Olympic Theatre

the olympic theatre pages:
|  main olympic page  |  recent exterior views  |  interior  |


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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. TheAgencyRE is handling it with Brigham Yen (213-293-6639) or Frank Buckley (424-230-3760) the guys to call.  See the fine photos by Hunter Kerhart on a post by Brigham Yen on DTLA Rising.

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 Adams Theatre, 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 1932 Bard's became the Olympic, in honor of the games in Los Angeles that year.



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).




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



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: 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.



     Internet Archive    

www-tracey.archive.org


 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.
 larger view




Another look at the Olympic marquee in
1946 -- a much flashier confection than the
current one on the building
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.
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 and on You Tube
On You Tube is also the full feature: "Down To Earth"




     Online Archive of California    

oac.cdlib.org  



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.


     Photos of Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/groups/244565982234863



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 undated view of the marquee discovered
by Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.
 slightly larger view




 

     Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles


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]


A look at the Olympic during its Spanish language days.

photo: Gary Graver - undated

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
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Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
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     American Classic Images    

americanclassicimages.com



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    

s3.photobucket.com/home/italiangerry/index



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 the street (also on the right) just before the
green Eastern Columbia building.

 The marquee in the left foreground is the President
 Theatre, now called the Globe Theatre.  

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




     Huntington Digital Library    

hdl.huntington.org/cdm


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, dates from 1914.



     L.A. Public Library Collection    

www.lapl.org  



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 in the center of the photo. 

Note that the facade hasn't yet been covered up.
   full size view


Here's a view of the Merritt Building on
the corner of 8th and Broadway from
the LAPL collection. 

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. It was a bank before becoming theatre
lobby and retail. Later it was again a bank, Home Savings.

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



     USC Archives    

digarc.usc.edu



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: 
|  recent exterior views  |  interior  |