United Artists Theatre / Ace Hotel

933 S. Broadway     | map |     

Los Angeles, CA 90015

(213) 623-3233

Website: acehotel.com | on Facebook | events calendar

Filming and other special use inquiries: Contact Rebecca Reynoso at Cap Equity Locations, 323-375-4192. The Cap Equity United Artists page has 87 photos to browse through.

Opening: What is now known as The Theatre at Ace Hotel originally opened December 26, 1927 with "My Best Girl," a silent film starring Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers.  Several shorts preceded the feature including "Comrades," filmed in color.

Carli Elinor, formerly of the Carthay Circle Theatre, was the musical director. His orchestra was augmented by an offstage choir for the opening. After the big premiere it was just films and music for about nine months, at which time prologues were added in an attempt to boost business.

John Barrymore was the master of ceremonies for the opening.  Also participating in the festivities, relayed by loudspeakers along Broadway, were Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, D.W. Griffith, Ronald Colman and others. At the end of the evening film clips were screened showing the audience arriving at the theatre earlier in the evening.

The reopening of the building as a hotel was in January 2014 with the theatre following a month later.

The front cover of the 1927 program for the
 opening, from the collection of Keith Ricks.
An inside page with, of course, a photo
 of Mary Pickford.    Thanks, Keith!

Architect: C. Howard Crane designed the theatre, Walker and Eisen were the building architects. Walker and Eisen did a number of other theatres, including the Four Star for United Artists.

The groundbreaking had been done May 5, 1927 with a crowd estimated at 5,000 due to the appearance of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore. Pickford operated the steam shovel herself to scoop out the first bit of earth from the lot. Director Fred Niblo was master of ceremonies. Fairbanks was quoted in the L.A. Times as saying he hoped the theatre "will always be a reminder of the fact that Los Angeles is the center of production of the film industry." 

The Los Angeles Public Library collection includes
this C. Howard Crane / Walker & Eisen drawing of
 the exterior.  This is an early version -- there
were some changes before construction.
 full size view

The 14 story office building has 74,000 square feet of space. Counting the theatre area, total building square footage is reckoned as 93,783  on a land area of 23,850 s.f.  The cost was announced as $3.5 million. The initial tenant of the office building spaces was California Petroleum Corp. on a $3-million 30-year lease.

A cut-away drawing of the United Artists from
The Daily Mirror, the great blog from L.A. Times
 writer Larry Harnish.
full size view

Murals were by Anthony Heinsbergen (1884-1981). The UA principals, other actors and board members of the company are depicted in various murals and paintings around the building. The Gothic style was evidently chosen because of Mary Pickford's love of European castles. Chaplin, another of the UA principals, wasn't enthusiastic about United Artists operating theatres -- he thought they should stick to making movies. 

The building was owned by the Ninth and Broadway Building Co. (Joseph M Schenck & I.C. Freud, principals) and leased to the United Artists Theatre Circuit, a corporation separate from the main United Artists Corporation.  The theatre was initially operated for UATC by West Coast Theatres.  Among lots of other theatres, they also ran the State for Loew's / MGM and the Metropolitan (later renamed the Paramount) and the Million Dollar for Paramount Publix. 

The new theatre was profiled in an article in the January 7, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News. The article declared that it was "the final word in theatre construction."

" ... The general interior arrangement differs radically from other Los Angeles houses in that a great deal of attention has been given to both entrance lobby and foyer, to be called the 'foyer promenoir' and which can accommodate more than 1500 persons, without crowding. Lobby and foyer are approximately 40 feet high.

The lobby is done in black, gold, red and buff marble, with large gold mirrors set in frames of antique design of antique gold. The balcony is panoramic, and in its rear is a promenade, with a passageway leading into the foyer. Here are little offset balconies, from which one may look into the general foyer. The mezzanine is back and under the balcony, like a receding under jaw. Here are 200 seats. There are two promenades -- one for each level.

The stage is large -- about 30 feet deep and 50 feet across the proscenium front. The scenery is supported from a steel gridiron, high up under the stage roof, and is operated by a counter-weighted system of ropes. The proscenium girder is 66 inches deep and 50 feet long and weighs 60 tons.

There are four aisles. The theatre proper is 100 feet wide and 150 feet deep. An electric lift raises the orchestra pit to the stage level and there is a separate organ console lift, which raises to the same level.

The main support of the balcony is a double web-plate girder which spans the entire auditorium, approximately 100 feet, and which carries seven cantilevers and the mezzanine below. The girder is said to be the largest individual structural member ever fabricated and erected in one piece in the west. It is three feet wide, seven feet high, 100 feet long and weighs 103 tons.

Every seat in the big auditorium is alike. The chairs have been especially designed for this theatre and have deep cushions and airinflated backs, a new feature in theatre construction.

A refrigeration plant has been installed at a cost of $100,000 of the latest washed-air type, with dehumidifiers automatically controlled to maintain a proper temperature. The theatre was built not only for the present theatre-going needs, but has taken into account the expected growth of Los Angeles and the certain development of the theatre. Its general style and equipment are expected to be a standard for many years to come. 

Special accommodations have been made underneath the great foyer for women patrons. There is a large combination lounge and smoking room, washroom and a cosmetic room. This room has been fitted with elaborate dressing tables. The color scheme of the room is one of greens and taupes. For men there are rooms underneath the main foyer, also.

The run [carpet] in the foyer was manufactured in Europe especially for the new theatre. The colors were determined here before the order was given that these colors might harmonize with the color scheme of the entire theatre. The run is in the center of the foyer and is about 25 by 50 feet.

...An elaborate lighting system has been installed. It is in five colors: red, blue, amber, white and green. Thus with a ten preset switchboard, practically any combination may be obtained. By means of a recently devised indirect lighting system, the entire color effect upon the ceiling will be visible during the projection of the picture.

The dome, in the center of the ceiling, is covered with silver-backed, rough faced mirrored discs -- about 3,000 of them -- and, in addition about 2,000 glass pendants. From the mosaic dome, an enormous sunburst spreads in all directions.

In the auditorium proper there are no lamps or chandeliers. The walls are in travertine, with three large perforated fans on each side..."

C. Howard Crane, who designed over 300 theatres, also did two other theatres for the United Artists Theatre Circuit with similar Spanish Gothic interiors. In Detroit (2,o70 seats) it was much like the Los Angeles building, with a full stage and the theatre integrated into an office building. 

In Chicago (1,703 seats), the United Artists was a re-do of an earlier theatre and ended up being a smaller version and lacking a stage. Crane, based in Detroit, designed hundreds of theatres including the St. Louis Fox and most of the major theatres in Detroit - including the Capitol and Fox.

A floorplan from the July 1928
issue of Architect and Engineer.
full size view | on Internet Archive (+ a lobby shot)

The issue also has a facade view and a lobby ceiling detail
Plus there's an
article "United Artists Theatre Los Angeles"
 that has outer lobby and auditorium views.

Seating: Originally 2,214 including a mezzanine. The mezzanine was closed and hacked off during the 1955 TODD-AO conversion.  Motion Picture News noted that the mezzanine sat 200.

Stage: 28' deep

Pipe Organ: Removed in 1955. Life had an article about the organ on August 24, 1962.

Early history: Although the operation started out with West Coast Theatres managing, the ads for the United Artists were usually separate from the main West Coast ad. For awhile many said "direction West Coast Theatres" and then in the Spring of 1928 that stopped.  By March UA had brought in Dr. Hugo Riesenfeld to oversee the presentations. A small item in the Variety issue of March 21, 1928 noted that Reisenfeld "has assumed his new position as director general of United Artists theatres..."

One ad mentioned a "Symphonic Musical Program" under his supervision. Others said "Programs supervised by Hugo Riesenfeld." Soon the typeface got bigger and the ads were saying "Direction Hugo Riesenfeld" and "Entire Program Under Personal Direction Hugo Riesenfeld."  It's unknown if West Coast Theatres was still involved in the day-to-day operations during this period.

Riesenfeld was the man who was music director at the Rialto in New York when Roxy was manager -- and succeeded him when Roxy left, getting the management job at the Rivoli and Criterion as well.  At this time United Artists had put him in charge of their presentations at their Detroit and Chicago Theatres as well. He was also doing film scoring for United Artists between 1928 and 1930. Riesenfeld was profiled in an April 15, 1928 L.A. Times article titled "Screen Vaudeville Needed." The UA ads still had him as director as late as May 1928.

Talkies arrive: The first sound film to play the theatre was "The Man Who Laughs" in August 1928. The Universal release, based on the Victor Hugo novel, starred Mary Philbin and Conrad Veidt. Basically a silent film, it had a Western Electric track of recorded music and sound effects.

"S.R.O." The fans are lined up at the United Artists for Norma
Talmadge in "The Woman Disputed." The ad appears in the November
 3, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News, available on the Internet Archive.
 It was a United Artists release, available in versions with or without
sound, a practice typical of that transitional era.
 full size view  | on FB/LATheatres

Publix takes over: With talkies, the stage presentations vanished. Riesenfeld's magic no longer was working and UA found a new operator for the theatre. Starting April 20, 1929 during the run of Mary Pickford's talkie "Coquette" ("Hear Her Golden Voice") the ads started saying "Direction Publix Theatres" and "A Publix Theatre." The Paramount owned circuit also at the time had the Metropolitan.

In an early widescreen experiment the UA ran "The Bat Whispers" in 1931. This was a production in "Magnifilm" (filmed both in 35mm and 65mm versions) and the newspaper ad said "Twice the Size" but the projection was evidently a 35mm reduction print. The screen size and aspect ratio details for the United Artists presentation are unknown -- perhaps a 2 to 1 aspect ratio on a larger than normal screen.

A 1931 ad for "The Bat Whispers" in Magnifilm.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the ad. The UA
 is being advertised as "A Publix Theatre."
full size view

The terrible 30s: The theatre had a checkered history in the 30s with several closures and several different operators.  Paramount Publix was still running it in early 1931 but by mid-year the Publix logo was no longer featured in the ads.

