Million Dollar Theatre

307 S. Broadway    | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

(213) 617-3600

Website: | tech specs |
| Grand Central Market events page | GCM on Facebook  |

The news:  The theatre has a new tenant. It's a lease for five years by a fashion startup called CoBird. The company that will be using the theatre, the basement, and the storefronts for various non-theatrical purposes including office space. They haven't announced any details about what will happen in the theatre lobby spaces and auditorium. The news was on the site CoStar in a November 6 story titled "Historic Downtown Theater Finding New Life." The Million Dollar will be 100 in February.

In separate news, the twelve story theatre building and the adjoining Grand Central Market were sold in late 2017 to Beverly Hills investor Adam Daneshgar, president of Langdon Street Capital.  He says "We are not looking to go in and change or overhaul anything." The lease of the theatre was a deal orchestrated by the previous owner of the complex, the Yellin Co.

As far as the market is concerned,  Daneshgar plans to spend several million on deferred maintenance such as painting and cleaning, along with possibly adding several more stalls. The market celebrated its 100th anniversary in October.  The building dates from 1897 with the Hill St. portion added in 1905. The tenant until 1917 had been the Ville de Paris department store. The two buildings had been owned since the mid-80s by the Yellin Co. Roger Vincent had the story November 1 story in the L.A. Times: "Downtown's historic Grand Central Marhet is sold..."

Opened: February 1, 1918 by Sid Grauman as Grauman's Theatre (his first in Los Angeles) with a star-studded premiere of "The Silent Man" starring William S. Hart. Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin and others attended the premiere.

Architect: Albert C. Martin did the 60,000 square foot building and William Lee Woollett designed the theatre. The exterior sculpture was by Joseph Mora.  The owner of the building was Homer Laughlin, Jr.'s Stability Building Co., which also owned the Grand Central Market Building (originally known as the Homer Laughlin Building), just to the south.  

Martin was a noted L.A. architect who designed the office building in an opulent Churrigueresque style for the building's main tenant, the Edison Co. Later, the Metropolitan Water District occupied the office building which has a frontage of 115' on Broadway and 65' on W. 3rd.

In addition, a wing of offices extends along the auditorium on the 3rd St. side at the 2nd floor level.  While the office building was a conventional steel framed structure, the theatre portion was largely cast-in-place concrete. 

An item in the November 22, 1916 issue of the publication Women's Wear is one of many interesting items about the theatre's early history located by Gaylord Wilshire for his Noirish Los Angeles post #27774.

The curious headline about migration makes you think it's about problems at the border -- but in fact it's about the movement of L.A.'s shopping district south and west. The Million Dollar / Edison Building (originally referred to as the Stability Building) was one attempt to halt that.

Move to Check Southwest Migration in Los Angeles

"The foundations have been laid for the 12-story office building to be erected on the southwest corner of Broadway and Third street by the Stability Co., organized in an effort to anchor the retail business district of Los Angeles north of Fifth street. This is part of a movement to check the southward and westward removal of old established business houses and stores which have, for years, been located on Broadway between First and Fifth streets.

Coincident with the beginning of the construction of the Stability Building at Broadway and Third street, work has started on the new home of the Blackstone Dry Goods Co, at Broadway and Ninth street. This concern for many years has been one of the prominent upper Broadway stores, which have refused to join the migration southward."

A preliminary sketch for the building appearing in
the L.A. Times issue of  September 26, 1916. It's a find
of Gaylord Wilshire for Noirish Los Angeles.
full size view
| on Noirish LA

The caption for the September 1926 illustration reads: "Preliminary sketch for theater and studio block to be erected by Stability Building Co. The drawing is one of a number of 'studies' prepared by Albert C. Martin, the architect, for submission to the projectors, and shows the big structure in the form of a limit-height studio and office building fronting on Broadway, with the theater portion at the rear, extending along Third street. This is only one of the schemes being considered."

"Upper Broadway's Magnificent New Playhouse.
Accepted design for studio and theatre structure for Stability
Building Company, Albert C. Martin, architect."
full size view | on Noirish LA

The drawing above appeared in the L.A. Times issue
of March 18, 1917. Thanks to Gaylord Wilshire for
discovering it for his Noirish Los Angeles post #27774.

Some photos of the theatre (and a floorplan) appeared in the August 1918 issue of the San Francisco based magazine The Architect.

The first floor plan of the building from The Architect.
Note the layout of the original orchestra pit and the
 columns onstage for the set framing the screen.
 full size view | on Internet Archive

The bay south of the theatre's entrance that ended up as an
 open-air ticket lobby is seen on the plans as a retail space.

Thanks to Gaylord Wilshire on Noirish Los Angeles for finding (among many other items) two illustrations detailing the concrete trusses that would support the balcony. They appeared in the August 26, 1917 issue of the Los Angeles Times. From the accompanying article:

Hitherto-untried Engineering Embodied in Downtown Skyscraper.

NECESSITY, the mother of invention, to adopt an old expression, has outdone herself in the designing of the $1,000,000 theater and office building being erected by the Stability Building Company at Third and Broadway. As a result, this great downtown structure will be completed at least a year sooner than the most optimistic projections....

[As far as supporting the balcony, it was left to the architect to either use the untried technology of concrete trusses or use posts underneath for support.] ...or to advise his clients to wait in patience for the eventual delivery of a steel truss. There was no other way out of it, for the projectors were determined that there should not be a post of any kind in the entire vast interior of the theatre to sustain the gallery [ i.e. balcony]. It was a case of either a single span or no theater as far as they were concerned. No span of such size here..."  Do you like that unusual use of the word projectors?

"Sectional view of gallery [the balcony] and supporting arch."
The area below the bottom member of the concrete balcony truss
 that we see is the main floor seating area back under the balcony. The
drawing appeared in the August 26, 1917 issue of the L.A. Times. Thanks
to Gaylord Wilshire for his find for Noirish Los Angeles. 
full size view | on Noirish LA

"The arch and suspended truss system as seen from
behind gallery." Another drawing in the August 26, 1917 Times.
The arch that is referred to in the caption below (along with the
 rest of the balcony truss structure) is shown here as if we
were standing in the balcony lobby.
full size view

The little upper arch (above the main arch) is on the theatre's centerline and, below it, would be built the center vomitory out into the balcony. The caption below the drawing:

"How A.C. Martin, architect and engineer of the $1,000,000 Edison building at Third and Broadway, solved the problem created by the fact that it would take a year and a half to get the steel trusses ordinarily used for this purpose. He has substituted for them the 100 foot concrete arch shown in the drawings and photographs. These, made during the past week, give a somewhat inadequate idea of the tremendous mass and character of the load and the enormous structural responsibility imposed upon the arch which carries it. The ultimate load is estimated at 3,000,000 pounds."

An article in the September 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, "Mammoth Concrete Arch in Costly Theater," described the wonders of the Million Dollar and included some construction photos.

"Notable not only as one of the most beautiful and expensive structures of its kind in the country, but as one in which for the first time a concrete arch, such as is used in bridge construction, supports the balcony of a theater, a 12-story office and theater building recently constructed in Los Angeles, Calif., at a cost of $1,000,000.

There are no posts in the theater because of the arch, for which concrete was used when it was found impossible to obtain steel. The weight of the span is 9,000,000 lb. It is 12 ft. wide and 110 ft. long, and contains 180 steel rods. In pouring concrete into the forms for the arch, chutes made of steel concrete floor forms, overlapping in clapboard fashion, were used. This form of chute is said to be original with the Los Angeles builders.

Extremely elaborate are the decorations of the theater, both interior and exterior. Carved wood is conspicuous in the interior decoration scheme. Another feature is the projection room, in which are placed the moving-picture machines and spotlights. This is built of concrete, and placed so as not to obstruct the view of any person sitting back of it. Steel and asbestos doors to this room lessen the fire danger. Steel was used in the construction of the office building.

One of the features of the theater is a great jeweled dome, so placed in the ceiling as to appear to be suspended in the air. Hidden lights, playing on the dome, produce a gorgeous effect. Due to the careful planning of the architects, the acoustics are nearly perfect."

Formwork for the balcony as seen in a
photo from the Popular Mechanics article.
full size view

The caption reads:  "Form into Which 1,620,000 Pounds of Concrete
was Poured to Make the Self-Supporting Balcony of the Los Angeles
Theater: An Idea of the Amount of Steel Used for Reinforcing the Great
Arch can be Obtained by Studying the Interior of the Form. Completed,
 the Balcony Weighed 9,000,000 Pounds. So Far As is Known, This Is
The First Use of a Reinforced-Concrete Arch of Such Size
 in Building Construction." [ the caps are theirs ]

The chute for channeling the concrete for the
massive balcony pour. The roof is not in place yet.
We're looking down from the office building onto the
curve that will be the front of the balcony. The photo
is from the September 1919 Popular Mechanics.
full size view

The caption reads: "This Picture Shows One of the Concrete
Chutes Used to fill a Mammoth Arch Form in Constructing a
Los Angeles Theater Building." After the balcony was poured,
the roof framing began.

Truss construction for the auditorium roof. It's a photo
from the Popular Mechanics issue of September 1919.
full size view

The caption reads: "How the Roof of the Million-Dollar
Theater was Erected: The Lower Girder of This Steel Roof
 Member is 108 Feet long. Cut in Half, It was Laid on Three
 Half-inch Steel Cables, Strung between Concrete Pillars, and
 Then Joined into a Solid Piece. Afterwards the Upper Parts
 of the Support were Fastened on Top of the Girder, Making
 a Construction Strong Enough to Hold the Roof."

A construction photo taken on the main floor looking up
 at the concrete trusses for the balcony and the slab for the
balcony risers above. It's from The Architect, August 1918.
larger view | on Internet Archive

A view across the unfinished main floor
from The Architect. At the left is part of the wall
demarcating the lobby. It appears that the
workers have hung up their overalls.
larger view | on Internet Archive

For a sense of the scale, note the cluster of workers
at the bottom of the photo right of center.

A construction view showing  the framing for the
arch above the entrance. Thanks to Nile Hight, who
 found the photo for Vintage Los Angeles.
"Stability Building Company Completes Handsome
Structure. To House Grauman's $1,000,000 Theater."
The drawing was in the L.A. Times on January 1, 1918. 
The theatre would open a month later. It's a find
of Gaylord Wilshire for Noirish Los Angeles.
full size view | on Noirish LA

At the bottom of the drawing:
"Stability Building, Corner Third and Broadway, R.H.
Arnold Co., contractors; A.C. Martin, architect."

The theatre ready for opening day, a photo from
the September 1919 Popular Mechanics article.
The caption reads: "One of the Costliest Theater Entrances Ever
Built, Photographed in Los Angeles a Few Days Before the New
Playhouse was Opened to the Public: The Money Value Is in the
Neighborhood of $10,000, and Dozens of Artists and Workmen
Labored for Two Years to Produce This Result."

Thanks to theatre historian Ed Kelsey for unearthing the Popular Mechanics article and Michelle Gerdes of the LAHTF for making it available. See the boxoffice areabooth and auditorium pages for additional photos from the article.

An ad from the L.A. Pressed Brick Co. in the August 1918
issue of The Architect touted the Million Dollar as "The Most
Beautiful and Elaborate Moving Picture Theatre in the World."
 full size viewon Internet Archive

Also included in the article in The Architect were proscenium and organ grille photos and a rear auditorium view.

