Mayan Theatre

1038 S. Hill St.    | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90015

(213) 746-4674

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

Architect: Morgan, Walls & Clements. Facade sculpture is by Francisco Cornejo.  Public Art in L.A. has a page about Cornejo. The custom tile work in the ticket lobby floor was done by Malibu Pottery.

Morgan, Walls & Clements also did the Belasco Theatre (1926) just to the south of the Mayan. The two theatres were owned by oil magnate Edward L. Doheny and a partner, retired investor Nathan W. Stowell.  The Mayan and the Belasco were an attempt to get a new fashionable legit theatre district going west of Broadway.  The Doheny estate ended up owning the buildings. 

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

The theatre occupies a lot with 100' of frontage on Hill St. and 150' in depth. The project was reported to have cost $850,000.

Opened: August 15, 1927 as a legit theatre focused on musical comedies. The opening attraction was the Gershwin musical "Oh, Kay!" with Elsie Janis.  The house was managed by the same team that ran the Belasco: Gerhold Davis and Edward Belasco.

Seating: 1,491 -- with half on the main floor and half in the balcony. L.A. theatre historian Ed Kelsey comments that the seats were all red velvet. The main floor has been terraced and no longer has fixed seating.  The original risers remain in the balcony but the seats have been removed. Want to sit? They'll give you a cushion.

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.

The July 31, 1927 L.A. Times had an article describing the new theatre. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Jeff Bridges for tracking it down.


Mayan of Indian Design, Erected on Hill Street at Cost of $850,000, to open soon. The newest Los Angeles theater, the Mayan, erected at a cost of $850,000, is situated on Hill street between Tenth and Eleventh streets, next door to the Belasco, and is the first to follow the earliest-known American mode, the Mayan. The property, fronting 100 feet on Hill street, with depth of 150 feet, is a Class A reinforced concrete structure, and will be devoted solely to the presentation of musical comedies. The theater will have its premiere August 15, next. Gerhold O. Davis, who, with Edward Belasco and Fred Butler, is lessee of the new Belasco Theater, has leased the Mayan for twenty years from the owner, N.W. Stowell. The auditorium has a seating capacity of 1500, with 750 chairs on the main floor and 750 in the balcony. Offices are located on the second floor in front.


Into the structure, the architects have incorporated the most modern design and equipment architecturally. The exterior is in ornamental stone designed by a young Mexican artist, Francisco Cornejo, who in his interior design and color, has embodied the findings of his extensive research into earliest known American and Mexican art, with a predominance of blue, brown, red and gold tones. Doorways, proscenium arches and the ceilings are of ornamental stone in Mayan design. The selection of the Mayan motif by Gerhold O. Davis was the result of important archeological discoveries in Central America a year ago.

Entrance to the theater is through a large outer lobby, 18 x 32 feet, into the downstairs foyer. This and the mezzanine foyer, running the full width of the building, are decorated and furnished for the comfort of patrons during intermission, and smoking will be permitted in them as a result of the recent removal by the City Council of the ban on smoking in such places. Retiring rooms open off the mezzanine lounge. Auditorium illumination is by an indirect system. The large figure of the Mayan sun rays, from whose circumference the entire ceiling is lighted in white and amber tones, is in turn lighted by green and blue lights from a pendant fixture.


Of exceptional interest because it is the first time in America such practice has been followed, is the use of a twelve-foot connecting stage, on each side of the main stage, which is thirty-eight feet deep and has a width of forty-two feet. Space for fifty musicians is provided in the orchestra pit, which is 10 x 38 feet. From this two stairways lead below stage, to the musicians' room, which is 35 x 11 feet. An interesting innovation in stage lighting is the use of a balcony fifteen feet above stage level for the switchboard panel.

With the exception of the de luxe star quarters just above the stage level, equipped with a suite of three rooms, and a star room on the stage level, all dressing-rooms open off the green room below, which is 45 x 25 feet. These include two star dressing-rooms, three dressing-rooms accommodating three persons each, five chorus rooms-two accommodating twenty-three each, two accommodating eight and one for six persons. On this level are also the wardrobe room and ventilating system. All downstairs rooms are well ventilated. Shower rooms for the convenience of the players are also in the basement. Ground was broken for the Mayan Theater last August, and the general contract awarded to the Scofield Engineering Company."

History:  The theatre continued as a legit house until a little experiment with movies in mid-1929. Thanks to Jeff Bridges 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.  They got a 5 1/2 week run out of it.
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." Later the production traveled north to the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, opening April 20, 1931.

On April 9 Sid opened a production of  Elmer Rice's "Street Scene" at the Mayan 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 for awhile.

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

Homer Curran, the San Francisco theatre owner and producer, sent some of his shows south to the Mayan in the early 30s, according to Ed Kelsey. 

