Regent Theatre

448 S. Main St.    | map |

Los Angeles, CA 90013


The news: Reopened November 2014 as a restaurant, bar and live music venue operated by longtime promoter Mitchell Frank. Scroll down to the "2014 Remodel" section for links to many news stories about the reopening.

 
Original opening:  The Regent opened February 1914 as the National Theatre, the second building on the site with that name.

Seating:  After the 2014 remodel the capacity of the building is 1,100. It was only 350 for the first National Theatre, 600 for its 1914 replacement. 

The earlier National: The first National Theatre opened in 1910 (or perhaps earlier) but soon proved to be too small for the business it generated. 

Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle has discovered two articles about the first National Theatre. In the June 17, 1911 issue of Moving Picture World:

"National to go Independent. --

The National Theatre, Main Street near 5th, is the latest recruit to join the landslide into the ranks of the Independents. The theater has for years been an Association house. They have signed up for Independent service, with the California Film Exchange beginning Monday, 29th."

The use of "years" in the article may be an exaggeration. We don't see the National, or any theatre at this address listed in the 1908 or 1909 city directories. The "Association" in the article refers to the combine of producers from the east coast that had pooled their patents in a trust in an attempt to stifle competition.

Cezar, in his Bijou Dream post about the first National Theatre, quotes a second article he found. This one is from the February 24, 1912 issue of Moving Picture News:

              “THE NATIONAL THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CAL.

This is one of the best independent houses in the city having a seating capacity of 350. Mr. Bert Lustig, the enterprising manager, took charge of the National not quite a year ago, and since that time the patronage has doubly increased.

The house formerly used trust pictures, but when Mr. Lustig took charge, he at once changed to independent, and consequently, the 'National' is among the best paying theatres in Los Angeles.

Four reels of pictures are shown, the programme changing twice a week. Mr. Lustig has recently opened the ‘Rex’ Theatre on Main street, between Third and Fourth streets, and the house like the National is proving to be a winner.”


The first National Theatre, from the
1912 Moving Picture News article.

This first theatre gets three city directory listings under "moving picture theatres," all with an address of 450 S. Main. In the 1911 directory there's a listing for its proprietor, Bert Lustig. In 1912 and 1913 it's listed as the National Theatre.  There wasn't any theatre listed for the site in the 1910 directory.

Evidently the National under Lustig's management was very successful. There's no listing for the theatre in the 1914 city directory -- presumably the larger replacement building was under construction at the time of their canvassing.


The present building: The new 600 seat theatre (the second National) opened in February 1914. At the time of its opening it was the largest Main Street theatre running films -- of about 20 at the time.  The original brick facade featuring a large entrance arch was covered up long ago.

Cezar Del Valle unearthed an article from the November 21, 1914 issue of Motion Picture News:

                           "$500 A WEEK FOR THEATRE PUBLICITY

An average of $500 per week is to be spent for local newspaper and billboard advertising for the feature pictures shown at the National Theatre, Los Angeles, the largest Main street house, located in the retail district, according to a contract made with Manager Bert Lustig by H.E. White, of the Nat A. Magnar Company, Los Angeles branch.

The National, which was opened last February, has always been a five-cent house, showing regular Universal and Mutual program. With the change in policy to features, Mr. Lustig will follow the trail of managers of all the larger theatres of this city and increase the price to ten cents.

The contract sets a new record for progressiveness on the part of the film renter with regard to advertising, and, in fact, instances where the exchange spent anything for advertising films -- unless they were placed in the theatre on a per cent. -- have been very rare.

The advertising through the newspapers will be very beneficial to the exchange with reference to the smaller cities of this state and Arizona. It is held that better prices can be obtained from the small town exhibitors if the pictures are advertised and the public generally becomes acquainted with them.

The first two weekly programs will consist of 'The House of Bondage' and 'Strangled in Paris,' to be followed by 'The Key to Yesterday,' and all other releases of the Alliance program."

Thanks to Cezar Del Valle of Theatre Talks for the research!

The 1915 and 1916 directories listed the address as 450 S. Main.  At some point Lustig faded out of the picture and the present theatre was called Gore's National.  In the 1917 and later directories it is called the Regent.  In 1923 it was called the Regent No. 1

The Regent went from a first run house to second run status as Broadway prospered and the fortunes of Main St. declined. The theatre ran for decades as an open all night grindhouse and, at the end, became an adult venue.

In 1993 the situation was so bad that the City ordered a cleanup of the building citing, among other things, 31 lewd conduct arrests in an 18 month period. The L.A. Times had the story. The theatre closed as a film house in 2000.