The office portions of the space are now (along with the upper floors of the Grand Central Market) known as the Grand Central Square Apartments.  One of the penthouses includes the former office of William Mulholland, of Department of Water and Power fame. 

A.C. Martin had earlier designed the Liberty Theatre and Wonderland/Jade Theatre buildings on Main St. Martin's firm would go on to design the City Hall and the Department of Water and Power Building and the Town Theatre on Hill St. The company is still in business as both architects and contractors with descendants of A.C. Martin running it.

Woollett (1974-1955) was later the designer of Los Angeles' largest movie palace, the Metropolitan (also for Sid Grauman). He also did a remodel of the Rialto for Grauman and the 20s remodel of the Strand in Long Beach is attributed to him.


At one time: 2,345    Main floor:  1,400     Balcony: 945

Currently:     2,024    Main floor: 1,216       Balcony: 808

The program for the week beginning September 9, 1918
at the "Beautiful Temple of the Cinema Art" with the feature
film being the William S. Hart epic "Riddle Gawne." Thanks to
Sharon Hofstra Haugen for posting it on Vintage Los Angeles.
full size view
| on Vintage LA

History:  Famous Players-Lasky (soon to become Paramount) or Adolph Zukor and/or Jesse Lasky themselves probably helped the Graumans finance the operation. Sid and his father David had a close relationship with the firm after years of exhibiting their product in the Grauman Bay Area theatres. They also had a long relationship with Lasky personally.

Certainly the Graumans were helped in their move south by the cash infusion provided by Famous Players in taking over their Strand Theatre (later called the St. Francis) and Imperial Theatre, both on Market St. in San Francisco. In 1919 Famous Players formalized the relationship and became a silent partner in the theatre operation and thus the theatre ran a lot of that firm's product.

An April 1919 telegram from Sid Grauman to Adolf Zukor
cementing his partnership with Paramount/Famous Players-Lasky
 in the Million Dollar Theatre. And they were already planning the next
 one together, the Metropolitan. The telegram was a find by Michelle
Gerdes in the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library collection.
full size view | on Photos of Los Angeles

In an October 1919 telegram in the AMPAS collection Grauman tries to set up a partnership with Paramount in a San Diego house. Which didn't happen -- it sounds like it was promised to Sid but Paramount was going with someone else. There's mention of the remodel of Quinn's Rialto, soon "to be the prettiest little house in America." 

Also mentioned in the telegram is the possibility of acquiring a theatre they refer to as the Mercantile Place Theatre. This was probably the Pantages (now the Arcade Theatre), next door to the Mercantile Place shopping area, later the site of the Arcade Building. The theatre was up for grabs as Alexander  Pantages was moving to his new theatre at 7th & Hill. This Famous Players acquisition didn't happen.

Soon Grauman's Theatre became known for Sid's extravagant "prologues" prior to the feature films as well as lavish premieres. By 1919 the theatre was being advertised as Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre because it had cost something more than that sum for land, office building, theatre and furnishings. This wasn't exactly a new tag as "Million Dollar Theatre" had appeared on the construction signage.

A 1920 ad for the "Great Fashion Pageant" prologue
 and the Paramount feature "His House in Order" with Elsie
Ferguson. Ken McIntyre posted it on his Photos of Los Angeles
 Facebook page. If this is just the ad, imagine what splendors
were presented in the show itself.
 full size view

The ad above plus another full page story about this particular
production appears on pages 212 and 213 of Ben Hall's "The Best
Remaining Seats" (Clarkson N. Potter, 1966).

The Million Dollar was the first real movie palace on Broadway. And the Million Dollar gets the prize as the first real Los Angeles movie palace built for that purpose. Although the Auditorium Theatre at 5th & Olive, when running as Clune's Auditorium, was perhaps operated as the first real movie palace in Los Angeles it was originally built as a church.

The Million Dollar was also noteworthy as the first theatre built as part of a "height limit" building and also had the first clear span balcony  in town in a major theatre - largely cast concrete. It also had an orchestra pit extending half way upstage to showcase the players. On July 3, 1922 a pit fire occurred during a prologue (there were no injuries) and the pit was later rebuilt along more standard lines.

The cover for the "Grauman's Theater and Grauman's
 Rialto Magazine"
for January 7, 1923 from the Woody Wise
 collection.  It was an issue of 31 pages promoting the films
"Outcast," "To Have and to Hold" and "Robin Hood."
 full size view

In July, 1924 Sid sold his downtown interests (half of the Million Dollar plus interests in the Rialto and Metropolitan) to Paramount and focused on Hollywood.  The Egyptian had opened in 1922. The Chinese was to come along in 1927.

In 1925, the three theatres started advertising themselves as Publix theatres, a name Paramount started using that year for their theatres after their acquisition of Chicago based exhibitor Balaban & Katz.

The Million Dollar was initially leased from owner Homer Lauglin. In 1925 A.C. Blumenthal purchased the building for approximately $1 million. In 1927, West Coast Theatres took over the actual operation of the Publix theatres in Los Angeles. The ads for the Million Dollar and Metropolitan appeared as part of the regular West Coast ads. At some point prior to 1927 the Rialto had drifted off and become an independent operation. 

The Million Dollar News for August 26, 1927 with Vilma
Banky on the cover, appearing in "The Magic Flame."
 Note the Publix logo on the program.
larger view |
the film on the marquee

Thanks to Mr. Ethereal Reality who found
the magazine on eBay and included it in his
 Noirish Los Angeles post #17525. He has an inside
 page and several short articles as well.