The WPA Federal Theatre project at the Mayan:

From 1936 until at least 1939 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 Photos of LA

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

 production of Gerhart Hauptmann's
"The Weavers,"
at the Mayan. 
They don't want to give us a date.
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.
| "Follow the Parade" - 1936 |"Parade" - telegram from Gershwin  |
| "Blind Alley" - 1937 | "The World We Live In" - 1937 |
| free shows flyer - 1937 | another free shows flyer - 1937 |
| "It Can't Happen Here" - 1937 | "The Weavers" - 1937 |

"Run Little Chillun" - 1938 | "The Sun Rises in the West" - 1938 |
| "Alison's House" - c.1938 | "Judgement Day" - 1938 |

The Los Angeles Public Library collection has a look
at the stage taken by Herman Schultheis during a
 scene from "Run, Little Chillun" in 1938.

The Mayan in the 40s:

Duke Ellington's "Jump for Joy" with Dorothy Dandridge and Ivie Anderson was 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 cover of the program for "Jump For Joy."
Thanks to Ken McIntyre on the Facebook page
 Photos of Los Angeles for the find.
full size view | on Photos of LA

An illustration of the fun ahead in
"Jump For Joy." Thanks, Ken!

See our "Jump For Joy" blogspot post for some interior pages from the program. They're also with Ken McIntyre's Photos of Los Angeles post.  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 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

Duke Ellington at the Mayan for "Jump for Joy."

It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
full size view

More 40s performance photos from the LAPL: 

| Louise Franklin & Duke Ellington - "Jump For Joy" - 1941 |
| chorus line  - "Jump For Joy" | backstage 1944 - "Sweet 'N Hot"  |
| Marie Bryant -"scorches the patrons with her 'Hot
Muchacha' number in 'Sweet 'N Hot.'" | Bryant onstage |

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

Ed Kelsey notes that post-war, the theatre tried a bit of everything to see what would bring in an audience. There were occasional forays into foreign film,  adult "artie" films and burlesque revues.  Film titles in late 1947 included "Daughter of Ra – Life Among the Nudists (Adults Only)" and "The Strange Story of Man’s Way with Woman (Swedish Film)."

Frank Fouce takes over:

The Mayan then went to Spanish language films (and occasional stage shows) in 1949 with the acquisition of the building by Frank Fouce.  He also also exhibited Spanish language product at the California, the Mason and the Million Dollar.

Porno time at the Mayan:

In 1969 the Fouce family sold the building to Carlos Tobalina. Kelsey found an article giving the sale price as $300,000.  It then became the "Fabulous Mayan," a porno operation. He painted the facade colorfully that same year. He also triplexed it in 1969, work that fortunately has been undone.

Kelsey tells stories of the L.A. Conservancy booking one of their "Last Remaining Seats" screenings at the Mayan in 1988. Members were on their hands and knees cleaning the theatre beforehand -- while the theatre was open and running porno.

The Mayan becomes a music venue:

The theatre closed as a film house in 1989 and the Tobalina family leased the building to Sammy Chao to turn into a dance and music club, the Club Mayan. He terraced the main floor, did other remodel work and reopened in 1990.

Status: The Mayan Theatre is still thriving as a nightclub some 25+ years later. Mr. Chao still runs the operation.

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:  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.

     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. 
full size view | on Photos of LA

 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.

     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.

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 its first of many movie appearances in
"It Couldn't Have Happened (But it Did)" (Invincible Pictures
Corp., 1936).
The comedy romance features Reginald Denny
as a playwright who is accused of murdering the two
producers who were putting on his play.

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

See our Theatres In Movies post on
 "Save The Tiger" for more shots at the Mayan
from the film -- and a drive by the El Capitan.

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

See our Theatres In Movies post for a shot
of the Chinese Theatre forecourt from
the beginning of "Won Ton Ton."

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

The Ramones outside the Mayan on a day of filming
in December 1978. It's a Bruce Frankel photo from the
 collection of "Rock and Roll High School" director Allan
 Arkush that appeared in a 2011 Village Voice article.
See our Theatres in Movies post on "Rock and Roll
High School" for another shot of Joey in front of the Mayan.

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're all over town in "The Bodyguard" including
stops at the Pantages and the Shrine Auditorium.
See our Theatres In Movies post for more views.

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." 
larger view

The film also gives us Tower and Million Dollar
exterior shots as well as a visit inside the Orpheum.
See our Theatres In Movies post for more
shots from the film at those theatres.

We see a lot of the Mayan in Willard Carroll's
"Playing by Heart" (Miramax, 1998). 

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."
larger view

"Playing By Heart" also visits the Geffen and
 the Sunset 5. See our Theatres In Movies
post for more shots from the film.

Interior shots of the Mayan appear in
 "A Night at the Roxbury" (Paramount, 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 for shots at those theatres.

  IMDb has a page on films shot at the Mayan.

 about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will
direct you to a full size version on the website hosting it.
Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.

     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
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 |

     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 - 1938 - Schultheis |
| vertical at night - c.1940 - "Home of Mexican Films" - Julian Mitchell  |
marquee at night - c.1940 -  Julian Mitchell  |
| painting the exterior  - 1965 - "101 Acts of Love"  |
| corner view - 1989 - Steve Grayson |

     UCLA - L.A. Times Collection  |

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

more pages on the mayan theatre :
  recent exterior views  |
ticket lobby  | main lobby  | 
balcony lobby  |  auditorium  | 
stage  |  basement  |

next door: