Olympic Theatre

313 W. 8th St.    | map |

[ plus an added entrance at 
757 S. Broadway in the 30s ]

Los Angeles, CA  90014

The news:  H&M has signed a lease to put their upscale clothing brand COS (as in Collection of Style) into the building. Rehab work will include relighting the Olympic vertical. Brigham Yen, who was the listing agent, has the March 2016 story "Dilapidated Olympic Theatre... to be brought back to life..." on DTLA Rising.

See the fine interior photos by Hunter Kerhart on a 2014 post "Unique Flagship Retail Opportunity " also by Brigham on DTLA Rising.

COS is planning to restore some of the historic elements of the building. But perhaps not the marquee. A June 6, 2016 story on Racked L.A. included a rendering showing the vertical remaining but the marquee taken off.

A rendering of the proposed COS remodel. It's a
design from LDA Design Group of Burbank.
full size view

The current marquee went up in 1970 -- or perhaps earlier. It's unknown when the vertical got its present configuration and current centered location. As late as 1947 there were still two of verticals on the building, neither looking like the present one.

Opened: April 1927 as Bard's 8th St. Theatre with the Universal comedy "Oh, Baby" starring Madge Kennedy and Creighton Hale.

Architect: Lewis A. Smith.  Smith died in 1926 so the assumption is that it was completed from his plans following his death. Charles O. Matcham did a remodel in 1942.

Total square footage, per Brigham Yen, is 9,835 split into three levels: basement 3,289 SF, ground floor 5,520 SF, mezzanine 1,026 SF.

Seating: 600 originally.  None now. The sloped auditorium floor has been replaced with a flat floor of wood frame construction.

Lou Bard operated a number of other theatres including two nearby Hill Street theatres, the Town Theatre and the College Theatre.

Bard's was the circuit that also built the Vista Theatre on Sunset Dr. in the Los Feliz area. Bard's Egyptian Theatre in Pasadena (later the Colorado) is still running as the Academy 6Bard also had the Glen Theatre in Glendale, the West Adams Theatre and  Alhambra's Garfield.

Bard's 8th Street was a remodeled building on a 50' x 130' lot previously occupied by Crillon Cafe. Construction cost for the theatre conversion was advertised as $200,000.  Surviving from the restaurant was a set of skylights on the mezzanine. Some were still visible in theatre lounge areas along the front of the building. Others remained but were obscured by the addition of a projection booth on the mezzanine.

Go around back and you can see bricked-in windows from the building's days before it was a theatre. The 11,400 s.f. building was originally constructed in 1917.

The Broadway entrance: In 1930, Bard's added a second entrance through the north storefront of the Merritt Building at 8th & Broadway. This entrance probably was a bigger lobby than the original one on 8th. This new lobby didn't intersect with the original -- patrons came into the auditorium via a doorway in the house right wall at a crossaisle about a third of the way down from the back of the auditorium.

A post from Cinema Treasures contributor Jeff Bridges (on the site's Majestic Theatre page) quotes an article from the November 30, 1930 issue of the Los Angeles Times:

"The ground floor of the Merritt Building, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Eighth streets, will be divided into two stores and a theater salon and lobby, as a result of a series of leases consummated through the W. Ross Campbell Company...

The north section of the property will be converted into a theater salon and lobby which will provide a Broadway entrance to Bard's Eighth-street Theater. The lease was drawn for a term of sixteen years. The Windsor Corporation, owners of the Bard Theater Chain, are the lessees in this instance. Store fronts and interiors are being installed on the premises now."

At the beginning of the COS remodel in mid-2016, the plastered-over doorway (with an electrical box above for an exit sign) was still detectable on the side wall. It's unknown how long this entrance was used. Evidently not long.  The Merritt Building (Reid Brothers, architects) dates from 1914.

Renaming: In 1931 Bard's became the Olympic, in honor of the 1932 games in Los Angeles. It was going under its new name in ads as early as June 1931.

A 1934 ad for the Olympic on Photos of Los Angeles
 that was located by Ken McIntyre.
full size view

In the 40s and 50s the theatre had a suggestion book in the lobby for patron suggestions and was known as the Olympic Request Theatre. Looking down from Broadway one of the vertical signs would say "Olympic" and the second one "Request."

For its last decades it was operated by Metropolitan Theatres, usually as a last moveover spot after films had played the Orpheum, State or Palace. It closed as a film house around 1997. Most of the original "oriental" decor is gone except a ceiling medallion from a later remodel, part of the organ grilles and a few other pieces of ornament. It's been used for storage and retail since closing as a theatre.

