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 opened the store for their upscale clothing brand COS (as in Collection of Style) in the theatre building in September 2017. The vertical sign has been refurbished. What was left of the ceiling, proscenium arch, organ grilles, and 1917 vintage glass ceiling on the mezzanine were all removed in the renovation.

Brigham Yen, who was the listing agent, had a March 2016 story about leasing the building on DTLA Rising: "Dilapidated Olympic Theatre... to be brought back to life..."  See the fine interior photos by Hunter Kerhart on a 2014 post "Unique Flagship Retail Opportunity " also by Brigham on DTLA Rising.

COS has restored some of the historic elements of the building's facade. But not the marquee. It came off the building in February 2017. A June 6, 2016 story on Racked L.A. included this rendering.

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

Presumably the current marquee went up sometime in the 1960s. The old one was still on the building as late as 1958 -- we see a bit of it in a USC Dodgers parade photo.  The first photo we have of the new one is with Charlton Heston arriving at the theatre in "The Omega Man," a 1971 release.

The vertical got its present configuration and current centered location sometime between 1947 and 1953. As late as 1947 there were still two verticals on the building, neither looking like the present one.  Our first look at the new sign is in "The War of The Worlds," a 1953 release.

Thanks to Dion Noravian on the DTLA Development Facebook page for his February 20, 2017 photo of the building shortly after removal of the marquee.  In a comment to Dion's post Mars Bravo of the Los Angeles Sign Company noted that his firm got the contract for work on the vertical sign.

Rehab of the vertical underway. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography for the March 13, 2017 photo.

A glimpse of the new colors for the vertical -- it'll be blue with bright yellow letters. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography for the March 2017 photo.

A bit of long-covered facade ornament is once again visible. It's a March 2017 photo from
Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography.

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 in late 2016.  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.
larger view | on Flickr

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.

See our Theatres In Movies post on "Down To Earth"
for some closer shots of the RKO Hillstreet.

As the Martians get close to the city we get this shot east
on 8th St. in "The War of the Worlds" (Paramount, 1953). 
That's the Hillstreet vertical on the right and the Olympic
 down in the block between Hill St. and Broadway.
A closer look at the theatre's new vertical in
"War of the Worlds." These are the first views we
have of the sign that's currently on the building.
Previously there were two (one on each edge of
the facade) and quite different in style.

See our Theatres In Movies post about "The War of
 the Worlds" for another shot looking south on Hill St.
with a view of the Mason Theatre stagehouse.

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

On  the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles
Ken McIntyre has a screenshot he took of the
scene above paired with a 2012 photo.

Charlton Heston leaving the Olympic after watching
a reel of "Woodstock" in "The Omega Man."
 larger view

We also get a booth view -- he had to thread up the film
and strike up the Magnarc (with the door open!) as well as
auditorium shot (done elsewhere). In addition, there are several
views down 8th that include the Tower Theatre. See our
 Theatres In Movies post on "Omega Man" for those shots.

We're supposedly in New York City in this sequence
from "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 "Last Action Hero" were shot in the
 Orpheum Theatre.  See our Theatres in Movies
post for those shots as well as a couple of the set
they built for the projection booth scenes.

Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter
have a scene in front of the Olympic in David Fincher's
 "Fight Club" (20th Century Fox, 1999). On the marquee
is "Seven Years in Tibet," a Brad Pitt film from 1997.
 Pitt is, of course, also in "Fight Club." 

See our Theatres In Movies post on "Fight Club"
for another shot on 8th St. showing the Tower Theatre as well
 as shots of a scene filmed in the booth at the Los Angeles.

Near the beginning of Mark Steven Johnson's "Daredevil"
(20th Century 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. 
larger 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.
larger view

See our Theatres In Movies post on "Daredevil" for
a shot with the vertical's neon lit as well as a production
 shot on the roof of the Arcade Theatre.

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.

See "Downtown's historic office buildings, once abandoned, are again drawing tenants," an October 2017 L.A. Times story by Roger Vincent that discusses the Merritt Building renovations, including facade restoration.

For a terrific pre-renovation interior tour see the 2016 photos from Hunter Kerhart.

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.

 about photos from other
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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
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Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
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question concerning reproduction or other use.

     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.

     Photos of Los Angeles    


A 1992 view from the legendary Ken McIntyre.
full size view | on Photos of LA

And, the next year we'd get a shot of Arnold in front
 of the theatre in "Last Action Hero" (1993).

The newly restored vertical sign.

photo: James Lin - April 2017

Thanks, James!

more Olympic Theatre photos:
post-2000 exterior views  |  interior photos  |

A facade view after removal of the scaffolding for the sign.

photo: Marty Culbert - April 2017

See his post on the DTLA Development Facebook
 page for three more views. Thanks, Marty!

The Olympic Theatre facade

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click any of  these photos to enlarge]

A look at the Olympic during its Spanish language days.

photo: Gary Graver - 1988

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.

     American Classic Images    


A 1980 look at the theatre from
American Classic Images. Here we still get
the red vertical and marquee trim.
full size view
| on the ACI site

The signage gone yellow in 1981.
 full size view
on the ACI site

The Olympic at night in 1983.
full size view | on the ACI site

An entrance detail from the 1983 photo above.

Also on the American Classic Images site:

     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.

     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.

     L.A. Public Library Collection    


An early view of the Merritt Building on
the corner of 8th and Broadway. Take a look
down 8th Street and you can catch a glimpse
 of the Bard's vertical signs. 
 full size view | slightly clearer version

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.

The data page for the second link above gives no
date but credits it to the Luckhaus Studio, later
in the Ralph Morris collection.

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.

     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

A 1957 Examiner photo gives us a sliver of the theatre
 at the far left -- and a peek at the Olympic with its new
 vertical.  But at this point it's still the old marquee.
Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for this detail from
the 1957 photo above. The marquee on the right
 is not associated with the theatre, it's the entrance
 to the upper floors of the Merritt Bldg.

At the left we get an oblique detail of the
metalwork and neon on top of the Olympic's old
marquee. It's a 1958 Dodgers parade shot looking
east toward Broadway and the Tower theatre. 
full size view

The shot has also appeared on Photos of Los Angeles.

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 |

     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

more on the Olympic: