Metropolitan / Paramount Theatre

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323 W. 6th St., 536 S. Hill Street  and 553 S. Broadway 

Los Angeles, CA 90014       | map |

Opened: January 26, 1923 as Grauman's Metropolitan. On the screen was "American Wife" with Gloria Swanson. The theatre was advertised as "The Showplace of the World."

On the great stage were Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians and other acts.  The orchestra wasn't in a pit but on a big stage elevator. The screen and prologue action was behind.  See the stage and booth page for more information.

Two entrances (on Hill St. and on 6th) weren't enough. To get an entrance on Broadway an existing retail space was re-purposed for an entrance lobby. You went up the stairs and across the alley, entering the theatre building at balcony lobby level. See our Broadway entrance page for more details.

Seating: 3,600 -- the largest movie theatre in Los Angeles.

Architect:  The theatre was designed by William Lee Woollett (1872-1953), who had previously designed the Million Dollar for Sid Grauman. Edwin Bergstrom was responsible for the building. Woollett was the son of an architect and he had a son and grandson who also entered the profession.

An undated photo of Mr. Woollett from
the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
 full size view | another photo

The new building is featured in an ad for L.A. Pressed Brick Co.,
the terracotta suppliers. It's on Google Books (from the Stanford
in the Architectural Digest 1922 Survey Issue
noteworthy southern California buildings.

 full size view 

"Crane Beauty for a 'First Run' Theatre"
The theatre ("One of the most beautiful theatres in
America...") got a full page ad from the Crane Co. in the
June 30, 1923 Exhibitors Trade Review extolling the
virtues of its drinking fountains, toilets and steam valves.

The ad above comes from Cezar Del Valle's
Theatre Talks collection. 
Thanks, Cezar!

Mr. Woollett talked about the building in an article in the May 1923 issue of Architect and Engineer titled "Concrete and Creative Architecture." In the same issue see "Grauman Theater, a Work of Art" by E. Bingham and an article about the stage lift: "Notable Stage Elevator Installation..."

Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck paid the new theatre a visit and offered his "Reflections on the Grauman Metropolitan Theater, Los Angeles" in the June 1923 issue of Architect and Engineer:

"...In the year 1923 we build of concrete. Boxes made of wooden boards are filled with a cement mud, and when this has hardened the boards are removed, leaving a solid stone. The architect of the Grauman Metropolitan Theater is from his own confession a product of the West. He is a mirror of the desert, the mountains covered with sage brush, which are always before his eyes in Los Angeles. The Western Indian has put his stamp on his art, and the Oriental has added his exuberant admixture. All these influences are felt in the Grauman Theater. Here is a new art, if art can be new. Or rather it is a creation, not a copy of this or that in a pure style. The architect has taken the bare concrete forms as they are required for the support of balconies, floors and roofs, and without plastering or fake architectural construction, he has used the walls and structure for decorative purposes.

Photographs do not convey the story of the Grauman Metropolitan Theater. Any picture of any part should be in color. Better yet, go in person and visit this inspiring enclosure with the colored lighting, and you will feel the West -- all that is inspiring -- and then let your mind travel back to McDougal Street of New York, with children as numerous as the stars forming a blockade more embarrassing than the automobiles in Los Angeles business streets, and you wonder why they do not go to the great West. These thoughts and others come to your mind when you walk through the spaces of the Grauman Theater.

As a work of creative art, the Mezzanine Foyer is a good illustration. There is a sense of spaciousness, of order, of color, of grandeur that is indescribable. One part of the hall is low, the ceiling being the underside of the auditorium balcony; the trusses which carry the balcony are decorated without destroying their members, the high side opening into the lobby.

The Grauman Theater marks the beginning of a new era in Art; that is, we are beginning a creative period of molding the forms themselves into beauty. The thought stsnds out clearly, that as the business man is beginning to realize the value of art, the outlook for the future is promising. The time is rapidly passing when the layman shall dictate what the architect shall do. Instead, he will collaborate and enjoy the work as he sees it progress."

History: In July 1924 Grauman sold his downtown holdings to Paramount Publix. Like other west coast Publix theatres, the Metropolitan was actually operated by Fox West Coast for Paramount. Publix continued to use the Grauman name in advertising although he no longer participated in the theatre's operation.

Publix renovations of the late 20s included getting the orchestra off the stage and constructing a regular orchestra pit downstage of the proscenium. With the orchestra out of the way the movie screen could be moved farther downstage.

The organ installation was also revamped with grillework added in the sides of the proscenium for new organ chambers down lower. Grauman originally had all the sound drifting down through openings in the ceiling. 