In December that year the ads advised that the theatre was under the "Direction of Harold B. Franklin."  The UA was being advertised as having "The Most Important Pictures at Popular Prices." Franklin was a big guy with Fox West Coast who had quit to form (with Howard Hughes) the short-lived Hughes-Franklin circuit.  Evidently this was his new job after the liquidation of that circuit. 

Franklin's name also appeared on the ads for Paramount Theatre (the former Metropolitan ), a house Paramount Publix had picked up from Grauman in 1924.  By January of 1932 Franklin's name was gone from the  ads -- as were those words "Popular Prices." Now it was just "Home of Important Pictures."  The last day of operation was March 20, 1932. The L.A. Times ad that day for the final film "The Greeks Had a Word For Them" just said "Last Times Today."

An October 5, 1932 L.A. Times article "Reopening of Theater Announced" noted that it would be by Fox West Coast. The Times noted that "the policy of the house will establish it as one of the Southland's outstanding show places, it is said, with Fanchon and Marco stage productions and leading film features included in the forthcoming programs." They added that "The United Artists has been closed approximately six months."

An October 11 story mentioned that the re-opening film would be MGM's "Red Dust" with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, scheduled for an October 20 date.  The Pantages in Hollywood (run by Fox West Coast) had also been closed and would run the same feature. In addition there would be the Fanchon & Marco "Mystery" Idea at the UA and a Fanchon & Marco produced tab version of the Ziegfeld hit "Whoopee" at the Pantages.

As the news dribbled out, an October 15 story revealed that both houses would be "under the personal direction of Sid Grauman," then also working for Fox at the Chinese. An October 17 story said there would be an "augmented orchestra" and listed several acts for the program.  All this was interesting as the Fanchon & Marco stage shows, long a mainstay of the Fox West Coast operated Loew's State, had been dropped there earlier in the year when the State went to a films-only policy. 

The opening ads, a combined spread for both the UA and the Pantages, said "Direction Sid Grauman" in large lettering at the top -- and made no mention of Fox West Coast being involved.  Another early 30s Grauman adventure downtown (during one of his many absences from the Chinese) had been in 1931 when he had the Mayan, which he called (of course) Grauman's Mayan. But there he was doing a season of legit shows, not movies.

There was another brief closure in 1933 and then another reopening with the Walter Winchell film "Broadway Through a Keyhole," a November 1933 release.

In 1934 ads the United Artists was being called Grauman's United Artists.  There's no longer any mention of stage shows with the features.

The Hollywood Reporter had this UA ad for "Roman
Scandals" and "I'm No Angel" in their January 5, 1934
issue.  Note the use of the Grauman name.
 larger view

Another 1934 ad for the theatre under the
Grauman's name. They're offering free parking.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this one.
 larger view

Fox West Coast continued to run the theatre into the late 40s.

50s Consent decree issues: As a result of the government anti-trust suit forcing the studios to divest themselves of their theatre holdings, UATC took over the operation of this theatre themselves in the 50s (along with the nearby Loew's State).  Fox West Coast (newly separated from 20th Century Fox) had to part with the State because part of the deal was a requirement for them to sell off certain theatres in an attempt to provide a bit of competition.

During the 50s the United Artists frequently played day and date with other United Artists houses such as the Four Star and the Egyptian.  Fox had run both prior to the consent decree, as well as a string of other UA houses built in the early 30s when Fox West Coast and United Artists were having a fight over a perceived lack of good dates for United Artists releases in Fox West Coast controlled theatres.

70mm arrives:  TODD-AO came to the UA in 1955. This theatre was the second 70mm equipped theatre in Los Angeles. "Oklahoma" (which continued its run at the Egyptian, the first theatre so equipped) began a 52 week run at the United Artists on December 24, 1955.  

The remodeling for the process included knocking out some proscenium plaster for installation of a huge, deeply curved screen. Other work entailed removal of the mezzanine and construction of a new projection booth at the rear of the main floor.

"All freeways lead to Oklahoma." The LA Times ad
for "Oklahoma" that's shown here is reproduced on Michael
Coate and William Kallay's 70mm in Los Angeles section
of their great website From Script To DVD.  It's on the
 United Artists page.

After the "Oklahoma" run, United Artists Theatre Circuit closed the theatre.

Later operation: In October 1961 UATC renamed it the Alameda Theatre and reopened it. That experiment with Mexican films only lasted until June 1962 when they closed it again and turned the building back to its owner Joseph Schenck Productions.

At the end of the United Artists' movie days it was operated by Metropolitan Theatres under a master lease then held by the Needleman family, owners of the Western Costume Co. building to the south of the theatre as well as the nearby Orpheum Theatre, also then operated by Metropolitan. The United Artists finally closed as a  film theatre in 1989.

From 1990 until 2010, the United Artists was used as church, the Los Angeles University Cathedral.  The church purchased the building some years after a long period as a renter. 

