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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: 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, either 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.
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 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."
The theatre was later operated for decades by Metropolitan Theatres, usually as a last moveover spot after films had played the Orpheum, State or Palace.
Status: A lease has been signed and the demolition phase of the project is expected to begin by the end of the summer. 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 renant emerged.
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.
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 lots of photos.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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
The Olympic Theatre facade.
photo: Bill Counter 2010
more Olympic Theatre photos:
| recent exterior views | interior |
[ click either of these photos to enlarge]
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.
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 | on Photobucket
There's also a view of the Majestic
vertical farther down
more on the Olympic: