Optic Theatre

533 S. Main St.  
| map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013

Opened: 1911 by Robert W. Woodley.

On Broadway Woodley had briefly operated the Optic Theatre and Woodley's Theatre (later called the Mission Theatre). 

In the 1922 and 23 directories it's listed as Gore's Optic.  The Optic here on Main St. ran through the 1980s.

It was a busy block. Across the street were the Galway, Sherman and Burbank theatres. South of the Optic down at the end of the block was the Art Theatre. Just north of the Optic were the Star and the Gayety theatres.  Woodley was also involved at one point in operation of the Gayety Theatre.

A section of a 1931 insurance map from the
Los Angeles Public Library showing the Art,
Optic, Star and Gayety  theatres. 
full size view  |  more maps

Seating: 700

Status: Demolished in the late 80s. A parking garage is on the site.

The Optic in the Movies:

In "Uptown Saturday Night' (Warner Bros. / First Artists, 1974)
we get this sliver of a view of the north end of the Optic marquee.
Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier are going into a bar for
some trouble -- it's Main St. doubling for Chicago. 
larger view another shot

That hulk on the right with the dim blue neon is the Optic,
making an appearance in Sidney Poitier's "Let's Do It Again"
 (Warner Bros./First Artists, 1975). The shot is supposed to be
a street in New Orleans. On the left is the Santa Fe
Building vertical sign at 6th & Main.
larger view

Judge Reinhold is on Main St. being chased by the police
(as you can see in the mirror) in "Ruthless People" (Touchstone
Pictures, 1986). At the left we see the marquee of the Optic.

larger view

Another glimpse of the Optic
in "Ruthless People."
larger view

We get a murky view of the Optic in "Inside Deep
 Throat" (Universal, 2005), a documentary about the
 making of the film and its later influence. The film
didn't actually play the Optic.

Another look at the entrance
from "Inside Deep Throat."
larger view

See our Theatres In Movies post for more shots
from "Inside."  Our Main St. drive-by also hits the Art
and we visit the Sunset and the Monica as well.

ManWithNoName on Cinema Treasures suggests that it's the Optic featured in the 1913 Mack Sennett comedy "Mabel's Dramatic Career" with Fatty Arbuckle and Mack Sennett. See the article: "Optic Theater in Downtown Los Angeles circa 1913."   The film is available for viewing on Internet Archive.  Is it really the Optic?  The tile pattern out front doesn't seem to match and the interiors could have been shot anywhere.

The Optic on TV:

Thanks to Michael Dains for bringing the opening
sequence of "The Rockford Files" to our attention.
The Optic is seen in a shot looking south on Main St.

More information: See the Optic Theatre page on Cinema Treasures for a fine discussion of many of the early Main Street theatres. 

A great map from the 50s showing many downtown theatres, including those on this block of Main St. is on the "Uncanny" website of  Tom Wetzel.

     American Classic Images    


A view of the Optic in all its glory.
The photo is from 1982.
full size view

   Michelle Gerdes - Los Angeles Theatres   


A look down at the Optic during the 1913 Brennan
Hotel fire that Michelle Gerdes discovered
full size view

     L.A. Public Library Collection    

The interior of the Optic from the
Library's collection. 
full size image

A look north on Main St. from 6th in 1973.
We've got the Burbank on the right and the
Optic bravely surviving on the left.
full size view

A detail from the photo above. The Optic is
 running "Twilight People," a 1975 feature.

A 70s view by Victor Plukas looking south on Main
 toward the Optic.  The large building is the Green Hotel
Building, former home of the Star Theatre.
full size view

A detail from the view above. That crazy vent pipe
that looks in this photo like it's coming from the Optic's
booth is actually from the rear of the Todd's Men's Furnishings
building at 6th & Main, just south of the Art Theatre.

     Ken McIntyre on Cinema Treasures    


A look at Main St. in 1911 from the L.A. Times
blog by Larry Harnisch.  We've got the Optic on the far
left. That "VAUDEVILLE" sign was for the Star Theatre
next door.  By 1913 the Optic has its sign in this position.

The photo also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.

     Photos of Los Angeles    


Behind the rear of the trolley we see the top of the
facade of the Optic in this 1947 view.  The hotel building
behind the trolly housed the Star Theatre. The marquee
of the Gayety is visible down the block.
full size view

A fine detail of the Optic's signage. Thanks to Ken
McIntyre for the photo, one he added as a comment
to a post of the LAPL organ pipes photo.
 It's from Cinema Treasures.