During the years as a church, the formerly grubby theatre was cleaned and much of the former opulence was restored to the interior.  The screening room in the basement used by Mary Pickford was used as the repository of the church's bible collection.

In Limbo:

In 2010 the church moved their operations to another building in Glendale and placed the building on the market. Blogdowntown and Curbed L.A. both ran stories about the proposed sale. Hillsman Wright, of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, announced a plan to bring the theatre back to life.  The plan got a nice boost with an August 2010 story in the Wall Street Journal by Dennis Nishi: "Can L.A.'s Historic Theater District Be Revived?

The mission was discussed in more detail in an interview with Eric Richardson in an August 2010 post on Blogdowntown: "The Historic Theatre Dream on Broadway." More on the  LAHTF and the theatre appeared in Los Angeles Downtown News : "To Protect and Restore."

One of the big signs that the church had placed atop the building in 1989 came down in 2011 for a journey to Glendale. Eric Richardson of  BlogDowntown had the story: "Jesus Saves Neon No More at United Artists?" One sign still remains on the building.

The ACE Hotel takes over: 

The property is now an Ace Hotel with a refurbished theatre.  The hotel opened January 6, 2014 with the theatre, now called The Theatre at Ace Hotel, following on February 14. Jason Dibler is the hotel manager.

A June 2014 Curbed L.A. story "How the Ace Hotel Empire Engineered Broadway's Speedy Yuppification" discusses the strategy that has brought an influx of trendy new businesses into the area around the hotel. The theatre got a fine story and photo spread in a February 2014 Curbed L.A. story "Inside the New Ace Hotel's Dazzling Old United Artists Theatre."

The building had been sold in October 2011 to Greenfield Partners, a Norwalk, Connecticut based hotel developer and real estate concern.  Designing the 2013-2014 renovation were Killefer Flammang Architects with Wade Killefer as the design principal and John Arnold as project manager. Overseeing the construction was another partner in the venture, Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality  and Voyager Hotel GroupCommune Design and the in-house Atelier Ace made the interior design decisions for the project.

Stories and photo spreads about the hotel opening in early 2014 include those by Brigham Yen, on Eater L.A., Curbed L.A., L.A. Downtown News (+ an additional Gary Leonard photo spread), on the blogs Opening Ceremony, Globe St. and Hypebeast as well as on the Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page.

GQ got into the mix with a photo taken from the top of Ace to lead its story "America's Next Great City is Inside L.A." Alex Calderwood, the founder of the Ace chain, passed away November 14, 2013 at age 47. The N.Y. Times had a story. Brad Wilson is currently president of Ace Hotel Group.

Brigham Yen on DTLA Rising had run a November 2013 story about the rebirth of the building and the anticipated opening of the hotel.  Curbed L.A. and Eater also had stories tracking the project.

Kevin Roderick had an October 2011 story about the project on LA Observed. Also see the Curbed L.A. December 2011 story.  The building had been on the market since 2009 with an initial asking price of $15 million. With no takers, the price gradually slid downward. The sale price was $11 million. 

The building sells (again):

Less than a year after the opening, there were indications that Greenfield Partners wanted to cash out. While their renovation costs are unknown, they suggested at the time that $100 million might be a reasonable price tag for their renovated property.  Bethany Firnhaber had the December 2014 story "Ace in the Hole?..." for the Los Angeles Business Journal.  The article suggested that the property could be upgraded further and Ace could be replaced by another operator by paying an exit penalty on their contract.

Greenfield did succeed in selling the building in 2015 for $103 million to a Maryland real estate investment trust, Chesapeake Lodging Trust. Roger Vincent had the May 1 story in the L.A. Times: "Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles sold...."  Ace will continue to manage the hotel and theatre. 

The Times got a quote from Chesapeake: "'The theater booking pace is up considerably from its first year and will host over 100 events in 2015,' said James L. Francis, Chesapeake’s chief executive. 'We estimate that the theater alone will generate revenues in excess of $4.4 million and net operating profit of over $2 million.'"

See Sandi Hemmerlein's 2015 story for Discover Los Angeles "Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles: The Story of an L.A. Icon" for a fine overview of the hotel, restaurant (L.A. Chapter) and Theatre at Ace.

The United Artists in the Movies: 

In the Harold Lloyd feature "Feet First" (Paramount, 1930)
we get a look up Broadway toward the United Artists. The trouble
began at the Post Office in the now vanished Triangle Building just
south of Olympic -- Harold arrived in town in a mailbag, you see.
larger view

Although all our high-rise stuff in "Feet First" is supposedly
on the same building we also end up a bit farther north on
Broadway (with views of the Majestic) and over, somehow,
at 8th & Spring looking west at the Tower Theatre.

John Huston's "Asphalt Jungle" (MGM, 1950) is
supposedly set in Cincinnati but here we are in L.A.
 looking across a parking lot toward the bright lights
of the United Artists on Broadway.
larger view

Another "Asphalt Jungle" shot with the marquee off. We're
breaking into a building from the alley between Broadway
and Main St.  It doesn't go well. The film stars Sterling
Hayden (as the hooligan), Jean Hagen and Sam Jaffe.

