Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre / Hollywood Pacific

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6433 Hollywood Blvd. 

Los Angeles, CA 90028   | map |

News: The theatre is closed up and vacant. There's no word as to what is next for the building. Pacific Theatres/Robertson properties says at this point they're just exploring various options.

"Nothing good happens in an empty theatre."
-- Hillsman Wright, Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation

"Advocates fear Warner Bros. Theatre is at risk," a July 2014 Park LaBrea News/Beverly Press article by Aaron Blevins, discusses the rumors that have been swirling around about the property, gives a nice history, and offers comments from Hollywood Heritage and from Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation representatives Escott Norton and Hillsman Wright. 

Curbed L.A.'s Bianca Barragan stirs the pot a bit more with a July 8 story titled "Development Headed for 1928 Warner Hollywood Theatre?" The preservation organization Hollywood Heritage has an article with many photos of the Warner on their "endangered" page. There's also a Friends of Hollywood's Pacific Theatre Facebook page.


Opened: April 26, 1928 as the Warner Brothers Hollywood with a Warner/Vitaphone release "Glorious Betsy" starring Conrad Nagel and Delores Costello. On the great stage between screenings of the feature was the Ceballos Revue with Daphne Pollard, Harry Kelly and the girls.

This theatre has also been known as  Warner's, the WarnerWarner Cinerama, Warner Hollywood Cinerama, the Hollywood Pacific and the Hollywood Pacific 1-2-3.

Architect: G. Albert Lansburgh.  In Los Angeles, he's best known as the architect of the Wiltern Theatre (but not the building), the 1911 Palace Theatre (with Robert Brown Young) and the 1926 Orpheum.

The building, in addition to the theatre, encompasses retail space on the ground floor as well as three floors of offices above that front on both Hollywood Blvd. and Wilcox Ave. The Warner Bros. radio station KFWB was housed in the building. The two roof towers served to support its antenna. Warner Bros. Theatres had their offices in the building with their premises including a screening room.

The view below shows how Lansburgh arranged an oval theatre auditorium diagonally on the site.  The protrusion sticking up on top of the stagehouse roof (upper center) is the cooling tower, which is parallel to the proscenium. Look behind it and you'll see that the stagehouse ends in a point at the north east corner of the building.



Photo: Bing Maps
larger view

Seating: 2756 originally. When it was triplexed, the two balcony auditoria ended up with 550 seats each.  The main floor theatre has a capacity of 1200.

Status:  It's unknown what's next for the building.

The Hollywood Pacific closed as a theatre in 1994.  After Pacific ceased regular operations, there was still occasionally a public film screening--such as for the L.A. Conservancy. For a while it was used for a test facility for digital projection equipment.  For several years a church group was using the main floor auditorium for their Sunday services.  They were told to vacate by the end of June 2013.

The building is still owned by Pacific Theatres, its longtime operator.  The Hollywood Pacific Theatre is currently waiting for the next great idea. Pacific and its associated companies also own lots of property around the theatre. See Wendell Benedetti's map on the LAHTF Facebook page.

Warner's 20s building boom: Warner Bros was riding high in the late 1920s as a result of their Vitaphone sound-on-disc process. They got their studios converted first, their theatres wired for sound, and a long string of hit sound films into theatres around the country.

This prosperity resulted in a building and acquisition boom with this Hollywood theatre in 1928, acquisition of the downtown Pantages (soon a Warner) in 1929 and new theatres in Beverly Hills, Huntington Park, San Pedro and at Wilhire & Western (the Wiltern) in the early 30s.

The depression took longer to catch up to Warner Bros than it did to the other majors but by 1932, all these theatres were in trouble and the company as a whole was losing money. 

Vitaphone at the Warner: The process certainly wasn't new when the Warner opened as many theatres had been screening the hundreds of shorts that the Warner Vitaphone unit had produced since the mid 20s. 

The logo -- from the Wikipedia article on the Vitaphone process.

But the process had certainly hit the big time with the successes of "Don Juan" (August, 1926) and "The Jazz Singer" (October, 1927). The process used records for the sound, with the turntable mechanically synched to the projector. The turntables, bases, amplifiers and speakers were all designed and manufactured by the Western Electric unit of Bell Telephone.