In West Coast's ads in the L.A. Times early in 1928 we were told, in small print "In association with Publix." By April 1928 they were saying "In association with Publix-Loew." It's unknown what the Loew's ownership stake was.

For reasons unknown, West Coast and Publix closed the theatre in June 1928. The last day of operation was June 6 with "The Street of Sin" with Emil Jannings as the final film. The L.A. Times that day had no story about the closing and the ad only said "Ends Today" and Hurry, Hurry."

The Motion Picture News issue of October 20, 1928 reported that the government wasn't happy with West Coast having the western Publix houses and forcefully suggested that they be divested from West Coast Theatres control.  By this time the only theatre Publix had in Los Angeles was the Metropolitan.

While closed, presumably for some refurbishing, the the previously chandelier-less auditorium dome got the fixture formerly in the Broadway lobby of the Metropolitan Theatre.  In February 1929 the theatre reopened after a lease deal was made with Simon Lazarus. His Lazarus Corp. tried second run bookings, some first run Universal product, and even some elaborate prologues before the features.   It became advertised as the Lazarus Million Dollar.

By late 1932 the Million Dollar was listed in ads as a Fox West Coast operation.

A 1933 ticket for a giveaway of a refrigerator in
 a promotion with the May Co. It's from the
Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press.

The ticket's reverse reveals that the film at the
theatre that week is "Jennie Gerhardt," a film of Theodore
 Dreiser's novel with Sylvia Sydney.  It was a bad day at
the print shop. They got both the title and author's
first name spelled wrong.

In 1935 the theatre came under the management of Harry Popkin's Circle Theatres, who  had purchased the building.  The policy was stage shows and second run films.

In the 1940s, the Million Dollar was a home to many jazz and big band shows. Performers included Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday and Artie Shaw. In 1945 Metropolitan Theatres leased the theatre from Harry Popkin Enterprises for a 15 year term. 

Metropolitan had been running vaudeville at the Orpheum and decided to just do first run films there and have their stage shows at the Million Dollar.  In 1946 they renovated the lobby, which involved installing a dropped ceiling and other modernizations.  The murals in the balcony lobby dome were spared in the 1946 renovations. 

Starting in 1950 the Million Dollar got sub-leased to Frank Fouce and began a long run as a Spanish language film house and Mexican vaudeville theatre.  Fouce died in 1962 but the policy continued under his son Frank Fouce, Jr. In 1969 Fouce Jr. purchased the building from the Popkin interests for $2 million. He announced plans to spend $1 million to renovate the theatre, office space and store areas. 

The Fouce family was also at various times involved with the California Theatre, the Mason Theatre and other venues.  Frank Jr. died in 2013. The L.A. Times ran a story about his contributions the spread of Latino culture in Los Angeles.

Metropolitan Theatres eventually came back as operator in 1974 and ran the theatre into the 90s with a policy of Spanish language films and Mexican vaudeville acts.

The theatre building had been sold in 1989 to Ira Yellin, who announced plans to turn the theatre building into (again) an upscale office building.  The project eventually morphed into apartments in the former office spaces above the theatre as well as in the adjacent Grand Central Market building.

The theatre closed in 1993 and became a church under a sub-lease from Metropolitan Theatres. When the  church group moved to the State Theatre there was another attempt at Mexican live shows and movies but that ended in 1999. A second church group was a tenant in 2000. 

Former nightclub operator Robert Voskanian leased the theatre in 2005 and gave it a million dollar cleanup and repair. It re-opened in February 2008 for concerts, events and occasional films. There had been talk about the proscenium being in need of a seismic retrofit but evidently all was stable enough for occupancy.  Much seismic retrofitting had been done when the office portion of the building was converted into apartments. There's bracing visible up in the stagehouse, for example, and a shear wall evident in the basement.   The blog Franklin Avenue had a 2008 story "The Million-Dollat Million Dollar Theatre Gamble."

In early 2010, Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's Hillsman Wright reported that the City's Bringing Back Broadway committee was working with the building owner and the then-operator Voskanian to help address some of the building's current problems including poor loading access, insufficient restrooms and lack of a decent HVAC plant. 

Voskanian had hoped to install a cafe in the lobby and planned to continue renovation work in the theatre as funds came in.  Business was spotty and bookings were scarce. Much good work was done but the operation turned out to be not financially viable.  Voskanian terminated his lease with the owner in July 2012.

After Voskanian left, the Million Dollar was open occasionally for special events such as film screenings sponsored by the Grand Central Market, Cinespia and the l.A. Conservancy.  There were other rentals for filming use.

In March 2014 the Million Dollar received a facade lighting improvement grant from the City of Los Angeles for $138,587 to illuminate the decorative arch above the marquee, spotlight the third floor statues and light tile panels on 3rd Street. The grant was part of a $750,000 package awarded to 13 Broadway properties. The new lightimg debuted in October 2017

Thanks to the LAHTF and Broadway's preeminent theatre historian Ed Kelsey for much of the historical data above.

Status: See the news at the top of the page.  A new owner and a new tenant.

Until late 2017 the building was still owned by the Yellen Company,  213-621-0200. The company is now controlled by Adele Yellin, the widow of Ira.  The L.A. Times ran a story on Ira Yellin when he died in 2002.  The company also had the Grand Central Market and the parking garage at 3rd and Hill -- both connected to the theatre building. The Market Square apartments occupy the upper floors of both the Million Dollar and Grand Central Market buildings.

The success of the Million Dollar is crucial to the Broadway revitalization efforts. Currently the only other theatres regularly open on Broadway are the Orpheum, Globe and United Artists. The Palace got a million dollar restoration in 2011 but bookings remain infrequent. The Tower and Los Angeles get an occasional concert or special event.