In Universal-International's "The Benny Goodman Story"
from 1956
we get some shots inside the United Artists. Here's
Steve Allen as Benny Goodman rising up on the United
Artists pit lift with his band.
  larger view

Here the lift is fully up with more of the organ grille
 area visible in "The Benny Goodman Story" 
larger view

Trivia Question:
 How many other Los Angeles movie
 palaces had orchestra pit lifts?

Donna Reed runs down the aisle of the
United Artists in the "The Benny Goodman Story."
larger view

The entrance, lobby and main floor of the auditorium have a
nice cameo in "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957). Burt Lancaster,
Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and others do a scene in front of the
stage and we see the main floor booth installed for Todd-AO,
the sidewall murals and a bit of backstage. 

The film, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, was a United
Artists release of a Hecht, Hill and Lancaster production.

Here's an exterior view. Look at the larger version and
you can see the ad for "Oklahoma" over the entrance
that has been blacked out. 
larger view

Tony Curtis in the United Artists lobby in
"Sweet Smell of Success."
larger view

Looking back toward the main
floor Todd-AO booth.
 larger view

Here we're onstage and in the upper right corner you can
see a bit of the curved track for the TODD-AO main drape
 out beyond the proscenium.
larger view

 This was filmed after the run of "Oklahoma" ended as
there's no Todd-AO screen. The UA is pretending to be
a theatre in New York. 

More from "Sweet Smell of Success":
 |  looking from stage toward balcony - Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis |
 |  another shot onstage  |  a bit of sidewall & organ grille  |
 |  heading to house left - Tony Curtis |
|  dimmer board |

About an hour into "High School Hellcats" (American
International, 1958) we get some process work for a drive
north on Broadway with young couple Joyce (Yvonne Lime)
and her boyfriend Mike (Brett Halsey). That's the UA
marquee flashing madly on the far right.
larger view

See our Theatres in Movies blog post about
"Hellcats" for more shots from the film.

The United Artists on Video:

There's lots of the United Artists on view in the Pussy Riot video "Straight Outta Vagina." It's on YouTube.  Thanks to Sharon Sekhon for the tip on this one.

See Don Solosan's 2010 video on the LAHTF Facebook page:  "Insiders Peek #6 - United Artists" featuring Hillsman Wright. It's a great 3 minute HD tour of the interior with some stunning video and still shots.  It's also on YouTube.

A lobby view by Mr. Solosan.
On YouTube:
Insider's Peek #6

Mr. Solosan's sequel on YouTube, "Insiders Peek #9" was made to promote a December 2010 LAHTF tour of the building that was cancelled at the last minute by the building's then owner. Here we get views of the basement screening room and other interesting shots.

A view by Mr. Solosan of the UA screening
room in "Insider's Peek #9" for the LAHTF.
On YouTube:  Insider's Peek #9

Also see "United Artists Theatre in the 80s" -- a 9 minute video on the LAHTF YouTube channel.  The silent video spends most of its time indoors and includes close up details of the proscenium and the murals in both the auditorium and the lobby.

Don't miss Matt Spero's "United Artists Theatre Los Angeles," a 9 minute tour of the building from 2010.

More L.A. United Artists Theatre information:  

Much of our data for the United Artists comes from the many informative postings on the Cinema Treasures page devoted to the theatre. Cinema Tour has a few exterior photos that are worth a look.  See the L.A. Conservancy page on the Ace project -- they gave it a 2014 preservation award.

Don't miss part one of Sandi Hemmerlein's 2014 Avoiding Regret photo essay on the United Artists lobby and lounge areas.  Sandi's part two, "Inside..." is devoted to the auditorium. Another 2014 photo set worth investigating is that by Jim Kohat.  Pauline O'Connor did a Curbed L.A. piece in February 2014 that featured many fine photos of the theatre by Elizabeth Daniels.

The Cinespia website has photos from their 2014 screenings at the theatre including "Tron," the Films of Kenneth Anger and "Under the Skin."

See the 2011 United Artists photo tour on Curbed L.A. with many photos from the LAHTF and Bringing Back Broadway. The 82 photo set real estate broker Pat Lile generated in 2009 is spread around our various pages is also on a BBB Facebook United Artists album

Detroit and Chicago United Artists:

Historic Detroit
has some sad photos of their United Artists. Forgotten Detroit also has a photo gallery of our unfortunate UA relative. 
See the Cinema Treasures page on the United Artists Detroit and United Artists Chicago.

     street views -- 1940 to 1982    


Here's a postcard view looking north on
Broadway from the United Artists/Texaco building
in Elizabeth Fuller's Old Los Angeles Postcards
collection on Flickr.
full size view

A glorious postcard view of the United Artists in Cezar
Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection. We're running
 "Smilin' Through" and "Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day."
 full size view

Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian. In
addition to his blog,  also visit his Theatre Talks
website and his Facebook page.

 The card above also appears in the collection
of Eric Lynxwiler and there's another version on
different colored stock on Photos of Los Angeles.

