Warner Bros. Theatre

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401 W. 7th St.       | map |

Los Angeles, CA  90014

Architect: B. Marcus Priteca

Opened: August 17, 1920 as the Pantages.  Priteca, a prolific theatre architect based in Seattle, did lots of other work for the Pantages circuit including the Hollywood Pantages in 1930. 

His other theatres in the Los Angeles area were the Fine Arts in Beverly Hills and three suburban deco palaces, the Warner Beverly Hills, Warner San Pedro and Warner Huntington Park.

This 1920 creation was quite typical of the favored Pantages classical style of the 20s. The home of the Pantages circuit prior to this was the 1910 building at 534 S.  Broadway. That theatre is now known as the Arcade.

Seating: 1,757.  Originally listed as 2,200.

Greek-born Alexander Pantages got his start in show business selling seats for readings of newspapers to miners in Alaska who were starved for information and entertainment.


Alexander Pantages (1867-1936) and his son Rodney in a
photo by Estep and Kirkpatrick, from the Herald Examiner
archives in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  Rodney
would go on to manage the Hollywood Pantages.
 full size view



A tall 1925 ad for the "Show Place Beautiful" where
 "Like the Pantages skyscraper overtops a cottage, this
show tops everything else in town."  The feature is
"The Best Bad Man" with Tom Mix and Clara Bow.
  full size view

Thanks to Tourmaline, who found the ad for his Noirish Los Angeles post #14530 about Tom Mix. He found it on Western Clippings.

Scandals, Joseph Kennedy and a Forced Sale: After Joseph P. Kennedy put RKO together in 1928 by merging Radio Corporation of America and the Keith Albee and Orpheum circuits, he started looking around for additional theatre holdings to expand his reach. He tried to purchase the Pantages circuit to improve the RKO position on the west coast but Pantages was initially unwilling to sell.



A triptych of Alexander Pantages, the theatre at 7th & Hill
 and Eunice Pringle, a secret agent of Joe Kennedy (according
 to one version of the story). Ken McIntyre found the
item for his Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
 full size view  | 
on FB/LATheatres

C.W. Porter's website about Joe Kennedy and his ruthless business methods has a page on "How Joe Framed an Innocent Man."  Using "Sins of the Father" by Ronald Kessler and "The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal, and Secrets" by Nellie Bly as sources, he says:

"In February 1929, Joe Kennedy made an offer to buy the Pantages theater chain, the second biggest in California, from its owner Alexander Pantages, a Greek immigrant who had built the chain from scratch into a multi-million dollar business.

Joe's innate arrogance was now rampant, and when Pantages rebuffed his offers, Kennedy threatened him by boasting of his influence in the banking and movie businesses. Soon, Pantages found his theaters were being denied first-run blockbuster features from major studios, but that was only the beginning.

On August 9, 1929 in Pantages's flagship theater, the Beaux Arts [sic] in downtown Los Angeles, an hysterical lady in red emerged from the janitor's broom closet on the mezzanine screaming: "There he is, the Beast! Don't let him get at me!" She pointed to the silver-haired Alexander Pantages in the office next to the broom closet.

Poor Pantages was convicted and sentenced to fifty years, but the verdict was overturned on appeal, on the basis that it was prejudicial to Pantages to exclude testimony about the morals of the plaintiff. The court found her testimony 'so improbable as to challenge credulity.'

The girl, Eunice Pringle of Garden Grove, California, told police that she had come to Pantages looking for work as a dancer. Instead of offering her a job, he had pushed her into the broom closet, wrenched her underwear loose and raped her. Pantages insisted that he was being framed, and that the young woman had torn and ripped her own clothing.

At the new trial, Pantages' lawyers reenacted the alleged rape and showed that it could not have occurred in the small broom closet the way Pringle had described it. The jury was also shown how athletic Pringle was, casting doubt on her claim that she could not fight off advances by the slightly built Pantages.

The second jury acquitted Pantages, but because of the notoriety, his business had plummeted. A few months after Kennedy's final offer of $8 million, Pantages was forced to sell out to Joe's RKO for $3.5 million.
"

Porter's piece goes on to suggest that two years later Eunice Pringle died suddenly (of cyanide poisoning) and, in a deathbed confession, implicated Kennedy in the conspiracy to set up Pantages.  Wikipedia's article about Eunice Pringle notes that this story, while appearing in several books, is obviously untrue as Eunice died in San Diego in 1996 at the age of 84.

Michael Parrish, in a June 16, 2002 Los Angeles Times article, tries (unsuccessfully) to get to the bottom of the story. He notes that the "deathbed confession" of Ms. Pringle may have been a story spread by the Pantages camp as part of the attempt to exonerate the theatre owner. Parrish concludes that even if the confession part of the much-repeated tale is untrue it'll be difficult to prove there wasn't a conspiracy against Pantages involving  Joe Kennedy.


Pantages, center, in court with his attorneys in 1929.

It's a Frank Bentley Herald Examiner photo in
 the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
 full size view

Thanks to David Saffer, of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, for the link to Porter's Joe Kennedy website.  And many thanks to Jeff Kurtti for digging out the Los Angeles Times article that debunks some aspects of the Pringle story.

Pantages was in trouble again in 1931 in the "Hollywood Love Mart Case" where there was a party and it was alleged that money was given to several underage girls.



Pantages in court again in 1931.  It's a Herald
 Examiner photo in the Los Angeles Public
 Library collection.
Another Herald Examiner photo from the 1931 "Love Mart Case."
The caption: "Courtroom scene shows Alexander Pantages and his
wife, pointed out by arrows, seated side by side. Standing at left is
 Jesse H. Shreve, wealthy San Diego business man, jointly accused
with Pantages on charges of contributing to the delinquency of two
 minor girls in connection with the asserted party. A full week
already has been taken up in selection of a jury to try the
case. Photo dated: June 3, 1931."

full size view

Acquisition by Warner Bros:  Although Pantages sold the circuit to RKO, they didn't need this Pantages house at 7th & Hill as they had two other large theatres nearby, the Orpheum on Broadway and the Hillstreet a block away at 8th & Hill.  Thus this one ended up with Warner Bros.

There was a remodel with all the "P" crests in the decoration being replaced with WB logos and a general refurbishing.  After a shutdown for the remodel, which included a new marquee, the theatre reopened as the Warner Bros. Downtown Theatre with "Gold Diggers of Broadway," an August 1929 release.  Later signage revisions called it Warner's.

Pantages held onto a big project in the works at the time of the circuit's sale, the Hollywood Pantages, which was the largest theatre ever built for the circuit. Curiously, RKO did end up with the Hollywood theatre but not until 1949 and Joe Kennedy was long out of the picture. RKO at that time was being run by Howard Hughes.

Early Widescreen at the Warner: Warner Bros, like many studios, experimented with widescreen cinematography and projection in the late 20s and early 30s. Their process was called Vitascope and used 65mm film with the sound on Vitaphone records. The special  projectors were developed by the Warner Bros. technical department.

The Warner Downtown got a 65mm installation but only ran one feature, "A Soldier's Plaything," which opened December 12, 1930.   The Warner Hollywood also ran the 65mm Vitascope process.  For the film "The Lash," the Warner downtown got the 35mm version, the Warner Hollywood the 65mm widescreen version.

See our Movie Links & Hollywood History Resources page for more on early widescreen processes. Dates of early L.A. widescreen runs are on the From Script To DVD page "70mm & Wide Gauge: The Early Years" by Michael Coate and William Kallay. 

After Warner Bros:  Starting in the mid-60's it was called the Warrens when operated by Metropolitan Theatres.

The Pantages in the Movies: Harold Lloyd has some dazzling scenes up on what looks like an unfinished building in the 1921 Pathe release "Never Weaken." Some shots were from 1st & Hill but here we're at 7th & Hill. We get lots of views of the back of the Loew's State Theatre (then under construction) but also this nice vista down on the new Pantages:



A look at the Pantages in "Never Weaken"
(1921). The building behind the theatre is the
Los Angeles Athletic Club.
larger view


Status:  Closed in 1975.  It was then a church for a while. The main floor and lobby have been used for retail as the Jewelry Mart since the late 70s.

Most of the plasterwork is still intact and the balcony is untouched (still with seats).  You can walk on the stage (where there are more jewelry stalls) and see the counterweight system T-wall stage right as well as look up to the grid. The switchboard stage right has been removed.  It's worth a visit even if you don't want to buy any jewelry.

The Warner in the Movies:



The Warner was used extensively for the interiors of 
Ziegfeld's New Amsterdam Theatre in William Wyler's
 "Funny Girl" (Rastar/Columbia, 1968). The exteriors, some
backstage shots and bigger production numbers were studio
 creations. This angle looking down from the top of the
balcony appears several times in the film.
full size viewon FB/LATheatres

Thanks to Bill Gabel for mentioning that the Warner
was the site of the filming. See our
interior  page for
more auditorium views.

More information:  The  Cinema Tour page on the Warner Bros. Downtown has some photos by Adam Martin and Bob Meza.  The Cinema Treasures page on the Warner has a good history of the building and lots of photos.

See the Wikipedia articles on architect B. Marcus Priteca and owner Alexander Pantages.



     street views - 1942 - 1983    


[ the recent exterior views page has post-2000 photos ]



1942
We're looking north on Hill in this photo on Shorpy.
The Warner is running "The Male Animal" and "Lady
for a Night." The photo was taken by Russell Lee for
the Office of War Information.
Thanks to Torr Leonard for spotting this one!


1947
The UCLA  Calisphere collection includes
this 1947 Burton Frasher exterior shot. Note that
the readerboard faces have been changed out to the
more "modern" post-war white backgrounds.
full size view

The view above is from a "Frasher's Foto Postcard."
Theentire Frasher Foto Postcard Collection is at the
Pomona Library. It contains hundreds of photos
 from all over southern California.
the card at the Pomona Library |




1953
A Los Angeles Public Library photo of
the Warner running "Roman Holiday."
full size view




1954
A nice look at the theatre added to the Warrens
 
Cinema Treasures page by Jiterga. We're
 running "The Far Country" with James Stewart. 
full size view


The "Far Country" view also
appears on Photos of Los Angeles.





1950s
Elizabeth Fuller's Old Los Angeles Postcards
collection includes this card looking west on 7th.
full size view



1955
The Metro Transportation Archive has
 this undated shot looking west on 7th St.
 toward the Warner.
full size view



1955
A look west on 7th from the Sean Ault Archives.
We're looking past Bullocks on Broadway to the
Warner down at Hill St. The theatre is running
"The Ten Commandments."
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.





1956
A look west on 7th St. from the
Metro Transportation Archive on Flickr.
 It's in their LATL Streetcar Lines set. We get
"The State" at the left (no longer Loew's) and
the Warners down the block at Hill St.
full size view





1958
A rainy day view on the
Photos of Los Angeles
Facebook page
gives us a view looking west on 7th.
Note a bit of the bottom of the 7th St. Loew's State
vertical sign on the left side of the photo.
 full size view



Los Angeles Theatres -- The Pantages (1920), later the Warner, at 7th & Hill Sts.

1959
An interesting
Los Angeles Public Library
collection photo by Roy Hankey
looking east on 7th St.
 toward the "Warners."  Note the Bullocks store beyond
 in the  block between 7th and Broadway.
full size view





c. 1960
Looking west on 7th in the late toward what was then
 called the Warrens Theatre in a
Dick Whittington Studio
photo in the
USC Archives. They're running "The Bridge
 on the River Kwai" (1957) with William Holden.
 full size view





1960
A look north on Hill St. from the
Metro
Transportation Archive
on Flickr. The Warrens
 is running "Midnight Lace" with Doris Day.
 full size view





1963
Looking west on 7th toward in January toward
the Warrens Theatre. The photo appeared on
 Vintage Los Angeles and is from the
Richard Wojcik collection. 
full size view

Richard notes that all electrified transit would
end in Los Angeles on March 31, 1963.





1963
A glorious look west on 7th St. toward the Warrens
from the Metro  Transportation Archive
Downtown Los Angeles set.
 full size view

The 1963 photo also appears on the website
of the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society.




1970
A neat view looking south on Hill Street when the
theatre
was operating as the Warrens. It was posted
on Vintage Los Angeles by Mitchell Walker Jr
.
 
full size view



1983
The theatre as a jewelry mart in a
 photo from the
California State Library
collection by William Reagh. Yes, the signage
 under the marquee says "Burger King."
There was one in the basement.

More views on Photos of Los Angeles:
looking east from 7th & Olive -30s  |
 | looking east - another 30s view  |
  |  north on Hill from 8th - 1939  - from USC Archives  |
| looking west on 7th from Broadway - 1947 -- that's
Bullocks behind the streetcar |
 |  7th & Hill - 1952  | Jewelry Center view  |
 |  marquee closeup - 1987 - Burger King  |



More exterior views from the LAPL collection:
| early exterior - Pantages  another 20s view  |  20s view - west on 7th  |
 |   1925 exterior  - "Rin Tin Tin"
| east on 7th - 1926 - dome & Loew's State  |
 |  1926 view - "Hero of the Big Snows" | 1926 another one - "Hero"  |
vertical detail - 1931 |  1932 exterior - higher angle  - "The Bargain" |
east on 7th - undated - Warner and Loew's State  |
 | 7th east toward Hill - c. 1937 - Herman Schultheis  |
| facade 1938 -"The Hurricane" |
another "Hurricane" shot  - 1938 |  looking east on 7th St. 
- Warner +
L. A. Athletic Club, Herman Schultheis photo  |


Also from the USC Archives :

| north on Hill from 8th - c.1924 - a sliver of the RKO
Hillstreet on the far left  |
 |  another 1926 exterior - "Hero of the Big Snows"  |
 | 1938 exterior - "Robin Hood" |  another view - "Robin Hood"  |
  | looking east on 7th -- 1938-9  | 7th St. facade - 1939 - "Dark Victory"  |
  |  east on 7th - 1952 - "This Woman is Dangerous"   |









The Warner Theatre building.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click on the photo to enlarge
]


 about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

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
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.





     street views - 1920 - 1939    

[ later views are down in the left column ]




c. 1917
A USC Archives look west on 7th St. toward
Hill. The Pantages  will soon rise in the vacant
 lot this side of the Los Angeles Athletic Club. 
full size view

Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the
view above on his
Photos of Los Angeles.

Note: use the slider to get a larger view
and pan around on the USC photos.


1920
A view of the Pantages upon its opening from
Wikipedia. That's Alexander Pantages on the left
with his Northwest district manager Edward G. Milne
 on the right. The item appeared in the Seattle Argus. 
full size view

The etching also appears on Danni Bayles-Yeager's
 page about the theatre in her Performing Arts Archive.




c. 1920
A very early postcard view from Cezar
Del Valle's
great Theatre Talks collection. 
full size view

 Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian
with a fondness for L.A. theatres.



1920s
An exterior view from Encyclopedia Brittanica
from when the theatre was still the Pantages.   
full size view

The photo above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.

Downtown Los Angeles Theatres - THe Warner / Pantages - 1920

1920s
Here we're on Broadway looking west on 7th St. in a view
 from Brian McCray's amazing Hollywood Postcards
 collection. We get mostly Bullocks at 7th & Broadway, but
 note the corner of the Pantage down at Hill St.
 full size view




c. 1920
A Los Angeles Public Library collection
 photo giving us a nice look at the original
curvy contour of at the marquee.
 
full size view 


Note here we've added some "Pantages"
 lettering above the marquee but not the other
 readerboards soon to follow.



1922
A look west on 7th St. from the
 Metro Transportation Archive
on
Flickr
. The Pantages is playing "Flesh
 
and Blood" with Lon Chaney. 
full size view


after 1922
Ken McIntyre found this for Photos of Los Angeles
on Facebook. We're looking south on Hill toward 7th
-- note
the Pantages signage on the north side of the
 theatre.
And a block farther south we get a bit of
the dome of
the RKO Hillstreet, open in 1922.
full size view




1920s
A postcard of the Pantages from a Hill St.
 tour created by Brent C. Dickerson as part
of his
 Visit to Old Los Angeles series. The pages
on
 the site are bursting with vintage postcard

views of downtown.

full size image
| index to episodes



c. 1925
The California State Library collection
includes this photo by Martin Behrman. 
  full size view




1926
This photo is in the
USC Archives. The
Pantages is running "The Marriage License."
   full size view | in the LAPL collection


1926
A Los Angeles Public Library photo
of the Pantages running "The Marriage License"
-- a bit different from the take above.
full size view



1927
A nice view of the Pantages signage posted on
the
Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page by Scott
Santoro, who was given
the photo by his friend
Gianpiero Leone.
"Is Zat So" was released in 1927.
full size view


Note the bottom of the new 7th St. vertical sign
-- not on the building in the 1926 photos.