A wonderful 1927 ad from Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks
collection. It's a Fox West Coast ad noting that they are operating
the Metropolitan "In association with Publix Theatres." 
full size view

A look at the cover of the Fox West Coast
"Now" magazine for July 15, 1927.  It's from the
Cezar Del Valle Theatre Talks collection.
full size view

The Metropolitan name came off the building in 1928 and the theatre became the Paramount.  Publix was on a similar branding spree up the coast where their theatres called Seattle and Portland both became Paramounts as well.

The Paramount's  orchestra leader Rube Wolf
backstage in a 1933 photo by George Mann from the
George Mann Archive
. It's on the site's "famous" page.
larger view

See the video by Gary Mibizness with Rube
Wolf on You Tube: "Daylight Savings Time."

The Motion Picture News issue of October 20, 1928 reported that the government wasn't happy with Fox having the west coast Publix houses and forcefully suggested that they be divested from Fox control.

The Paramount was also known as the Paramount Downtown to distinguish it from the Hollywood Paramount (which is now back to its original name: El Capitan). Both theatres were managed in the mid 30s and beyond by the brother and sister team Fanchon and Marco.

Another sibling of Fanchon Simon and Marco Wolff was the bandleader Rube Wolf -- he dropped the final letter of the name so theatres could use a larger font on the marquee.

Fanchon and Marco put the band back onstage and built a big apron out over the pit. For more about F & M see the family's Fanchon and Marco website curated by Steve Simon.

A nice 1935 poster for a big show at the
Paramount. Ken McIntyre found it for his
 Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
slightly larger view

A 1938 ad on Photos of Los Angeles for the Paramount
running "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" -- and Roy Rogers
 in the Fanchon and Marco idea "Discoveries of 1938"
full size view

A 1941 ad for "Sullivan's Travels" at the
 Fanchon & Marco operated Metropolitan. It's on
Photos of Los Angeles, a find of Ken McIntyre.
Paramount got the theatre back in 1952 and did a serious modernization both inside and out.

A 1953 ad for a 24 hour premiere for Warner's "House of Wax"
 in 3-D and stereo sound. It also played the Hollywood Paramount
(now once again called the El Capitan).  The ad appears on the
Wide Screen Documentation page of 3-D Film Archive,
a delightful site curated by Bob Furmanek. 
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

AC at the Metropolitan: The Metropolitan opened with an air conditioning system -- the Carrier Corporation's first big theatre job. On the company's Carrier History site we get a bit of conflicting information about the initial installation.

While they note that "In May 1922 Willis Carrier unveiled his single most influential innovation, the centrifugal refrigeration machine (or 'chiller')" and later give us a caption noting "Sid Grauman's Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles offered moviegoers luxury and comfort, courtesy of centrifugal chillers by Carrier," the text states that the initial refrigeration gear was the older "traditional ammonia refrigeration":

"Carrier set about conquering the theater industry in three giant steps. First came the successful installation of comfort air at Sid Grauman's Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles. While employing traditional ammonia refrigeration, the installation introduced two striking advances in modern air conditioning, bypass circulation and down-draft distribution systems. Together these improvements changed the economics of theater installations and improved the experience of moviegoers by replacing the cold chill of "mushroom" vents at their feet with a gentle flow of air from ceiling registers.

The Palace Theatre in Dallas and The Texan in Houston represented the second important step, becoming the first theaters to successfully install complete Carrier systems including centrifugal chillers, down-draft and bypass...As it turned out, movie theaters often became the place that people experienced comfort cooling for the very first time."

Traditionally, in pre-AC days, you'd put a furnace in the basement and mushrooms under the seats for the supply air. Exhaust was out the ceiling to the roof, generally with no recirculation ("bypass circulation" in Carrier lingo) of the heated air.

Despite Carrier's assertion of the superiority of the "down-draft" method (supply air from the ceiling, exhaust via mushrooms under the seats) many later theatres were satisfactorily designed using the mushrooms below for supply air. The Chicago Theatre and the Wiltern Theatre come to mind as examples. Thanks to Michael Hudson-Medina for finding the Carrier AC information!

Status:  Closed in 1960. Demolished in 1962. The site was vacant for years but now is the location of the high-rise International Jewelry Center.

More Information:  See Cinema Treasures  for an informative discussion about the history of the Metropolitan.  The page has over 60 photos.

For more on Fanchon and Marco see website and the Fanchon & Marco Album on Flickr.

Cruising the Past has a nice spread on the Metropolitan illustrated largely with Los Angeles Public Library photos.

See the delightful Noirish Los Angeles post "Pershing Square Over The Years"  by Kevin W. for lots of great photos from different archives.

Hunter Kerhart's "South on Spring" has a fine photo essay "Demolishing The Largest Movie Theatre in Los Angeles."

Azusa Pacific University has a Woollett Collection.

     Los Angeles Times - Framework

A view of the corner of the building in 1931.  The chaser
 is the Times-Richfield Electric Newspaper scrolling across
 the 6th and Hill St. sides of the building in 4' high letters.
The photo comes with an article on the Times
 photography blog Framework.

The photo also appears on Photos of Los Angeles
and in Fred H.'s Noirish Los Angeles post # 21027.

     Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr

A terrific early 1928 look at the Metropolitan's 6th St. entrance
during the run of "Rose Marie" with Joan Crawford and James
Murray. That "Leave 'em Laughing" was a Laurel and Hardy two-
reeler. The theatre would soon be rebranded as the Paramount.
full size view | in LAHTF's Flickr set

For a real treat, browse through Eric's L.A. Theatres
set on Flickr -- over 400 great shots.  And check out
his Downtown Los Angeles set as well.

     Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

An early view with the Grauman's
 name still on the building. 

full size view

Also discovered by Ken is this view of the marquee
in 1929 after the Paramount name change.  Playing
 is Maurice Chevalier in "Innocents of Paris,"
 a  May 1929 release.

full size view

Also on Ken's pages:
 |  sign remaining at 6th & Broadway  |  

     Motion Picture News

Charmaine Zoe has this 1930 marquee photo in her
 "Theatres: Stage and Movie" set on Flickr where she's
assembled over 700 photos of theatres around the country
that appeared in various issues of Motion Picture News.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

     Photos of Los Angeles

A look at 6th & Hill in 1929 with the new Paramount
signage. The theatre is running "The Canary Murder
 Case" (a February 1929 release) with William
 Powell and Louise Brooks. 
full size view  | a re-post

A 30s view looking east across Olive on 6th
toward the Paramount. It was added to the Photos
of Los Angeles collection by Douglas Rudd. 
full size view  |  a re-post

A 1966 look east across Pershing Square added by
Bill Gabel. That's 5th St over on the left. At the far
right is the parking lot where the north end of the
 Metropolitan Theatre building once was.

Also see:
  |  Hill St. streetcar  - 1946 - "Kitty" |
 |  east on 6th - 1963  |

     Brad Smith on Flickr

A dazzling look at the great marquee of the Metropolitan
(now renamed the Paramount) in 1933. We're running "Three
Cornered Moon" with Claudette Colbert -- plus we get the
Sunkist Beauties on stage and more! 
full size view

The photo was taken by George Mann of the comedy
dance team Barto and Mann. Note Mr. Mann's name on
the marquee.  It's in Brad's great theatre marquees set.

Mr. Mann was Brad Smith's father. Mr. Smith's wife, Dianne
Woods, has taken on the task of preserving and organizing the Mann
 photos in the George Mann Archive. Don't miss a chance to browse
the archive for a wonderful look at a lost theatrical world.

Thanks to Michael Hudson-Medina for locating
the source of this one. The photo also appears
 on Ken McIntyre's Photos of Los Angeles.

A wonderful 1958 view looking east
on 6th toward Broadway.

photo:  Richard Wojcik collection

The photo originally appeared on
Vintage Los Angeles. Thanks, Richard!

[ click on any of these photos for a larger view ]

Looking north on Hill St. toward 6th
 and the Paramount Theatre in 1956.

photo: Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press

Pershing Square is off to the right. The Paramount (until 1928 known as
the Metropolitan) is running "Giant" with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson
 and James Dean. There was also an entrance off to the right on 6th St.

Thanks, Sean! You'll find more items from
 Sean's collection lower in this column.

Demolition of the Metropolitan in 1962 -- a major loss
for downtown Los Angeles.
The Metropolitan was the
 largest of the city's movie palaces.

photo: Richard Wojcik collection

 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.

    more from Sean Ault    

The view through the trees of Pershing Square toward
 the Paramount. The Hill St. marquee is over on the right.
 full size view

A 50s look north on Hill St. toward the Paramount
 in a photo from Sean Ault's collection.
full size view

New construction rising on
the site of the Paramount.
full size view

Sean Ault is a noted L.A. transit historian with
 an amazing photo collection. You can see many more
 items from his Osiris Press archive on YouTube.

     Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks |

A glorious postcard of the Metropolitan from Cezar's
collection -- perhaps the only postcard view of the Met
there is. Note the verticals here saying "Grauman's"
full size view

Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian with a
fondness for the theatres of Los Angeles.  Thanks, Cezar!

The card also appears, uncredited,
 on Photos of Los Angeles.

     Huntington Digital Library

North on Hill St. in October 1954. The epics
playing at the Paramount were "Perfect Hell 36" and
 "Unholy Four." It's a slide taken by Palmer Connor.
full size view

An October 1960 Palmer Connor photo of the
Hill St. side of the building. On the left is a Boos
Brothers cafeteria getting dismantled.
 full size view

We're looking at the backstage wall above the
cafeteria. A bit of the theatre's Hill St. marquee can
be seen at the right edge of the picture.

An October 1960 look across Pershing Square at
the Metropolitan. It's a Palmer Connor photo.
full size view | from farther away

Another look at the Hill St. side of
 the closed theatre in October 1960.

A June 1961 shot looking north on Hill St.
It's a Palmer Connor photo.
full size view

A look at the surviving corners of the
building during demolition in June 1962.
full size view

The crumbling SE corner as we look east on
6th. Broadway is a half block farther right. 
It's a June 1962 Connor Palmer photo.
 full size view

Mostly gone in this June 1962 Connor
Palmer slide looking east along 6th St..
full size view

Another look deep inside.
It's a Palmer Connor photo.

     Library of Congress

A glorious c.1922 panoramic shot that includes the
Philharmonic Auditorium on the left and, under
construction, the Metropolitan Theatre.
full size view + click on it to enlarge | on the LOC site

A detail of the Metropolitan from the photo above.
Thanks to R Carlton for including this panorama
(and others) in his Noirish Los Angeles post #9753.

     Los Angeles Public Library

This building was huge. Here we have a 1926 view
looking at the 6th and Hill St. corner of the structure.
Note the entrances on both 6th and Hill Streets.   
full size view

A  November 23, 1928 view of the Hill St.
 side of the theatre still as the Metropolitan. Playing
 is "Manhattan Cocktail" with Nancy Carroll.
  full size view

The vista west on 6th St. from Broadway toward the
Metropolitan Theatre's vertical -- here with the revamped
 signage saying Paramount. Beyond is Hill St. and Pershing
Square. The photo, evidently from the 30s, is uncredited.
full size view

An interesting view c.1937 toward the Metropolitan
across Pershing Square. It's taken from the top of the
Pacific Mutual Building, 523 W. 6th St. 
full size view

A 1939 look at the signage during the
run of "Gulliver's Travels" plus a Fanchon
and Marco stage show! 
full size view

A 1942 look east across Pershing Square with a
beauty pageant in process. Beyond is the Hill St. facade
of the Metropolitan Theatre with 6th St. over
on the right. It's a Ralph Morris photo.
full size view

A 1944 view giving us a vista of both the
Hill St. (on the left) and 6th St. entrances.
  full size view

"Bwana Devil" in 3-D on the Paramount's
spiffy new marquee in 1952. We're looking at
the 6th St. side of the building.
full size view

More Hill St. and 6th St.
photos from the Library collection:
|   Hill St. facade - 1926  |  from across Pershing Square - 1926  |
 | Hill Street facade -- and Pershing Sq. excavation  |  another Hill St. view |
| east on 6th -  Blackstock Negative Collection - 1937 |
| east on 6th - Blackstock - 1939 |  marquee - 1938 - as the Paramount | 
| B-25 in Pershing Square - 1942 |  Hill St. side of the building - 1950  | 
 | end view of the marquee 1950 - "My Friend Irma Goes West" |
 |  marquee concept drawing  - 1952  |
| marquee drawing - 1952 - William B. David & Associates  |
  | demolition -- into the house from parking lot |

     Metro Transportation Archive

A c.1950 look north on Hill St. toward
5th St. and the Paramount.
full size view

Thanks to Michelle Gerdes of the LAHTF for
 figuring out the provenance of this one. It was on
 Photos of Los Angeles plus a re-post without attribution.

     USC Archives

A 1951 look down on the 6th St. side of the Metropolitan.
It looks like a big opening for "Here comes The Groom" with
Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman. It's a view that's part of a
set of 9 from the Herald-Examiner collection.
full size view

A view from street level after some hydrant
 trouble erupted across the street.
full size view

If you move toward the street and turn around
180 degrees, you get a look at the alley on the north
view of the Los Angeles Theatre.  

Also in the set:
| view from above -- with water  |

An amazing Herald Examiner shot of the 6th
and Hill St. facades in 1960.  Note that the
marquees are advertising an auction of the
contents of the building prior to demolition.  
full size view

Also in the USC Archives:

  |  northeast east across the square  - c.1926 |
 looking south along Hill St. -- 30s? -- note
"Paramount Building" signage on the left |
  | in the booth - 1960 |  at the auction - 1960 |

See the Broadway entrance page
for street views on Broadway.

more metropolitan theatre pages:
|  the broadway entrance  |  lobby areas  |
|  auditorium  |  stage and booth  |