A postcard view of the United Artists on Photos of
Los Angeles.  The UA is running "Black Angel"
with Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre.
Also on the bill is "Wild Beauty."
full size view

A look north from the
 Metro Transportation Archive on Flickr.
It's a shot taken during a transit strike that's
in their Downtown Los Angeles set.
 full size view
| on FB/LAtheatres

A dazzling view of the United Artists as we look north on
Broadway posted by Gary Alinder on MacroChef as part of the set
Travel: My Father's Color Images of Southern California in the 1940s.
 The photo, on 35mm Kodachrome is by Ed Alinder.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

Sharp sleuths Scott Santoro and Wendell Benedetti
figured out that the film in the photo above was "Smash Up:
The Story of a Woman" starring Susan Hayward and
Lee Bowman (Universal International, 1947).

The photo above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.

A look at streetcars on the blog U in the USA as
we look north on Broadway past the United Artists.
full size view

We're looking south from the Eastern Columbia
Building in this Los Angeles Public Library photo,
from their Blackstock Negatives Collection. Where's the
 UA? Well, all we get is a sliver of the vertical sign.
 full size view

  Hollywood Historic Photos has this fine
clear day look toward the hills. Thanks to Yasmin
 Elming for spotting the photo in their collection.

A view in the Metro Transportation Archive on
Flickr gets us a diagonal look up Broadway Place toward
the United Artists and the Eastern Columbia Building. It's an
Alan Weeks photo in Metro's Downtown Los Angeles set.
 full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

See Nathan Masters' fine piece on the now
unused Broadway Place on the KCET website.

1954 or '55
The Metro Transportation Archive on Flickr
includes this
Alan Weeks photo looking north. The streetcar
 on the right is heading onto Broadway Place, a street no longer
 used. "She Wolf" is playing, an Italian film released in the
 U.S. by Republic in November, 1954.
Thanks to Monica Seitz Vega for finding the photo in the
 Metro Archive. And it's now on Vintage Los Angeles as well.

From the Metro Transportation Archive
Flickr comes this great look up Broadway. It's
 in their LATL Streetcar Lines set.
 is on the marquee.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

When was the United Artists not the United Artists?
 When it was called the Alameda, of course. Just a brief
experiment by United Artists Theatre Circuit -- then the
 sign ended up on the East L.A. United Artists
Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

A photo in the
California State Library collection
by William Reagh shows the Gothic tracery
on the
exterior to nice effect.  Our main feature is "La
Fierecilla del Puerto," a 1963 release.
 full size view
| data page

 A sharper version of the view above is in the
 Los Angeles Public Library collection where they
date it as 1957.
  The California State Library dates
 it as 1982.
And it's also on Photos of Los Angeles
 -- with a poster for the feature

A fine view looking north across the United Artists
 from the Sean Ault collection. Thanks, Sean!


Looking south on Broadway during the UA's
days a a Spanish language film house. Thanks to
 L.A. transit historian Sean Ault for the photo. 
 full size view | on FB/LATheatres

See another view (with a different bus) taken the
same day from Jeff Bentley on Vintage Los Angeles.

A William Reagh photo in the collection
 of the
California State Library that was
taken from a block east on Main St.

full size view | data page

The United Artists, a 1927 design by C. Howard Crane,
reopened in 2014 as the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

photo: Bill Counter - August 2014

 [ click on the photo for a larger view ]

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     street views -- 1927 to 1940    

[ Views up to 1982 are at the bottom of the left column.
The recent exterior views page has post-2000 photos. ]

May 5, 1927
A photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection
Mary Pickford at the groundbreaking ceremony.
full size view

also the same day:
| another  view - LAPL | speakers on the platform - LAPL |
the crowd - LAPL  | steam shovel at work  - LAPL |

A fine construction view from Kirk Gaw on the
 SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page. We're
 looking south on Broadway.  Note the signage for the
office building, called at the time the California
 Petroleum Building. Thanks, Kirk!

A view from the Los Angeles Public Library
collection showing the
not quite finished theatre.
Look at the great checkerboard sidewalk!
Here they're still working on the tower.
full size view


Almost ready to open.  The photo, a post
on the LAHTF Facebook page by Hillsman
Wright, is from the Marc Wanamaker collection.

full size view

An elegant look at the newly
completed theatre. The photo, a post on
 the LAHTF Facebook page by Hillsman
Wright, is from Marc Wanamaker.
full size view

Thanks to Ken McIntyre  for this this
of some of the United Artists principals
getting ready
to go to the opening. 
 full size view |
on Photobucket

Top row left to right:  John Barrymore (evidently
costume for the '29 release "The Tempest"), Mary Pickford,
 Douglas Fairbanks.
Lower right: D.W. Griffith. Lower left: Joseph
 Schenck, president of both the United Artists Corporation and the
separate United Artists Theatre Circuit. Schenck would later join
 Darryl Zanuck in forming 20th Century Fox. 

The photo above is also in Jose Huizar's
BBB-Historic Broadway album on Flickr.