     Vintage Los Angeles    

A delightful 1938 view from the Maurice Ideses collection
 added to the amazing array of photos on Vintage Los Angeles.
 Note the "Woodley's Optic" in terrazzo. 
full size view

A c.1945 look north toward the theatre.

Thanks to Sean Ault for providing the photo. He notes that the
Pony Express bus depot seen this side of the theatre was turned
 into a Metro transit station from 1961 until 1967.

Thanks to Scott Pitzer for taking a look at the marquee
of the Gayety Theatre beyond. He thinks they're running
"Hold That Blonde," a 1945 release.

The Optic Theatre as it nears the end.

photo: Gary Graver - c.1980

Thanks to Gary Graver's son Sean for the use
of the photo. See more of Mr. Graver's theatre photos
 shot over several decades. On YouTube:
 "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2"

A facade view of the Optic --  it had opened in 1911.

photo: William E. Ault - c.1979

Thanks to L.A. transit historian Sean Ault for the photos
from his collection. They were taken by his grandfather,
William E. Ault.
More of his grandfather's shots are on our
Art, Million Dollar and Cameo pages.

 [ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

A detail of the entrance - "Four Features Daily"

photo: William E. Ault - c.1979

Another look at the entrance.

photo: William E. Ault - c.1979

"White Lightning," on the side of the marquee, was a 1973
 release with Burt Reynolds.
They ran lots of oldies --
they were cheaper to book.

A marquee detail.

photo: William E. Ault - c.1979

"Death Rides a Horse" was a 1966
 release with Lee Van Cleef.

A noirish look north on Main past the Optic
 toward the Galway and Regent.

photo: William E. Ault - c.1979

The Galway Theatre is over on the other side of the street in the
Leonide Hotel Building (still on Main, minus the theatre).
The Regent is up in the next block at 448 S. Main.

A view south toward the Optic as a LAMTA
officer holds back the pedestrians.

photo: Sean Ault Collection - 1963

Thanks, Sean!

 about photos from other
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     more from Sean Ault...    

A look north on Main St toward 5th from the Sean Ault
Archives. The Art Theatre is behind the bus with
the Optic up the street -- and a glimpse of the Gayety
beyond. At 5th are the Rosslyn Hotel buildings.
 full size view  | on FB/LATheatres

Thanks, Sean! Sean Ault is a noted historian of transit
 in the Los Angeles area.
You can see many more items
from his Osiris Press transit archive on YouTube.

A detail from Sean's photo above.

     L.A. Fire Department Archives    


Here from the LAFD collection is a January 1913 shot of
 the Brennan Hotel fire just north of the Optic theatre. 
full size view

The Optic is the squat building on the left.  Note that
 the Optic's vertical sign is actually located on the hotel.
The hotel building later housed the Star Theatre.  Note
that the theatre north of the hotel, later the Gayety, is
here in 1913 known as the Century.

A detail of the Optic facade
from the photo above.

Another view from the archives -- Optic at left.
full size view

For more photos go to the "Major Incident" page and
look for "Brennan Hotel Fire, 1913" in the index on the left
column. On the Brennan page, click on "see completion LAFD
photo album photo collection" under the photo for more views.

The L.A. Examiner's story about the fire is on
 the LAFD Blog. The photos also appear on LAist.  One
 of them is also on Noirish Los Angeles post #11832.

     USC Archives    


Here's a view ca. 1917 from the USC archives
looking north showing the Optic sign -- but not the
theatre itself.  The sign was hung on the taller building
just north of the theatre, the Green Hotel.
full size view

Up the block are the Star Theatre (actually in the Green
Hotel Bldg.) and the Gayety Theatre (at this point called the
Omar).  The vertical saying "Burlesque" belongs to the Omar.   

A version of the photo above
is also in the LAPL collection.

A  great Dick Whittington photo c.1938
showing the west side of the block looking north
toward 5th. The Optic is in the squat building in
the foreground with the Star Theatre just beyond.
full size view 

Farther down toward 5th is the Gayety. The
Dick Powell film on the Optic marquee,
"Hard To Get," came out in 1938. 

A detail from the USC image above.
larger view

Also in the USC Archives:
| looking north - January 1907 -- no Optic yet -- but a view of Burbank roof |
| looking north - c. 1907 Peoples Theatre (aka Gayety) marquee, no Optic yet |
another 1917 view - looking north |

The 500 block of S. Main St. was very busy with nine theatres
 operating at various times. See the Main Street Theatres page
for all the listings.  On the west side of the street just north of
the Optic were the Star Theatre and the Gayety Theatre
Across the street was the Burbank.