A 1929 ad to exhibitors touting Vitaphone.
 It's from the fun blog Vitaphone Varieties.
full size view

It's unknown what kind of projectors were in the booth for the opening of the Warner.  As far as sound was concerned, the Western Electric installation (in addition to the Vitaphone turntables) included optical soundheads as well so films using the Fox Movietone system and other processes could be played.

Warner Bros. continued distributing soundtracks on records as late as 1935 even though they had converted to a sound on film process by 1930.  See the Vitaphone Project, Vitaphone Varieties, and the  Vitaphone page from the Belknap collection for more information.


Looking down the length of the Warner Hollywood
 booth in the late 20s or early 30s in a view from the
 Moviemice Western Electric page.  Note the turntables
behind the 3 projectors for playing Vitaphone discs.  
larger view

Early Widescreen at the Warner: There was a flurry of interest at several studios in wide gauge filming and projection in the late 20s and early 30s. An optimistic item in the November 1, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World boasted that Warner Bros. was intending to put wide film in all its theatres. The deepening economic gloom put an end to it until new challenges in the 50s prompted digging up some of the old experiments.

Warner Bros. used the name "Vitascope" for their process which is interesting because the same trade name had been used by Edison for an early projector in the 1890s. Vitascope didn't have sound on the film (unlike the 70mm "Fox Grandeur" process) and used Vitaphone records synched with the projector. 

In70mm.com notes that the process used 5 perforations per frame and 65mm film stock. It had an aspect ratio of 2.05 to 1. The cameras and projectors were developed by the Warner Bros. technical department.  

Brunswick Corp. was making the dual gauge 35/65mm projectors for the circuit. It's unknown how many actually got completed or installed. See Wikipedia for a nice list of film formats that includes these widescreen experiments of the 30s.


A 65mm Vitascope frame, actual size.

Engagements with widescreen Vitascope projection at the Warner included "The Lash," which opened December 26, 1930 (for two weeks) and "Kismet, " which opened February 13, 1931 for a one week run.


An ad for "The Lash" at the Warner Downtown
(in 35mm) or at the Warner Hollywood (in 65mm
Vitascope --"uncanny in its realism").  It's from
the In70mm.com article "Magnified Gandeur"
full size view




An ad for "Kismet" at the Warner Hollywood --
but it's the NYC Warner Hollywood! It's from the
terrific In70mm.com article on early widescreen:
 "Magnified Gandeur" by David Coles.

See our Movie Links page for more on early widescreen. For dates of early wide-gauge runs in Los Angeles at other theatres see the From Script To DVD page "70mm & Wide Gauge: The Early Years" by Michael Coate and William Kallay.  If the Warner Downtown was ever equipped for the process, it's unknown what films they ran. "The Lash" wasn't one of them.

RKO-SW: After the consent decree divestitures of the 50s, the Warner Bros. theatres ended up as part of a corporation called RKO-Stanley Warner. The Stanley Corp. of America was a theatre operator Warner Bros. had purchased in the late 20s. Other major houses they had included the Pantages and the Warner Beverly Hills.

3 Strip Cinerama at the Warner:  In 1953 the theatre was renovated for 3-strip Cinerama with a deeply curved screen extending out into the auditorium and 3 small projection booths added on the main floor. The Cinerama screen was a louvered construction 28' x 76' with a 146 degree arc. Seating was reduced to approximately 1,500 by draping off the upper balcony.  The Cinerama films ran as reserved seat engagements.




For the In Cinerama site's Warner Theatre
page researcher Roland Lataille found this L.A.
 Times ad for the invitational premiere of
"This Is Cinerama" at the Warner. 
full size view



A view of the louvered Cinerama screen -- designed
to prevent light on the sides of the screen from washing
out the picture on the other side. 

It's from Greg Kimble's great article
 "This is Cinerama" on the widescreen
 site In70mm.com.