A Mott Studios in the collection of the
California State Library gives us a look
at the entrance with
the opening attraction,
"My Best Girl," on the marquee. 

full size view | data page

also from 1927:
| pre-construction window exhibit - LAPL |

| facade view -- from above & south - "World's Finest
Theatre Presents Mary Pickford in My Best Girl"- LAPL  |

| early corner view - LAPL |

An early
Mott Studios look at the top of the
building from the California State Library
full size view | data page

Mott Studios photo of the office
building entrance. It's from the collection
the California State Library.
full size view | data page

California State Library Mott Studios
"California Petroleum Building" entrance shot.
full size view  |
data page

Thanks to Brian McCray for this great card
from his collection
Check out the sidewalk!
full size view

A view from the
Los Angeles Public Library
collection. D.W. Griffith's "Battle of the Sexes"
is the feature on the marquee. 
full size view 


An uncropped version of the "Battle of the Sexes"
appears as a postcard in the Cezar Del Valle
 Theatres Talks collection. The back of the
card says "This is a real photograph."
full size view


The July 1928 issue of
Architect and Engineer had
 this photo of the United Artists running D.W. Griffith's
 "Drums of Love," a March 31 release.

 full size view | on Internet Archive

Exterior photos of the United Artists from
the USC
Archives include this C. C. Pierce
view looking south
on Broadway.   
full size view

The Huntington Library also
has a version of the photo above.

An undated view Ken McIntyre located for his Facebook
page Photos of Los Angeles. We're looking south from
8th & Broadway past Hamburger's department store, the
 Majestic Theatre and on toward the United Artists.
full size view

In the view above, note that there's no
southern expansion yet of Hamburger's.

Lining up for the show in a Dan Watts photo from
Los Angeles Public Library collection. Playing is
Woman Disputed" with Norma Talmadge, a September
1928 release that came out in both sound and silent versions.

full size view

A December view looking north on
Broadway added to the Vintage Los Angeles
Facebook page by Kent Abramson.  
full size view

also from 1928:
| "Sorrel and Son continues" -- from the south & above - LAPL |
 | "Sorrell and Son Last 8 Days" - February 23 - USC Archives |

 | looking north from 10th - February 23 - UA and Orpheum - USC  |
| looking north - Western Costume Co. - Luckhaus Studio - LAPL |

| "Ramona" -  a March release - LAPL |

Mary Pickford in "Coquette" at the United Artists in
1929. "Her First All Talking Dramatic Picture -- Hear Her
Golden Voice."   The photo is from Marc Wanamaker's
Bison Archives.
A larger view appears as image
#1 on Bison's
photo gallery.

Along with Suzanne Tarbell
Cooper and Amy Ronnebeck Hall,
Mr. Wanamaker is also the author of  "
Theatres in Los Angeles"
(Arcadia Publishing, 2008). Most of the rare photos in the book
are from Bison Archives.  Mr. Wanamaker also provides consulting
 services on historic matters for films and architectural projects. 

www.arcadiapublishing.comgoogle books preview

The photo above on Google Books:
| United Artists marquee - "Coquette"  |

A great look north on Broadway in a C.C. Pierce
 photo in the Huntington Digital Library. The
United Artists is running Mary Pickford's "Coquette." 
full size view

The photo also appears in the USC Archives.

A detail from the photo above.
Click on it to enlarge.

A view from the south of the crowd lined
up for "Coquette."  The photo, a post on the
LAHTF Facebook page by Hillsman
Wright, is from Marc Wanamaker.
full size view

Looking west across acres of parking (and Broadway)
during the run of "Coquette."  The photo, a post
 on the LAHTF Facebook page by Hillsman
Wright, is from Marc Wanamaker.

A look at the entrance with the United Artists
playing "Taming of the Shrew" ("all talk") with
Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks.  It's a
 Los Angeles Public Library photo.
full size view

On the LAHTF Facebook page we get
another "Taming of the Shrew" photo
posted by Michael Lynch.

Los Angeles Public Library photo giving us a
close look at the boxoffice in 1929 during
the run of "Bulldog Drummond." 
full size view

 A USC Archives photo looking north with the
 United Artists running "The Trespasser" with Gloria
Swanson, a November 1929 release. It's from

from the California Historical Society.
full size view


A Los Angeles Public Library photo looking north
toward Broadway on the left with the United Artists and,
beyond, the skeleton of the Eastern Columbia Building.
full size view

A great 1930 view of the corner and north side
of the building in the
Los Angeles Public Library
collection. We're running a Maurice Chevalier feature.
 full size view

A USC Archives view looking north at the
Christmas decorations in December.
The Eastern
Columbia Building had opened in September 1930.

full size view
| another shot - same night |

Note that a second vertical got
added to the building - for Texaco.

Looking north on Broadway from 11th St. on
November 21. It's a USC Archives photo from
the California Historical Society. 
full size view | another take - same day

Huntington Library also has the photo above. They
attribute it to C.C. Pierce.
You can read "Douglas
Fairbanks" on the theatre's south readerboard.

