tiger."
larger view

In "Save The Tiger" Jack Lemmon and
Jack Gilford are meeting with their friendly
neighborhood arsonist in the balcony.
larger view

A view down the balcony lobby
 in "Save The Tiger."
larger view

More views from "Save The Tiger":
| another balcony shot  |  another exterior  |

Heading to a premiere at the Mayan in
Michael Winner's  "Won Ton Ton, The Dog
Who Saved Hollywood" (Paramount, 1976). 
larger view

Watching a show at the Mayan featuring
our canine star in "Won Ton Ton."
larger view

In "Rock and Roll High School" (New World, 1979)
 we get scenes using the exterior of the theatre where
 people are lining up for a Ramones concert.
 larger view

Later in the evening in "Rock and Roll High School" we get a
 shot of the lit up facade of the Mayan as the "Rockatorium."
The interior scenes for the concert were filmed elsewhere.
Note the quite different marquee in that era compared
to the current exotic treatment.
larger view

Whitney Huston and Kevin Costner do an
evening clubbing at the Mayan in Mick Jackson's
"The Bodyguard" (Warner Bros., 1992).
larger view

A lobby scene with Mr. Costner in "The Bodyguard."
larger view

We get a nice walkabout on the main floor of the
Mayan during the opening credits of Antoine Fuqua's
"The Replacement Killers" (Columbia, 1998).  It ends
with some mayhem featuring Chow Yun-Fat.
 larger view

A look back at the rear of the auditorium during the
opening sequence of "The Replacement Killers."  The film
 also gives us Tower and Million Dollar exterior
shots as well as a visit inside the Orpheum.
larger view

We see a lot of the Mayan in Willard Carroll's
"Playing by Heart" (Miramax, 1998).  The film
also visits the Geffen and the Sunset 5

larger view

In the balcony lobby with Angelina Jolie and Ryan
 Phillippe in "Playing By Heart." She's negotiating
 a split of the kitchen and furniture items with a soon-
to-be ex-boyfriend. She doesn't want the Ikea stuff.

Angelina Jolie at the bar area at the rear of
 the main floor in "Playing By Heart."

Another exterior shot of the
 Mayan in "Playing By Heart."

The Mayan also appears in
 "Night at the Roxbury" (1998).

Pimped out in red, Vince Vaughn has a violent evening in
the parking lot across the street from the Mayan
in F. Gary
Gray's "Be Cool" (MGM, 2005).
We also have scenes inside,
 mostly onstage, and don't get much of a tour.

  "Be Cool" also visits the Shrine and the Chinese
See our Theatres in Movies post about
 "Be Cool" for shots at those theatres.

  IMDb has a page on films shot at the Mayan.

     L.A. Public Library Collection

A 1927 look at the Mayan and the Belasco.
 At the Mayan: Elsie Janis in "Oh, Kay," the
theatre's opening attraction.  At the Belasco:
 "The Great Necker" with Taylor Holmes."
full size view | similar shot, a bit closer

Note the original look of the facade --
before the splashy paint job of the 60s.

A 1927 exterior detail from the Padilla Co.
The doorway leads to the exit passageway
along the south side of the theatre.
  full size view | in the USC Archives

A nice 1983 view by Michael Edwards
 of the Mayan in its porno days.

More exterior views from the Library's collection:
facade construction - 1927  |  facade & roof sign - 1927  |
  |  another '27 facade view - straight on |
 |  1937 exterior - O'Neill's "Days Without End" |
1937 - "Days Without End" - Herman Schultheis  |
| "Run, Little Chillun" -  entrance c.1937 - Schultheis |
| vertical sign at night - "Home of Mexican Films" - Julian Mitchell  |
marquee at night - Julian Mitchell  |
| painting the exterior  - 1965 - "101 Acts of Love"  |
| corner view - 1989 - Steve Grayson |

     L.A. Times Collection - UCLA  |

A 1988 L.A. Times "Last Remaining Seats" view
by Mike Meadows that's in the UCLA archives
full size view | on Calisphere

     Photos of Los Angeles

A "world premiere" at the "Fabulous Mayan," as it was styled
in its porno days when operated by Carlos Tobalina. Ken
McIntyre found the photo for Photos of Los Angeles. 

 In this photo the ticket lobby area is still open to
the street. Doors were later added at the sidewalk
 line. Note the center boxoffice, now removed.

More Information:

See "Mayan Theatre in the 80's" -- an 8 1/2 minute video on the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's YouTube channel.

Cinema Tour  has some photos of the Mayan (mostly exteriors).

The Cinema Treasures page on the Mayan has lots more historical information about the theatre and 19 photos, mostly exterior views.  Ken McIntyre has links on the Cinema Treasures Mayan for some Mayan ads he's located: September 1929 |   1931 ad   |  1948 ad  |   1958 ad  |

See the Mayan Theatre set  of Jeff Bridges on Flickr for 39 views of the theatre.

See Charles Beardsley's "Hollywood's Master Showman - The Legendary Sid Grauman," Cornwall Books, 1983 for information about Sid's legit presentations at the Mayan.

more pages on the mayan theatre :
  recent exterior views  |  lobby  |  lounges  |
balcony lobby  |  auditorium  | 
stage  |  more  |