The lobby in the Million Dollar had been stripped of its decor over the years but there is hope of restoring a ceiling dome hiding above a dropped ceiling.  The auditorium decor is quite intact with the exception of murals which had been painted over by a church group. 

Million Dollar in the Movies:  

We get a glimpse of the top of the Million Dollar in "Safety Last"
with Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis (Hal Roach Studios, 1923).
The finale sequence was partially filmed atop the Washington Bldg.
 at 3rd & Spring.  Famed silent film detective John Bengtson has it all
 analyzed in "How Harold Lloyd Filmed the 'Safety Last' Finale,"
a Silent Locations blog post.  Thanks, John!

The shot most widely known from "Safety Last" features
 Mr. Lloyd hanging from a clock on Broadway with
 the Majestic Theatre in the background.

Scenes using Fanchon & Marco dancers were shot inside the Million
Dollar for "Take Me Home" (Paramount, 1928) starring Bebe Daniels. 
The theatre was dark at the time of the summer 1928 shooting.

We get a brief glimpse of the flashing marquee of the
Million Dollar in "Footlight Parade" with Jimmy Cagney
 (Warner Bros., 1933) as we speed by on the bus to put
 on a Chester Kent prologue in a New York City theatre.
larger view

Hillsman Wright, of the LAHTF, notes that had we
been there we might have seen a similar scene with
Grauman busing his prologue casts back and forth
between the Million Dollar and the Rialto.

"Footlight Parade" also gives us a quick look
 at the Central Theatre, 314 S. Broadway. See our
 Theatres In Movies post on the film for that one.

Rudolph Maté's "D.O.A." (United Artists, 1950) starts in
San Francisco but about an hour into it we come to L.A. and
get a ride down Broadway with views of the Tower and Orpheum.
Later we pay a visit to the Bradbury Building and get this shot of the
 Million Dollar. Our star Edmond O'Brien is trying to track
 down the guy who gave him a lethal dose of radium.
larger view  | entire film on Internet Archive

"D.O.A." was produced by Harry Popkin's Cardinal Pictures. Popkin
owned the Million Dollar building at the time. There's another shot from
the film on Handsome Stranger's Noirish Los Angeles post #7288.

The theatre is running "The Big Wheel" starring Mickey Rooney
as a race car driver. The  "D.O.A." footage also appears as part of
the title sequence of Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself."

In Steve McQueen's last film "The Hunter"
 (Rastar/Paramount, 1980) we get a shot up
3rd St. along the side of the Million Dollar.

In Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (Ladd Company,
Warner Bros., 1982) we have a number of shots of the
marquee as lots of the action was filmed across the street
in the Bradbury Building. The film stars Harrison Ford,
 Sean Young, Darryl Hanah and Rutger Hauer.
larger view

Another shot from "Blade Runner." The columns we see
looking out from the Bradbury Building were added
 by the for the film by the production designer.
larger view

We get a look at the Million Dollar in a big cruise down
Broadway during the opening credits of Dennis Hopper's "Colors"
(Orion, 1988).  For architecture buffs anyway, the rest of the film
(with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall) is less than compelling. 
larger view

We get a look at the exterior of the theatre in
"Murder in the First" (Warner Bros., 1995)

Mira Sorvino has an office across from the Million Dollar
on 3rd in Antoine Fuqua's "The Replacement Killers" (Columbia,
1998). All hell breaks loose when Chow Yun-Fat comes to see her
about getting some forged papers.  Here's some carnage
about to happen on the fire escape.
larger view

Looking north on 3rd toward the Million Dollar in
 "The Replacement Killers."  Chow Yun-Fat and
Mira Sorvino are in the car. 
larger view

"The Replacement Killers" also uses the outside
of the Tower as well as Orpheum and Mayan interiors.
See our Theatres in Movies post for more from the film.

The interior of the Million Dollar is lovingly shown in
glorious black and white in Alex Holdridge's "In Search
of a Midnight Kiss" (2008).  We see the exterior of the
Orpheum but it's the Million Dollar inside.

"Vagiant!" is the film playing at the Million Dollar
 in Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer"
 (Fox Searchlight, 2009).

The strange crowd on the sidewalk for
 the film in "(500) Days of Summer."

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt outside
 the theatre after the film in "(500) Days of Summer."

Some specifications:
Proscenium width: 39' 11"        Proscenium height at center: 47'
Stage depth: 32' 1" -- from smoke pocket to face of backwall columns

See our backstage page for more information.

More information: Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret article details her adventures at the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour with many wonderful photos. A shot from the top of the balcony kicks off Star Foreman's 54 item "Million Dollar Theatre Tour" slide show on L.A. Weekly's website.

Other 2013 tour coverage included a great collection of photos both vintage and new on Curbed L.A. and an article on L.A. Observed.  The Cinespia website has interesting photo coverage of the March 2013 screening of "Blade Runner" at the Million Dollar.

The Cinema Treasures page on the Million Dollar has a nice history by Ken Roe and Howard B. Haas plus lots of recollections about various performances at the theatre. The Cinema Tour page has some interesting comments regarding the inspiration for the ornamentation as well some exterior photos. 

Wikipedia also has an article on the Million Dollar TheatreDoves2Day has a 2010 photo essay on the Million Dollar featuring many fine photos. There is a Million Dollar Facebook page, but it's not associated with any current operations at the theatre.

The 2008 reopening had received lots of press including LA Times "A Million Dollar Dream."  The Times article includes this great photo of the Million Dollar Theatre from the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann archives:

Note the skulls as decoration on the
front of the balcony in this 1918 view.
full size view | on the Times site

The photo also appears on the LAHTF Facebook page
and on the back cover of the Second Quarter 2002 issue of
Marquee, the publication of the Theatre Historical Society.

The USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism's Neon Tommy website ran a nice article in 2010 by Caroline Vandergriff on the Million Dollar's rebirth.  Several photos accompanied the article including Ms. Vandergriff's view of the rear of the main floor:

A rear of the main floor view from "Neon Tommy"
full size view

More on Sid Grauman: The definitive book on the career of Sid Grauman has yet to be written. The best we have so far is Charles Beardsley's "Sid Grauman: Hollywood's Master Showman" (Cornwall Books, 1983)It's available on Amazon.  Wikipedia has a biographical article on Sid Grauman.

The Million Dollar on video: For some nice views of the Million Dollar check out Haeyong Moon's "The Show Starts on Broadway" on You Tube.

Haeyong's "Million Dollar Theater: The Hidden Layers" takes you up above the current dropped ceiling in the lobby with Hillsman Wright from the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Hillsman Wright with one of the murals hiding above
the lobby's dropped ceiling in "Hidden Layers: Part 2"

Also see the 3 minute 2010 clip with Hillsman Wright:"Ally Quest Los Angeles, 1940s Part II: Million Dollar Theatre" and Don Solosan's fine "Insiders Peek #10," about the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building.

     Theatre Talks - Cezar Del Valle

An early postcard view of  Grauman's
Theatre from Cezar's collection
 full size view

Another version of the card above is in
the collection of Michelle Gerdes.
 | 0n Facebook  | on Flickr  |

There's also a version in the collection of
 Loyola Marymount University with a 1922
postmark that was spotted by Yasmin Elming.

A 1988 Betty Sword photo in Cezar's collection. 
full size view

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

Betty's photo also appears on Photos of Los Angeles.

     USC Archives

A great view looking north in 1923 from the USC
Archives. On the marquee is "The Covered Wagon - 6
performances daily."  Note the "Grauman's" vertical.
full size view

A detail from the 1923 USC photo above.
larger view

A look north from 4th toward the Million Dollar
 c.1926. It's a photo from the California Historical Society. 
LAPL has a version of this that they date as 1929.
full size view

A look at the front in 1931. Note the great new
marquee. It's a Dick Whittington studio photo.
full size view | another take - from higher

The photo also appears on BifRayRock's
 Noirish Los Angeles post #11870.

A detail from the 1931 view above.  The open-air
ticket lobby in the south bay at the left is no
more -- it's been rented out for retail.
 larger detail view | on Photos of LA

 They've installed an island boxoffice in front
of the theatre's entrance to replace the original off
to the south side of the entrance.

Looking west on 3rd toward Broadway in 1957.
It's a Los Angeles Examiner photo.
  full size view

Also see:
  | looking north from 4th - 1939 | north from 5th - 1939 |
 | another view west on 3rd - 1957 |

   Charmaine Zoe's Marvelous Melange

The front of the Million Dollar for the 1920 run of "High
 and Dizzy" with Harold Lloyd. Thanks to Charmaine Zoe
for including the photo in her Vintage Cinemas: California
Flickr set of treasures from various trade magazines.
Note the open air ticket lobby in the left bay. Later it was
converted to retail. The photo caption: "Sid Grauman's introduced
some novel exploitation for "High and Dizzy" when he played this picture
at Grauman's theatre, Los Angeles, recently. A photograph fifteen feet in
height, nicely framed, was placed over the lobby entrance, as shown
 in the above cut, giving Lloyd some personal billing seldom
 accorded to any star at the 'Million Dollar Cinema Temple.'"

The entrance to the Million Dollar Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click either of these views to enlarge ]

Looking south past the Grand Central Market
toward the Million Dollar in 1963.

photo: Sean Ault collection

A detail from Sean's photo.

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.

See the recent exterior views page for
many more exterior shots of the theatre.

 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 the Sean Ault collection    

A 1991 look at the Million Dollar.
It's a photo by William E. Ault.
Thanks to Sean for this photo taken by his grandfather.
More of his grandfather's shots (mostly from the 70s)
 are on our Art, Cameo and Optic Theatre pages

    Architect and Engineer of California

"Music of the Night" modeled by William Woollett for Gladding
McBean & Co., contractors for the terracotta on the Million Dollar.
It's a photo that appeared with an article by Jo Neely in The Graphic
titled "A Dream Come True." It's reprinted in the May 1918
 issue of Architect and Engineer.

The figure, with the left hand and the ram's horn
now missing, resides on the bottom of the north side
of the outer arch above the marquee.

     Architectural Digest    

1922 edition -- on Google Books

A look at the building in the magazine's 1922 survey
issue of noteworthy southern California buildings. 
It's from the Stanford Library and on Google Books.
 full size view
The page lists some of the suppliers for the building:

Metal lathing construction - Benjamin Schonfeld Co.
Plastering - Fred E. Potts
Heating system - Illinois Engineering Co.
Plumbing fixtures - Crane Co.
Reinforced composition roofing - Pioneer Paper Co.
Metal doors - California Fire-Proof Door Co.
Brick - L.A. Brick Co.
Venetian screens - Western Blind and Screen Co.
Floor coverings and office furniture - Barker Bros.
Grauman's Theatre - complete furnishings by Barker Bros.
Face brick & hollow tile - L.A. Pressed Brick Co.

     Bancroft Library - UC Berkeley

Rats and plague! A fine view looking north across the
Grand Central Market and the Million Dollar beyond. It's
c.1924 or 25 and the photo is part of a large set taken when
the city was on a hunt for rats in an attempt to eradicate
an outbreak of pneumonic plague.  

Can't tell what's playing except that it's a comedy. The
three sets of white letters up high each say "HA HA." Thanks
to BifRayRock for spotting the photo and including it with others
from the "Rats" set on his Noirish Los Angeles post #34867.

