Unique Theatre

629 S. Broadway  

Los Angeles, CA 90014

Opened: Perhaps 1902 0r 1903.  The Unique Theatre was listed at this address in the 1903 through 1909 city directories.  The Pacific Coast Architecture Database notes an ad for this location on February 12, 1906 offering "refined vaudeville." 

The entrance to the theatre was an unassuming two story brick faced building. The Unique ran vaudeville and films under the management of Flora E. Hentz and John U. Zallee.  In the 1907-1908 Henry's Official Western Theatrical Guide the Unique is listed as playing vaudeville acts from the Alpha Circuit.

Flora E. Hentz and John U. Zallee in
photos from a 1908 issue of Variety.
full size view

There may have been additional locations used by the H & Z team but so far three have surfaced. At least during 1901 and 1902 the couple operated a Unique Theatre at 456 S. Spring St.  Opening and closing dates are unknown. The Unique presumably moved from Spring to Broadway sometime 1902 04 1903.

The Broadway entrance was a narrow space in a low building but it opened up for the auditorium behind that backed up onto St. Vincent Place. They advertised that the entire rear wall opened up to the street for emergency exiting.

That's Broadway at the bottom of the
map and 7th running vertically on the left.
The Unique exited onto St. Vincent Place.

The map is a detail from Historic Mapworks. It's from the 1910 Baist's Real Estate Survey map Plate 002.  You can wander the whole map on their website.

The Broadway location for the Unique was running well into 1909. Closing date on Broadway is unknown but by the week of October 6, 1909 the team was advertising their reopening at the former Empire Theatre, 128 E. 3rd St.  Some of their early ads use 138 E. 3rd as the address.

It's possible they had other earlier locations before the Spring St. venue and it's unknown how long they operated the former Empire or if there were other adventures following that.

A 1905 Unique Theatre program from the collection of Danni Bayles-Yeager gives us lots of information.

larger view

It's an interesting discussion of the Unique's exits. They talk
about the whole backstage wall of the theatre opening up to exit
patrons onto the street behind the theatre in case of emergency.
larger view

"Do not exit during the moving pictures: your
doing so obstructs the view and annoys others."

"The theatre is perfumed every day

It's unknown what the "Unique-O-Scope" was.
larger view

Visit Danni's website:
 Bayles/Yeager Online Archive of the Performing Arts

In October 1905 the manager at  the Unique was J.J. Cluxton who would go on to take over the Regal in 1906 (renamed the Hecla, it had been the Star). He'd later stage prologues for various Pantages theatres and by 1916 was Mr. Pantages personal representative, traveling for the circuit and helping plan the new Pantages theatres in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

A May 1907 ad in the Los Angeles Herald mentioned:

 "Refined vaudeville. Comedy. Moving Pictures. Ladies' souvenir matinee Wednesday. Children's souvenir and Ladles' surprise matinee Saturday. "Amateurs" Thursday evening. Matinees Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday. Evening prices— General admission, 10c; reserved, 15c; orchestra. 20c; loges 25c." 

"Refined Vaudeville. Comedy. Moving Pictures..."
at the Unique. It's the amusements column from
the June 26, 1907 Los Angeles Herald.

A September 30, 1907 ad for the Unique
appearing in the Los Angeles Herald
larger view

Some news accounts ad ads report that the Unique employed two stock companies simultaneously. A June 1908 Los Angeles Herald ad included:

"Our two stock companies appear at each performance. FARCE COMEDY COMPANY - Under Direction of Jas P. Lee.  MUSICAL COMEDY COMPANY  - Under direction of Walter Frederick. Illustrated songs. Latest Moving pictures. Ladles' souvenir matinee Wednesday. Children's souvenir and ladies' surprise matinee Saturday. "The Amateurs" Thursday evening. Matinees Men.. Wed., Sat. and Sun. Evenings continuous. Popular prices."

We had a little problem in June 1908 with missing money and manuscripts related to a musical comedy company performing at the Unique on Broadway:

larger view

A bit about the couple in Variety, when they were still located on Broadway in 1908, noted: 

"Flora E. Hentz and John U. Zallee are the joint proprietors and managers of the Unique Theatre, Los Angeles, and are pioneers of popular priced vaudeville in Southern California.