Status: A lease has been signed and the demolition phase of the project is expected to begin by the end of the summer.  The vertical sign will be preserved and re-lit. It's unknown how much of the remaining vintage interior elements will survive.
See the interior page for lots of photos.  

The listing on Loopnet indicates that the property had sold in September 2013.  The new owners had to sit on it quite a while until the right tenant emerged. For a few years the theatre was a showroom for light fixtures and furniture with the store having an eternal "closing soon" sale. They finally cleared out at the end of 2013.

Curbed L.A. ran a story on the listing: "Olympic Theatre Can be All Yours" by Dakota Smith in May 2010.  At the time, the building was for sale at an asking price of $2.3 million.

The Olympic Theatre in the movies:

This block seems to be a favorite for filmmakers.

We get the signage of the Olympic Theatre in "Boston
Blackie's Rendezvous" (1945). The screenshot is by
Cinema Treasures contributor Jeff Bridges.
full size view

We get a glimpse of the Olympic in the Rita Hayworth
film "Down To Earth" (Columbia, 1947). But it's only via a
process shot -- we see tantalizing downtown L.A. footage
out the rear window of a taxi Rita is riding in.

It's much more interesting to look directly at the footage
they shot downtown for the film.
It's on Internet Archive.
Downtown L.A. streets - 1946 is an 11 minute tour giving
us glimpses of lots of storefronts and theatres.

 In the view above we're cruising east on 8th St. in footage
 for a process shot for "Down To earth." The RKO Hillstreet
is in the distance with the Olympic on the right.
 larger view

Another look at the Olympic marquee in the "Down To
Earth" footage shot in 1946 -- a much flashier confection
than the one on the building in the 70s and beyond.
larger view

On the tour we get night vistas of 7th and 8th streets as
well as (at the end) a look at all the theatres on the east side
of Broadway.The 11 minutes "Down To Earth" footage
also appears as a post on the site Ultra Swank.

The Olympic appears in "War of the Worlds" (1953).

Charlton Heston pulling up in front of the Olympic in
Boris Sagal's "The Omega Man" (Warner Bros., 1971).
larger view  |  on Photos of Los Angeles

Charlton Heston leaving the Olympic after watching a reel
of "Woodstock" in "The Omega Man." He had to thread up
the film and strike up the Magnarc (with the door open) --
but the booth and auditorium scenes were shot elsewhere.  
 larger view

We're supposedly in New York City in this sequence
from in "Last Action Hero" (Columbia, 1993). Yet Arnold and
his young friend are in a rainy night traffic jam chasing the
bad guy (Charles Dance) on 8th St. in front of the Olympic.
larger view

Lots of scenes for the "Last Action Hero" were shot in
the Orpheum Theatre. Also see a page on the website
 Silver Screens about the film.

Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter have
 a scene in front of the Olympic in David Fincher's
 "Fight Club" (Fox, 1999).
larger view  | another shot -- with the Tower

On the marquee is "Seven Years in Tibet," a Brad Pitt
starrer from 1997. Pitt is, of course, also in "Fight Club" 
Also see the Silver Screens page on the film.

Near the beginning of Mark Steven Johnson's "Daredevil"
(Fox, 2003) we see the Olympic dressed up as a New York City
boxing arena. Note that that the brick walls on either side of
the main entrance are just set dressing. 
full size view

At the end of "Daredevil" we pan down to the Olympic
Theatre as a rose falls from above. We're pretending it's
in New York with the matte work buildings beyond.
full size view  |  earlier lit vertical view

More Information: Whatever history is known about the Olympic is on the Cinema Treasures page.  Jeff Bridges (aka vokoban) and others have been busy unearthing the secrets of this theatre.  

More on the Merritt Building: The building at 8th & Broadway is a design of the San Francisco based firm Reid Brothers. It was begun in 1914 and opened in 1915. Originally the first floor as retail.

You Are Here has a nice view of the Merritt BuildingBlogdowntown had a story on the building in 2006. 

The LAPL has a view from 1957 when Millard Sheets did a redesign to make it a branch of Home Savings.  Also there's an earlier undated view in the LAPL collection.

The Pacific Coast Architecture Database has a page on the Merritt.