Los Angeles Public Library photo
 giving us a nice
look north on Broadway. 
full size view

A Los Angeles Public Library photo from the
of the theatre running "The Bat
Whispers" in Magnifilm, an early 65mm process. 
full size view

1930s ?
An undated rooftop view looking northeast in the
Los Angeles Public Library collection. The caption
says: "
Busts of medieval men look out over the rooftop of
the United Artists Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles
that faces the Rives-Strong Building at 9th and Main."
full size view

A Dick Whittington Studio photo in the
USC Archives looking north on Broadway.

A detail from the USC Archives photo above. Times are
 tough. The UA is closed with "Attend Loews State" on the
marquee. Fox West Coast reopened the UA in October 1932.
 Note the Majestic Theatre  is still there north of the
Eastern Columbia building. It was demolished in 1933
In the view above note that the original marquee
 has been augmented with a flashier display in front.
 On the sides it's down to two lines of copy from t
he original three and with more bulbs on top.

The United Artists running "Red Dust" with Clark
 Gable and Jean Harlow
. It's a shot appearing in the short
 "Harlow: The Blonde Bombshell," narrated by Sharon
Stone. It's on the DVD of MGM's "Dinner at Eight." 
full size view

This was the first film to play the theatre when Fox West Coast
reopened the house October 20 under the direction of Sid Grauman.
 It had been closed since April 1932. Note the more elaborate
marquee treatment when compared to the photos above.

early 30s
The UA and Texaco vertical signs on an old postcard
in the Don Lewis collection on Flickr. Note the
Texaco signage on the tower on top of the building. 
full size view | on Flickr

Check out many more great theatre
photos on Don's Flickr pages.

early 30s
Another version of the card above (mailed in 1938) is
 from the Old Los Angeles Postcards collection of
Elizabeth Fuller on Flickr. This great collection of vintage
postcards totaled 686 at last look and includes a number
pictures of Los Angeles movie palaces.
 full size view

A version of the card above with quite
 different coloring is on
Vintage Los Angeles.

A celebration on Broadway as the generators at Boulder
Dam are turned on. It's on a Water & Power Associates
DWP Museum page about the construction of the dam. The
 photo is in the
Historical Photo Collection of the Department
of Water and Power, hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library.
 full size view |
alternate LAPL URL | on FB/LATheatres

The caption reads:
"Tens of thousands of people jammed the parade route on
 Broadway on the night of October 9, 1936, as the street became
ablaze with light when the first Hoover power streaked 266
 miles from the power plant to Los Angeles."  The structure
wasn't officially called Hoover Dam until 1947.

The view above also appears on Photos of Los Angeles
There's also a slightly larger version in GS Jansen's collection
on Flickr.  The UCLA Library has it in their Los Angeles
Daily News Negatives Collection.

Another parade view up Broadway with the
United Artists Theatre on the left.  The photo was
once on the Los Angeles Conservancy website
and is from the Conservancy's archives. 
slightly larger view

Another version of the parade photo appears
 in Councilman Jose Huizar's Historic Broadway
 collection on Flickr. It's the cover of the 1936 Los Angeles
 City Planning Commission report.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

 In the photo above the United Artists is running "Piccadilly Jim,"
 an August 1936 release with Robert Montgomery, Frank Morgan
 and Billy Burke. The second feature is "Star For a Night" with
 Claire Trevor, also released in August 1936. 

Note that the theatre sports its new angled
marquee, still on the building today.

also from 1936:
  | "Garden of Allah" - USC Archives |

Looking north on Broadway in a USC Archives
view taken from the UA/Texaco building. 
full size view

A look at the facade of the building
from Main St. by Herman Schultheis from the
 Los Angeles Public Library collection.
full size view

An interesting view looking north from Main St.
toward the United Artists and the Eastern Columbia
Building beyond on Photos of Los Angeles. The
diagonal street, no longer in use, is Broadway Place. 
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

A Dick Whittington Studio view in the
USC Archives. The UA is running "Hardys
Ride High" with Mickey Rooney.
full size view

A detail from the USC  view above showing the
 theatre's entrance and the storefronts. 
larger detail view

Another detail from the 1939 USC photo giving us a
closer look at the marquee -- the one still on the building
today, minus some neon and those lovely milk glass letters.
larger detail view

also from 1939:
| "Hardys Ride High" - Dick Whittington Studio -
  looking north from Olympic -  USC Archives |

A line down the block for "Gone With The Wind."
 The image appeared on Photos of Los Angeles.
Thanks to TR Remick for the post.

The west coast premiere of the film was
December 28, 1939 at the Carthay Circle.

A view looking north from Olympic posted
on Facebook's Photos of Los Angeles
by Ken McIntyre.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

For post-2000 photos see the United Artists
 recent exterior views page.

 more united artists theatre pages:
 |  recent exterior views outer lobby  |   inner lobby  |  lounges  |
 |  upper lobby areas
auditorium main floor  mezzanine  |
 |  balcony  |
  projection  |  backstage  |   other basement areas  |
attic  |  office building  |  roof  |