1928
A lovely view from Ezra Buzzington on the
 Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page showing
the Pantages entrance when his grandfather played the
theatre in Buzington's (with one Z)  Rube Band.
Thanks, Ezra!
Behind that guy at the center, note the interesting curved
 boxoffice at the corner, right out at the sidewalk line. That
boxoffice area would later be the location of a set of
stairs down to a Burger King in the basement.

The photo above also appears on Photos of Los Angeles
as a post of Bill Gabel and on the Water and Power Associates
 Early L.A. Historical Buildings (1925+) page 1.



1928
A Los Angeles Public Library photo of
t
he Pantages running "Submarine" a  mostly silent
 film from Columbia that got an added soundtrack of
music and effects. It was an August 1928 release.
full size view




1928
A doctored postcard view looking west on 7th St. It's
 part of Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection.
On the marquee is "Submarine."
full size view

The image for the card has been doctored so the vertical says
 "Warner Bros." Actually for the run of this film in 1928 it still
said "Pantages."  The LAPL photo above and the image the
postcard is based on were both taken during the second
 week of the run for "Submarine."

The "Submarine" card also appears in three other collections:
Brian McCray - Hollywood Postcards  |
  Elizabeth Fuller's Old Los Angeles Postcards |
| Photos of Los Angeles |





1929
 A Los Angeles Public Library photo gives
us a look at the new marquee as the Warner
prepares to reopen after a bit of a remodel. 
full size view 

On the marquee is "Gold Diggers of
 Broadway," an August 1929 release.



1930
The Exhibitors Herald World issue of October 18,
1930 included this photo of the banners used to advertise
John Barrymore in "Moby Dick." They note that "lines
 converged from two streets to the ticket office."




1931
A lovely 1931 look at the Hill St. side of the Warner
advertising Vitaphone.  Guido Diero was a noted Italian
accordionist appearing at the Warner. Or were they
 running his Vitaphone short?

The photo appears on the Guido Diero Vitaphone
page. The feature film is Dorothy Mackaill in "Safe in Hell."
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The far right side of the marquee on Hill St. where it says
"Warner Bros." on top was an extension of the big marquee
re-do Warners did in 1929.  A look at the 1929 LAPL photo
reveals just a plain canopy over the exit doors there.



1932
An Olympics look west on 7th from the
  Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. We're
 at Broadway with
the Warner a block down at Hill St.
 full size view | another version - with a bit of the State




1932

A Los Angeles Public Library photo
with the theatre running "Stranger In
 Town" with Bette Davis.



1930s
A 1930s look east on 7th from the
 Metro Transportation Archive on
 Flickr. The Warner is playing something
with Pat O' Brien and Jimmy Cagney.
full size view





1930s
A postcard of the Warner in Elizabeth Fuller's
amazing Old Los Angeles Postcards collection
 on Flickr. We're looking north up Hill Street. 
full size view

The card also appears in Brian McCray's
Hollywood Postcards collection:
looking north on Hill St.  |




1938
A Herman Schultheis photo in the
 Los Angeles Public Library collection.
The Warner is running "Hollywood Hotel,"
A January 1938 release.
 full size view

More rainy "Hollywood Hotel"
views by Herman Schultheis:

 | corner view | north on Hill  | west on 7th |



1938
A Los Angeles Public Library photo of the
theatre's entrance during the run of "Cowboy
From Brooklyn" with Dick Powell.
full size view



1938
A tinted postcard view of the Warner Theatre
in Cezar Del Valle's
Theatre Talks collection.
 We're running "The Adventures of
Robin Hood" with Erroll Flynn.
 
full size view

The card above also appears in three other collections:
| Elizabeth Fuller's Postcards - mailed in 1944 |
 | USC Geography Department Tour - Jewelry District |
| Photos of Los Angeles |





1938
On the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook
 page we get this shot
looking south on Hill St..
full size view





1938
A Los Angeles Public Library photo of
 the Hill Street facade of the Warner Theatre. 
full size view




1939

A USC Archives view north on Hill St. from
the Dick Whittington Studio.  The Warner is running
 "Dark Victory." The side panels of the marquee still
have large neon displays advertising "Vitaphone." 
 full size view



more warner theatre pages:
recent exterior views  |  interior  |