     Photos of Los Angeles    


A 1992 view from the legendary Ken Mcintyre.
larger view

And, we'll get a shot of Arnold in front of
this theatre in "Last Action Hero" (1993).

A nice view of the marquee from Ken McIntyre on
Photos of Los Angeles. "Cazador de aseninos" with Mario
Almada was a 1983 release. It's actually a cropped version
of a shot in the American Classic Images collection.
 slightly larger view| on the American Classics site

     Vintage Los Angeles    


A wonderful view looking west on 8th St. from Broadway
in 1958. We've got the Olympic Theatre on the right and,
down at 8th & Hill, the RKO Hillstreet.
It's from
the collection of Richard Wojcik.

 full size view


The Olympic Theatre facade

photo: Bill Counter 2010

more Olympic Theatre photos:
recent exterior views  |  interior  |

[ click either of  these photos to enlarge]

A look at the Olympic during its Spanish language days.

photo: Gary Graver - 1988

"Con el corazon en la mana" with Maria
Conchita Alonso was a 1988 release.

Gary Graver (1938-2006) was a noted filmmaker and cinematographer.
 Over several decades he took many photos of theatres in Los Angeles and
Portland, OR.  More can be seen on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and
"Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.

 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
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question concerning reproduction or other use.

     American Classic Images    


The Olympic at night in 1983 in a view discovered
by Cinema Treasures researcher "Lost Memory"
in the American Classic Images Collection.
  full size view

Also in the collection:
 | 1980 view  |  1981 view  |

     Gerald DeLuca on Photobucket    


This great 1931 postcard shows the marquee of
the Bard's Broadway entrance in the classical
white Merritt Building at right.
full size view | on Photobucket

There's also a view of the Majestic vertical farther down
the street (also on the right) just before the green Eastern
Columbia building.
The marquee in the left foreground is
the President Theatre, later called the Globe Theatre.  

Mr. DeLuca has an interesting collection of theatre
 photos. Check out his Cinemas Album and others.

The card can also be seen in our set
of Theatre Postcards on Blogspot.

     Huntington Digital Library    


The Merritt Building at 8th & Broadway in 1916.
This was long before it got that Broadway entrance
of the Olympic inserted into it. It's a view
from the Huntington Library. 
full size view

The Hulett C. Merritt Building, by Reid Brothers
architects, was started in 1914 and opened in 1915.

     L.A. Public Library Collection    


An early view of the Merritt Building
on the corner of 8th and Broadway.
 full size view

Take a look down 8th Street and you can catch
a glimpse of the Bard's vertical sign. 

The Library dates the photo as 1931 but it's possibly earlier
as we don't see the new Broadway entrance for Bard's Theatre
through this building. The first floor was originally retail, then
a bank before becoming theatre lobby and retail space.
Later it was again a bank, Home Savings.

A c.1938 look east on 8th St. from Hill with a glimpse
of the Olympic (15 cents admission) on the left. Down at
8th & Broadway we see the Tower Theatre. That's the
May Co. on the right. It's a Herman Schultheis photo.
 full size view

Well it's not much, but here's a 40's view down
8th St. with the Olympic's sign visible on the right
hand side of the street if you look at the full size view.
full size view

The RKO Hillstreet is visible on
the left a block away.

A 1951 view of 8th and Broadway. The
Merritt Building is at the right with the Olympic
Theatre facade on the left side of the photo.
full size view

Note that the theatre's facade hasn't yet been covered up.
Or the Merritt Building's for that matter either.

     Online Archive of California    


A view from 1947 looking west down 8th St.
 It's a Frasher Foto postcard. The Olympic vertical
signs are visible on the right. Down a block at
Hill St., we get the RKO on the left. 
full size view| on the Pomona Library site

Note the second vertical saying "Request." The theatre
was known in this period as the Olympic Request Theatre,
 booking films suggested by the patrons.

     USC Archives    


A 1927 view looking west on 8th St. from Broadway
from the USC Archives.  The photo is from the
Automobile Club of Southern California. 
 full size view

A detail of the theatre's entrance
from the USC photo above.
larger view

Another 1927 view looking west past the
Merritt Building toward Bard's Theatre. It's another
photo from the Automobile Club collection.
full size view

A detail of the east vertical sign
from the USC photo above.
larger view

Also in the USC Archives:
  | looking east on 8th - late 30s - Olympic and Tower  |
| Merritt Bldg. --  1939 Dick Whittington photo
with no trace left of the Bard Theatre entrance |

more on the Olympic: