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313 W. 8th St. | map |
[ plus an added entrance at 757 S. Broadway in the 30s ]
Los Angeles, CA 90014
The news: As of 2014, the building is vacant and is currently available for lease. Miren is the agency handling it with Brigham Yen (213-293-6639) or John Kim (949-212-3561) the guys to call. See the fine photos by Hunter Kerhart on a 2014 post by Brigham Yen on DTLA Rising.
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.
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 6. Bard 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.
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.
In 1930, Bard's added a second entrance, through the Merritt Building in the 700 block of Broadway. It's unknown how long this entrance was used. The Merritt Building (Reid Brothers, architects) dates from 1914.
In 1931 Bard's became the Olympic, in honor of the 1932 games in Los Angeles. It's 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
For a period in the 40s the theatre had a suggestion book in the lobby for patron suggestions and was known as the Olympic Request Theatre.
The Olympic Theatre was later operated for years by Metropolitan Theatres, usually as a last moveover spot after films had played the Orpheum, State or Palace.
Status: As of early 2014 it's vacant. The listing on Loopnet indicates that the property had sold in September 2013.
It closed around 1997. Most of the original "oriental" decor is gone except the ceiling, 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.
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. See the interior page for photos taken between 2010 and 2014.
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
The Olympic appears in "War of the Worlds" (1953).
larger view | on Photos of Los Angeles
Charlton Heston pulling up in front of the Olympic in
Boris Sagal's "The Omega Man" (Warner Bros., 1971).
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.
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.
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
The Broadway Entrance: More information about the Bard's Broadway entrance comes from an item posted by Jeff Bridges on the Cinema Treasures page about the Majestic Theatre where he 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."
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.
The Pacific Coast Architecture Database has a page on the Merritt.
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. The RKO Hillstreet
is in the distance with the Olympic on the right.
Another look at the Olympic marquee in
1946 -- a much flashier confection than the
current one on the building
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.
It's footage that was shot by Columbia in 1946 for use as background
process shots for the 1947 Rita Hayworth film "Down To Earth."
The 11 minutes of background footage also
appears as a post on the site Ultra Swank.
Another view from about 1947 looking west down
8th St. It's a Frasher Foto postcard. The Olympic
vertical sign is visible on the right. Down a block at
Hill St., we get the RKO on the left.
full size view
Note the additional sign to the left of the vertical
saying "Request." The theatre was known in this
period as the Olympic Request Theatre, booking
suggestions of the patrons.
A 1992 view from the legendary Ken Mcintyre.
And, we'll get a shot of Arnold in front of
this theatre in "Last Action Hero" (1993).
A nice undated view of the marquee discovered
by Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.
slightly larger view
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, added to the growing
treasure trove known as Vintage Los Angeles on Facebook.
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]
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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
This great 1931 postcard shows the marquee of
the Bard's Broadway entrance in the classical
white Merritt Building at right.
full size view
There's also a view of the Majestic
vertical farther down