Starting in an unpretentious way some weight years ago, their advance has been marked with success and they have been compelled to change their location several times in order to secure a greater capacity.

They have now reached a point where an increased clientele makes another move imperative and plans are being drawn for a 'Class a' structure, complete in every detail."   [ the page in pdf format ]

Status: The building on Broadway has been demolished. The current building at the 629 address, the Baker Building, dates from 1910.  Perhaps the team's move to the Empire was necessitated by the impending demolition of the building on Broadway. 

We also had a later unrelated Unique Theatre in East L.A.

The south end of the 600 block of Broadway.

photo: Google Maps - 2011

The building at the right end of the crosswalk (with the blue Adidas
 sign) is where the Unique Theatre was. Its building has been demolished.
What you see on the site now is the Baker Building, dating from 1910.

Farther south (with the two windows on the 2nd floor) is what's
left of the Hoffman Building. Beyond was once the California Furniture
 Co. building. In its place we got a slender Bullocks expansion building
 plus that low-rise thing with the yellow banner on the front. The block
ends with the earlier Bullocks Building at 7th St.

Across the street at the left is the Palace Theatre. Out of the frame
 to the far right is the Los Angeles Theatre.
Click on the image
above to enlarge or head to Google for the interactive view.

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A postcard view postmarked October 1910 looking
south along the 500 and 600 blocks of Broadway gives
 us a tiny glimpse of the Unique Building.

Down at the corner of 7th we get Bullocks. Then moving north
 toward us we get the California Furniture Co. (6 stories, later the
site of a Bullocks expansion), the Hoffman Building (3 stories), and
 then the two story building housing the entrance to the Unique.
  full size view

The big 6 story reddish building in the middle is at the SW corner
of 6th & Broadway. It's still there, minus its ornament. The white
 building with the flag poles beyond is the currently the site of
the Los Angeles Theatre at 615 S. Broadway.

Another c.1910 view sadly just misses the Unique Theatre.
Or maybe it was gone by then anyway. Here at the left is
the pre-expansion Bullocks, the California Furniture Co.
Building and, at the right, half of the Hoffman Building. 
Our thanks to  superb researcher Michelle
 Gerdes for finding these rare views on eBay!

     Huntington Digital Library    


Well, we can't see the building, but the Unique's roof sign
pops out in this January 1906 view looking south on Broadway
 from the middle of the 400 block. This is a detail from a
 much larger image on the HDL site.
 larger detail view | full size view

Thanks to Tourmaline, who posted the view on
 Noirish Los Angeles post #26664. Michael Ryerson
gets the points on post #26689 for identifying it as
on Broadway -- HDL at the time had it mis-labeled.

    L.A. County Natural History Museum    


A c.1910 look south along the west side of the 600 block
of Broadway in the Museum's Seaver Center Collection.
That's the Unique's entrance in the squat building at the
lower right. The auditorium was a larger building behind.
Thanks to Tony Pepper for finding this gem
in the collection and sending it our way.

An undated night look at the
Unique and its roof sign

Also in the LACNHM collection:

     USC Archives    


A piece of an amazing 200 degree c.1905-1907 panorama
 taken from the roof of the Lankershim Hotel at 7th & Broadway.
In this segment we're looking north with the Unique Theatre on
the west side of Broadway.  The C.C. Pierce photo is in 8 parts.
 full size view

There's also a version of this view in the
Los Angeles Public Library collection
where they date it as 1907.

A detail from the USC photo above. The Unique is in the
squat 2 story darker building on the left. Note the roof sign
way above the building (at the top left of the image)
intended to be read from the north.
larger view

We're looking north toward 6th St. The large black roofed building behind
 the Unique's roof sign is on the site of the Los Angeles Theatre (1931). 

A detail of the Unique sign in light
bulbs on the front of the building.

     Water & Power Associates    


A c.1905 photo looking south on Broadway from
5th St. on the Early City Views page. Note the sign
for the Unique Theatre on the right.  The photo is
 from the DWP collection housed by the
 Los Angeles Public Library.
A detail from the photo above. Despite the big
sign, the entrance to the Unique was in a squat two story
 building beyond the larger structures we see.

The Museum pages of the Water & Power Associates
website are an extraordinary collection of vintage photos
 from the DWP collection as well as other archives.

Thanks to Escott O. Norton of the
 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation
for locating the photo above.