The lease was acquired by developer Tom Gilmore in 2006 and was occasionally used as an art and performance venue by a variety of promoters.  In 2009 Eric Richardson did a story on Blogdowntown about one user, who seems to have vanished like a long list of other promoters.

In early 2008, the top of the Regent Theatre got a mural celebrating the recovery of Main Street.  The Ed Fuentes story ran on Blogdowntown.  For 2010 it got a new drab brown paint job.

The 2014 remodel: Mitchell Frank, longtime music promoter, took over the venue in February 2012. He's got a long term lease and plans a mix of live music events, movies, food and drinks.  After many delays, the theatre reopened in November 2014.

The project architect was Greg Williams of Mass Architecture with interior design by Paul Svendsen and Michael Andrews of Inheritance Design. Beth Gordon of New Theme, Inc. was the general contractor.

Don't miss Sandi Hemmerlein's December 2014 Avoiding Regret photo essay "The Restored Regent Theatre, For Those About To Rock" for many lovely photos. Bianca Barragan's fine December 2014 Curbed story featured a great set of photos:
 "Inside the Total Transformation of Downtown's Regent Theatre."

Eddie Kim had the story about the "Regent's Rocking Return" on L.A. Downtown News.  The News did a followup story later in November: "Regent's Return Is Good For Downtown."

LAist also had a story about the reopening. Curbed LA also joined the party with an article.  August Brown had a story the day of the opening for the LA Times: "Downtown L.A. 's Regent Theater finally opens tonight."

Earlier, Brown had a February 2014 story in the L.A. Times that focused on the United Artists and the Regent as players in downtown's music revival. L.A. Downtown News ran a brief item on the project in November 2012.  It's been a long process.

In a 2012 Curbed LA story by Neal Broverman it was reported that Frank was applying for a liquor license for the 11,790 square foot "theater / restaurant / bar" that would hold 933 revelers. The second floor balcony with 1,780 additional square feet would accommodate an additional 356 patrons, according to the application.  The L.A. Times also had a 2012 story on the project.

The floor is still sloped (although seats have been removed) and the proscenium is intact. The original Gothic inspired ceiling plaster prroved to be too fragile to save.  This is the last remaining historic movie theatre on Main Street.  


The Regent in the Movies:  Main Street has been a popular film location for decades for cop shows or other filmmakers seeking a seedy typical downtown
street.



The Regent Theatre appears in the 1948 film "The Street
With No Name" as seen in this screen shot by Jeff Bridges in
 a post- "The Street With No Name or the Theatre With No Name?"
on the L.A. Conservancy's Historic Theatre Committee blog
The
cinematographer for the film was Joseph McDonald. 
full size view



Another screen shot by Mr. Bridges from "Man With
No Name." Here we get a view of the Canadian Bldg.
(still standing) on the corner of 4th & Main. 
full size view

Also see Mr. Bridges' Regent Theatre post for more
 about the theatre and several more shots from the film. 



A shot of the Regent during a car chase
in the film "Uptown Saturday Night" (Warner Bros.
/ First Artists, 1974). The "open soon" on the
marquee may be overly optimistic.
| larger view | a few frames later |



We get a lot of action on and around Main St. in Billy
Wilder's "The Front Page" (Universal, 1974). The seedier
streets of L.A. in 1974 are doubling for Chicago in the 20s.
Here we're driving by the Regent on our chase for Austin
Pendleton, who's actually hiding in a desk at the city jail. 
larger view



In "Cadillac Records" (2008) we get about 10 seconds of
film near the beginning labeled "Chicago" but it's actually
Main St. with the Regent marquee plainly visible at the right.
The building on the left is the Canadian building.
The urban portions of "Cadillac Records" were
shot in New Jersey. The trivia question of the week is:
What film was this footage originally created for?




"Do you really like movies? When's the last time you
went to see a movie in a theatre? ... A movie that really
meant something to you?" asks Lindsey Lohan in Paul
Schrader's "The Canyons" (IFC Films, 2013).

 This shot of the Regent pops up in the middle of the
 film, which opens and closes with desaturated views of 
abandoned movie theatres. The film, written by Bret
 Easton Ellis, is a thriller about some sad people
on the fringes of the film business.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Regent for all the latest news. 

See Jeff Bridges' post "The Street With No Name or the Theatre With No Name?" on the L.A. Conservancy's Los Angeles Historic Theatre Committee blog. Also see his Regent Theatre post for more about the theatre.