     B'hend and Kaufmann Archives

Opening night February 1, 1918. The photo came to the B'hend
 and Kaufmann Collection from the collection of Ron Downer.
Note that we can see a bit of the unfinished area to the left
 of the entrance -- soon to become the open-air ticket lobby.
 full size view  | on FB/LAtheatres

The view above also appears on the
 TCL Chinese Theatre Facebook page.

The Million Dollar Theatre marquee in a 1946 Otto
Rothschild photo from the Jack Tillmany collection. The
"films that make you gasp" program had "Camps of the Dead,"
an 11 minute short about Nazi death camps, along with two 1945
features: "Woman Who Came Back" and "Girls of the Big House."
full size view  |  on FB/LAtheatres

The Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection
is part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.

     California State Library

A 1925 view of the Million Dollar Building from
the California State Library Collection. The theatre
is running "The Merry Widow" with John Gilbert.
full size view | data page

A c.1965 William Reagh view of the marquee during
the theatre's days
as a Mexican vaudeville house.
full size view
| data page

A 1984 view by Tom Zimmerman looking north
toward the theatre in the days before the facade
restoration at the Grand Central Market -- and
when the Million Dollar still had a vertical sign.

full size view

The photo above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.


Grauman's during the 1920 run of the Harold Lloyd
film "High and Dizzy." Lloyd got the 10' x 15' poster up
but his film was just a 26 minute short. The feature was
 "The Fighting Chance." This photo from someone's
scrapbook was on eBay but had no takers.
 full size view

Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for finding the Harold Lloyd
photo. Visit his website about another Grauman theatre,
The Chinese --

A 1927 look at the Million Dollar discovered
 on eBay by theatre detective Michelle Gerdes.
Playing is "The Magic Flame" with Ronald
Colman and Vilma Banky.
 full size view

Note the vertical has been re-done to read "Million Dollar"
 instead of "Grauman's."Ethereal Reality has the 1927 photo
 (and the program) on his Noirish Los Angeles post #17525.

A 60s look east along 3rd St. discovered on
 eBay by Mr. Ethereal Reality and included
on his post #25194.  Thanks!

     Huntington Digital Library

Architect Albert C. Martin's drawing of the projected

Edison Building and Million Dollar Theatre. 
full size view

Note that on the Huntington Library's pages
 you can use
the slider to enlarge the photo and
then pan around to look at details.

A September 7, 1917 view of the construction by
G. Haven Bishop for the Southern California Edison Co.
The Edison Co. would be the office building's first tenant.
full size view
  | same day - a bit closer

The lore is that the name Million Dollar was applied to

the venue later. But note here that even the construction
signage says "Home of the new Million Dollar Theatre."

A January 1918 construction view of the 3rd St. side
of the building by G. Haven Bishop. Note that we're working
overhead -- not a lot of protection for the pedestrians. 
full size view

A detail from a January 18,  1918 construction
 shot by Mr. Bishop.
also see:

After opening: a detail from a 1918 G. Haven Bishop
photo giving us a view up 3rd St. to Angels' Flight. At the
Million Dollar: Pauline Frederick in "Fedora," a Mack
Sennett comedy released in August 1918.

A May 1919 look at the building. The Million Dollar
 is running "The Girl Dodger" with Charles Ray. Here those
two southern bays are in use as the open-air ticket lobby --
something not in use at the opening in February.
full size view 

other similar views:
| June 15, 1919 - "The Girl Dodger" -- with a line in front |
 |   another take - "The Girl Dodger"  | no line - "The Girl Dodger"  |

A detail of the 3rd St. side of the building from the photo above.
It looks like we're loading in a show. Note the Grauman's
"Aladdin's lamp" signage up on the stagehouse.
larger detail view

An amazing undated night shot by G. Haven Bishop.
The bunting is evidently for an Elks convention.
full size view

An entrance detail from the photo above. The Million Dollar
 appears to be running a film with Douglas MacLean.  Note
 the signage over the bays of the boxoffice at left:
 "Grauman's Cinema Temple."

A 1921 G. Haven Bishop shot looking east on 3rd
toward a lost world.  The Fay Building on the right is now
the site of the Grand Central Market parking garage.

full size view

A detail of the "Grauman's" sign hanging high
 on the stagehouse from the 1921 photo above.

More theatre exteriors in the Huntington collection:
| another night view east on 3rd - 1921  |
Broadway facade at night - 1921 |
3rd St. side -- c. 1922 |
| east on 3rd - day view - 1923 | night view west - c.1926  |

The Edison collection also has many views of the interior of
the office building showing use of the space as offices, dispatch
areas, lunch rooms, etc. Searching the collection for
"Edison Building" gets many of these items.

Some of the more interesting ones include:
 | Laughlin Building (Grand Central Market) - 1915 -- before MD construction |
| on the roof  |  office building lobby  |  library  |  directors' room  |
 | ladies' lunch room - basement  | ladies lunch room kitchen  |  ladies lounge  |
 |  mail roomassembly room  |  men's lunch room - 2nd floor  |

A June 1954 look south on Broadway toward
 the Million Dollar. It's a Connor Palmer photo.
full size view

     Arnold Hylen

An undated view looking south on Broadway
toward the Million Dollar from Mr. Hylen's
 grand niece, Lisa Santa Lucia-Riccardi.  On
the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page:
full size view

     Life Magazine |

A view of the facade taken by Bob Landry in 1940.
  Thanks to Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles
for finding the image in the Life collection. 
 full size view | on Photos of LA

The photo got a 2016 re-post on Photos of Los Angeles by
Al Guerrero who noted the display case at the left advertising
"While Thousands Cheer" It was a 1940 release from Million
Dollar production directed by Leo Popkin. Harry Popkin owned
 the theatre at the time, presumably they were brothers.