"This is Cinerama" opened April 29, 1953 and ran 133 weeks.
"Cinerama Holiday" opened November 14, 1955 and ran 81 weeks.
"Seven Wonders of the World" opened June 5, 1957 and ran 69 weeks.
"South Seas Adventure" opened October 1, 1958 and ran 71 weeks.
"Search For Paradise" opened February 11, 1960 and ran 38 weeks.
"This is Cinerama" return engagement opened November 2, 1960 and ran 22 weeks.
"Cinerama Holiday" return engagement opened April 4, 1961 and ran 7 weeks.
"Seven Wonders of the World" return engagement opened May 23, 1961 and ran through October 9, 1961 -- 16 weeks.

The Warner was was equipped for 70mm in 1961 as part of a remodeling project. New booth equipment equipment included Phillips/Norelco 35/70mm projectors, Super Cinex lamps and a new 6 channel Ampex sound system.  The Cinerama screen was removed.


  For Roland Lataille's In Cinerama Warner Theatre
page he
located a March 1962 Motion Picture Herald story
detailing the Warner's 1961 "new look"
renovations.
| article page one | article page two |

The new flat screen in 1961 was installed on the stage and much of the auditorium was draped in the makeover Note in the photo above that the front of the stage was still intact and we have steps down to the auditorium to conceal the orchestra pit. The screen is within the original proscenium and the footlights are being used to illuminate the curtain.

The theatre reopened with the premiere of "Back Street" with Susan Hayward (in 35mm) on October 26, 1961. More 35mm non-roadshow engagements filled the schedule until mid-1962.

Soon
the new proscenium treatment was removed for another Cinerama screen installation.  This time there was substantial demolition and lowering of the front of the stage for a rounded bubble treatment as a transition from the auditorium floor to the bottom of the screen. Other work included a dropped ceiling and draping of main floor sides and rear areas where seating was not desirable. 

As with the 1953 version of Cinerama in the house, the rear of the balcony was not used and had drapes part way up to hide the rear of the auditorium.
The theatre started showing 3 Strip Cinerama again in August 1962.

 "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" (Cinerama/MGM) opened August 7, 1962 and ran 28 weeks.

 "How The West Was Won" (American premiere engagement, Cinerama/ MGM) opened February 20, 1963 and ran 93 weeks.


A great illustration of a Cinerama shot. This is from the opening
sequence of "How The West Was Won" on the first page of
American Widescreen Museum's Cinerama section. 

At top we have the full-coat mag film with 7 channels
of sound and the 3 35mm 6 perforation high images.
The three projectors and the sound dubber were
 interlocked with Selsyn motors.

Originally Cinerama ran at 26 fps but it was slowed down to the
standard 24 fps for later productions to allow a bit longer running
time. It was all on a big reel with a reel change at intermission.




A diagram of the 3 projector layout from
Wikipedia's nice Cinerama article. 
larger view

70MM Cinerama at the Warner:  "How The West Was Won" was the last of the 3 Strip films to play the Warner. Cinerama had embraced 70mm single film projection and thereafter a number of 70mm engagements on the deeply curved Cinerama screen were advertised as being "in Cinerama" including:

"Circus World" -- premiered December 17, 1964 and ran 16 weeks. It was advertised with the tagline "Cinerama surrounds you with the greatest thrill-packed story ever filmed."

"Mediterranean Holiday" -- opened April 9, 1965 and ran for 11 weeks.  The come-on: "Cinerama Has Thrilled You With 'This Is Cinerama,' 'Seven Wonders Of The World,' 'Cinerama Holiday,' 'Seven Seas Adventure' And Now Thrill To The New Cinerama: 'Mediterranean Holiday'"

"The Hallelujah Trail" (world premiere engagement, United Artists) opened June 23, 1965 and ran for 26 weeks. "Presented in Cinerama. Filmed in Ultra Panavision."

"Cinerama's Russian Adventure" opened May 3, 1966 and ran 13 weeks.