Another sad view.

photo: Gary Graver - undated

Gary Graver was a filmmaker and cinematographer who
photographed many historic theatres. More of his theatre work can
be seen on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1"and "Second Run - part 2."
Thanks to Sean Graver for the photos.




     American Classic Images    



The Regent and its neighbor to the north, the
Main Theatre, are captured in a 1983 view.
full size view



     Dave Bullock -- eecue    



A 2007 look at the rear of the auditorium
during an Artwalk performance.
full size view



A look across the front of the space.
full size view



     Cinema Treasures    

cinematreasures.org/theaters/1153


An undated view looking north from 5th
with the Regent on the right. It's a contribution
 to the site by Lou Rugani.
full size view



     Curbed L.A.    

la.curbed.com

Bianca Barragan's fine December 2014 Curbed story
 "Inside the Total Transformation of Downtown's Regent Theatre"
has a great set of construction views furnished by Beth Holden of
New Theme, the general contractor for the project.
Here are a few from the set:


A construction view of the auditorium showing
 the ceiling and proscenium prior to renovation.
The photo is by Ethan Pines for the Regent.
The intent was to save the ceiling ornament
and as much of the original flat plaster area as
possible. It all proved to unstable to salvage.



A sidewall arch detail before renovation.
The photo is by Ethan Pines for the Regent.
full size view | full Curbed article



A wonderful look through the attic trusses,
one of several attic views with the story. The
 photo is by Ethan Pines for the Regent.
full size view | full Curbed article



The back side of the original 1914 arch
on the facade, later filled in when the front
of the building was modernized. The photo
is by Ethan Pines  for the Regent.
full size view | full Curbed article



The proscenium after renovation.
The photo is by Alen Lin  for the Regent.
full size view | full Curbed article



     L.A. Downtown News    

www.ladowntownnews.com


Eddie Kim had the November 2014 reopening story
of the "Regent's Rocking Return" in the l.A. Downtown
News.We're looking down the bar toward the restored
1914 proscenium. It's a Gary Leonard photo.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres




Proud owner Mitchell Frank on the marquee.
It's another Gary Leonard photo from
the reopening story.

     more from the L.A.H.T.F    

www.lahtf.org | group Facebook page | official FB page



Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation volunteers
Dave Lovejoy and Steve Gerdes remove old projection
 gear from the Regent booth during the 2014 renovations
 to save for "art projects." It's a Michelle Gerdes photo.
full size view



     Los Angeles Times    

www.latimes.com


August Brown had the reopening story for the L.A. Times:
"Downtown L.A. 's Regent Theater finally opens tonight."
 The photo from one of the new balconies is by
Christina House for the Times.



     Photos of Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/groups/244565982234863



An August 2013 construction
photo from Ken McIntyre.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres



An undated look at the Regent. It's posted on
Photos of Los Angeles by Ken McIntyre. 
full size view


The view above also appears on Cinema Treasures,
a contribution by John Rice.



     Uncanny.net    

www.uncanny.net/~wetzel/index


Tom Wetzel's great site about (among other things) the
development of transit in Los Angeles has this wonderful 50s
map showing lots of downtown theatre locations.

You'll find the Regent (and the Banner) on the east side
of Main St. just above 5th.  See the full size view on
Tom' Subway Area Tour page.



     [ view] from a loft - Ed Fuentes    

viewfromaloft.typepad.com



A May 2009 view of the Regent from this
 blog showing the neon re-lit. It's from a post
entitled "Regent Lights On." 

The existing tubing hiding behind the red
plex worked again with a little tinkering.
The mural itself is a work by Ed Fuentes.
  full size view

 

A daytime look at the mural from Mr. Fuentes'
2008 post "View From A Studio." 
full size view

Related items:
| Regent Noir - "Street With No Name" |
 |  2006 view -- Ed Fuentes photo  |






The Regent's restored proscenium arch.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - November 2014


www.lahtf.org | group Facebook page | official FB page



A sidewall detail.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - November 2014

Thanks, Michelle!

The photos originally appeared on the LAHTF group
Facebook page. Head to Michelle's Regent Theatre post
 to page through four more views.

 [ click on any of these photos for a larger view ]



An auditorium view during construction.

photo: Hunter Kerhart
- April 2014

Note the two new balconies protruding
into the auditorium on the sides.