 The second feature was "Spy Bureau." Michael Moran
went on a hunt and determined that it's an alternate title for
the 1936 British film "Second Bureau," the title being a reference
to a spy agency that would be unknown to US audiences.
The photo can also be found on AllPosters.con.

     L.A. Public Library Collection 

A 1918 view of the exterior prior to opening. Note
the nice "Grauman's" signage above the arch.
full size view

"For Rent" -- in the two bays at the left
that were later the open air ticket lobby.
full size view

Another early view -- notice they've filled in more
window framing in the two bays at the left at the left.
 full size view

In the view above, note the Aladdin's lamp
signage on the 3rd St. side of the building.

A 1925 view of the theatre when
presenting Chaplin's "Gold Rush."
 full size view

Note ductwork on the stagehouse going up to the
fan room on the roof. Also note that the two south bays
of the facade are now an open ticket lobby area.

Looking north on Broadway toward 3rd and the
Million Dollar Theatre in 1929.  At the time, the office
 building was still known as the Edison Building.
 USC Archives dates this one as c.1926.
 full size view

A 30s panorama north toward on Broadway toward 3rd.
Here at the corner the there's some competition for the Grand
Central Market in the form of another "cut rate" market.

Looking south toward 3rd and the Million
Dollar in the 40s.  The Library dates this one as
1954 but it's obviously much earlier.
full size view

Lionel Hampton at the Million
Dollar in an undated photo.

c.1950 look east down the Angels Flight
 tracks and 3rd St. toward the Million Dollar.
It's a photo by Roy Hankey.
full size view

In the photo above this side of the Million Dollar
is the F.P. Fay Building, now replaced by the
parking garage for the Grand Central Market.

A 1956 William Reagh photo looking
east from Bunker Hill.

A 1966 peek at the theatre building (and the Grand
Central Market) from Clay St. during the Bunker Hill
redevelopment project. It's a William Reagh photo.

A look east on 3rd in 1982 in a Michael Haering
photo.  That's the stagehouse at the far right.
full size view

More exterior views  in the Library's collection:
 |  facade detail  facade detail 2 |   facade detail 3   |
| 60s ? view from Angel's Flight | another look down |
| marquee &  Mexican variety performers - Leonard - 1999 |
| another showgirls shot -  Gary Leonard - 1999 |
| marquee & jester - Leonard - 1999 |

     L.A. Time Machines    

An interesting undated exterior view
from this now vanished website
full size view

The red brick structure beyond the Million Dollar
is the Bradbury Building at 3rd & Broadway.

     L.A. Times Collection - UCLA  |

A 1987 L.A. Times view of the building by
Marsha Traeger that's in the UCLA archives
full size view | on Calisphere

     Metro Transportation Library

A 1956 view looking north toward the Million Dollar.
It's part of the Metro Downtown Los Angeles set.
full size view

     Penn State Alumni Library

A 1925 photo of the Million Dollar running Harold
Lloyd's "The Freshman." It was once on a Penn State
page about Fred Waring. The Pennsylvanians appeared
with the film as part of the stage show for six weeks.
full size view

The signage says "Atmospheric Prologue: On The Campus." 
The marquee advertises the engagement as a world
premiere -- usual prices.

The Pennsylvanians came back for six weeks in 1923 for
the opening show of Grauman's Metropolitan Theatre.

     Photos of Los Angeles

Before the Million Dollar -- a view east on 3rd
toward the Fay Building at 3rd and Hill and on toward
3rd & Broadway, later site of the Million Dollar.
full size view

An interesting 1919 view of customers exiting the
Million Dollar -- then known as Grauman's Theatre.
These two bays at the left side of the facade were
later filled in and rented as retail space.
 full size view

Disney animator Tyrus Wong and, presumably, his
wife north of the theatre. It's 1935 and they're running
"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" with Gary Cooper and
Franchot Tone. Thanks to Phillip Anthony Aguirre
for the post on Photos of Los Angeles.

Third St. looking east in a 1939 view discovered
by Kenneth McIntyre and posted on his Photos of
Los Angeles Facebook page.  That's the side of
 the Million Dollar on the left.

A 1948 look at the marquee. In addition to the
stage attractions, we're running "Angels' Alley." 
full size view  | a re-post | on FB/LATheatres

Looking west on 3rd toward
the Million Dollar in 1959.

LBJ in front of the Million Dollar in 1964.
full size view

A marquee shot from 1987.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

A street festival at 3rd & Broadway in 1988.
full size view

Also see:
 | 1979 exterior - color | 1988 marquee detail

     Public Art in L.A.

Here's a detail of some sculpture by Joseph Mora
 on the facade of the Million Dollar. 

It's one of 5 pictures on this site's page
 devoted to the Million Dollar Theatre.

     USC Downtown Tour

The Downtown LA Walking Tour from the
Geography Department
has a nice page on the Million
Dollar with a history of the theatre and several more
pictures in addition to this facade detail.
 full size view

An early postcard of the Million Dollar with "Grauman's" on the
vertical at the south corner of the building. It's an image from after
August 1918 since it looks like the two southern bays are in use as the
open-air ticket lobby. And way before 1925 when we had lots of added
By 1927 the vertical got changed to read "Million Dollar."
 full size view | on the USC site

The postcard above also appears in several other collections:
  | Elizabeth Fuller's Old L.A. Postcards  | Bringing Back Broadway |
| Michelle Gerdes on Facebook | Michelle Gerdes on Flickr |

more million dollar theatre pages:
|  recent exterior views  |  boxoffice area  |  lobby areas  |
 |  auditorium  |  booth  |
  backstage  |  stage basement  |
  backstage  |   stage basement  |  orchestra pit  |
auditorium & building basement