Keep up with Hunter's explorations:
 hunterkerhart.com | Hunter on Facebook | on flickr
South on Spring photography blog


https://sites.google.com/site/dtlatheatre/pix/Regent-Kerhart-146.jpg

A construction peek into the theatre lobby.

photo: Hunter Kerhart - April  2014

The stuff at the left is new electrical
switchgear for the project.



The north store space during construction.

photo: Hunter Kerhart
- April 2014



The south store space during construction.

photo: Hunter Kerhart
- April 2014



The Regent all dressed up with its construction fence.

photo: Hunter Kerhart
- April 2014



North on Main toward 4th.

photo: Hunter Kerhart
- April 2014



At the time it was a new color scheme for the facade.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




South on Main -- beyond at 5th and
Main
are the Rosslyn Hotel and Rosslyn Annex.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The Rosslyn building nearest us, at the NW corner of 5th & Main, was
the site of Clune's Theatre. Just out of the frame to the right was the site
of the Rosslyn Theatre, located in an earlier Rosslyn Hotel building.




Peeking into the lobby when it was set up as gallery
space for a Second Thursday
Downtown Artwalk.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The Regent Theatre during its yellow period.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007


The Regent during its dark days.

photo: Gary Graver -- 1980s


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     Deanna Bayless on Photobucket    



A proscenium view by Ms. Bayless. 
full size view




A 2011 look at a sidewall of
the Regent by Ms. Bayless.
full size view




Another sidewall view.
full size view




     Jeff Bridges on Flickr    

  www.flickr.com/photos/vokoban


Here's a view of the Regent Theatre interior
by Jeff Bridges of  the Los Angeles Conservancy's
 Historic Theatre Committee.   
full size view



A plaster detail at the Regent
in a photo by Mr. Bridges. 
full size view




A view of the arch of the original facade
from the booth level inside the building.
 full size view

See Jeff's Regent Theatre set
for more interiors.




     Larry Harnisch - Daily Mirror    

latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror


The interior of the Regent Theatre in 2007
ascaptured by Larry Harnisch.  
full size view

Mr. Harnisch wrote on his L.A. Times blog
"The Daily Mirror" in 2007:   " I had an
opportunity to tour the Regent, 448 S. Main St.
(yes, it's still standing) during the Los Angeles
Conservancy's
recent Mainly Main tour. The theater,
built in 1914, was never a movie palace, so
 there's nothing opulent about it..."   
full article



     Historic Core    

facebook.com/HistoricCore



A packed house in November 2014
seen in this balcony view from the
Historic Core Facebook page. 
full size view




     LAist    

www.laist.com



A facade view appearing with the November 2014 story
 "The Guy Behind The Echo Transforms..." about the Regent's
reopening.
It's a photo by Abel Bourbois on Flickr.



     L.A. Public Library Collection    

www.lapl.org   



A 20's view looking north from 5th Street at the
east side of the street. The Regent is just this side
of the Canadian Bldg.

In the full size view you can see the theatre's
triangular pediment as well as the auditorium roof.
  full size view



A detail taken from the image above.




A 1973 view of the same block face with the Regent's
later facade just beyond beyond the "Arcade" sign.
 It's a photo by Victor R. Plukas.
full size view

The Banner Theatre is also there (with no noticeable
 sign) just this side of the "Cafe Funland" sign.
 




A 1981 Anne Knudsen photo for the Herald Examiner
 gives a look north toward the Regent. Thanks to Sean Ault
 for finding it in the Los Angeles Public Library's collection.
 full size view




     Ken McIntyre on Photobucket    

s132.photobucket.com/albums/q12/kencmcintyre



Ken captured this scene of

 filming at the Regent in 2009.  
 full size view



A view of the 2008 mural atop
the facade.
The mural is by Ed Fuentes/[view]fromaloft    
 
full size view

Also by Ken:
another film shot  |   sign work 2009  |   sign interior  |
 | sign again -- with a nice view of the Rosslyn behind  |
  | lobby in 2009  |



     The Regent on Facebook    

www.facebook.com/RegentTheaterLA


A November 2014 look at the
proscenium after the remodel. 
full size view




The adjacent Love Song bar and restaurant.

The two photos above also appear with the
November 2014 reopening story on LAist.





The Regent celebrates a new storefront during the
prolonged renovation process. It's a May 2014 photo.
Looking back toward the booth. The ceiling plaster
 was in such sad shape it all had to be drywalled.
It's a May 2014 photo.
 full size view
| on FB/LATheatres


     Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles


A superb 1949 photo of the Regent on Vintage
Los Angeles from the collection of Richard Wojcik. 
full size view

The view above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.