 "2001: A Space Odyssey" (MGM) played the Warner for 80 weeks as a reserved seat engagement starting April 4, 1968. The 70mm prints for Cinerama houses had the Cinerama logo as part of the credits -- it didn't appear on 35mm prints. The feature was filmed in Super Panavision 70.  The main floor side sections, some of the rear areas and the back of the balcony were still concealed with drapes during the run of "2001" resulting in a seating capacity of 1,256.

The deeply curved screen was still in place (and "Cinerama" on the marquee) for the run of "Clockwork Orange" in 1971. John Sittig, the chief projectionist for Pacific Theatres, notes on Cinema Treasures that the Cinerama screen was finally removed for good sometime in the early 70s. 

Much of the information about the 70mm runs at the Warner comes from the site From Script To DVD. They have a list of 70mm Theatres & Photo Gallery featuring pages about many of the Hollywood theatres as well as 70mm engagements listed year by year.  Check out their Warner Theatre/Hollywood Pacific page.

Pacific Theatres takes over:  Pacific took over the Warner from RKO-Stanley Warner during the 1968-69 run of "2001" and changed the name to the Hollywood Pacific. 

Long 35mm runs in the 60s and 70s included "Is Paris Burning? (1966 - 13 weeks), "Airport (Universal, 1970 - 29 weeks) "Clockwork Orange" (Warner Bros., 1971).  70mm engagements included "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (roadshow engagement, Universal, 1976), "Streets of Fire" (Universal, 1984) and "Cotton Club" (Orion, 1984).

1978 Renovation: The balcony was enclosed for 2 additional screens in April, 1978.  The current main floor screen width is 60' with only a shallow curvature.  A THX type infinite baffle made of steel studs and drywall (with openings for the speakers) is fitted into the proscenium arch. The asbestos curtain is still in place but not currently operable.

The theatre sustained damage during the construction of the Red Line subway in the 80s including basement flooding.  Additional problems were caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake including damage to the ceilings in the two balcony theatres. It's not known how much seismic retrofitting has been done or even if any is needed.

The theatre ceased regular film exhibition on August 15, 1994. There have been occasional public film screenings on the main floor since then by various groups. From 2002 until 2006 the main floor theatre was the Entertainment Technology Center, hosting public screenings of various films to exhibit digital projection technology.

Later it was leased to a church and until summer 2013 the main floor theatre was used for Sunday services. The balcony theatres have not been used since 1994.

The Warner in the Movies:



We get a look west from Hollywood & Vine in Joseph
Newman's "The George Raft Story" (Allied Artists, 1961)
with Ray Danton, Jayne Mansfield and Julie London.

In the distance note the anachronism of the towers of the
Warner with the neon saying "Cinerama."  Thanks to Kliph
 Nesteroff for the screenshot, posted on Vintage Los Angeles. 
 larger view  |  on Vintage LA

In the view above the Vine Theatre  (here
still called the Admiral) is on the lower right.




Godfrey Cambridge, a white man turned black, takes the bus
in from Toluca Lake to Hollywood & Wilcox in Melvin Van Peebles'
 "Watermelon Man" (Columbia, 1970). After breakfast at the corner
 diner in the Warner Building, he goes upstairs to
his office. On the marquee: "2001."



Johnny Depp and Martin Landau are in front
 of one of the arches on the Wilcox side of the
Warner Hollywood in this shot from Tim Burton's
"Ed Wood" (Touchstone Pictures, 1994).
larger view


about the photos from other websites...

 We've tried to give appropriate credit.
The links near the images will direct you to a full size version
on the website hosting it.  Please contact us if there are incorrect
attributions or links that no longer work.   All images are subject
to copyright.  Contact the webmaster of the site in question
concerning reproduction or other use.


More Warner Hollywood information: Visit the Pacific page on Cinema Treasures for engrossing discussion of the Hollywood Pacific Theatre's history as well as over 75 photos.

See a 2014 facade view by Stephen Russo on the LAHTF Facebook page for a long thread of very interesting comments about the dormant building.

Some nice photos (including lots of interiors by Bob Meza) are on the Cinema Tour page for the Hollywood Pacific.  Check out the article on the Warner on Wikipedia.

Hollywood Heritage has an article with many photos of the Warner on their "endangered" page.






The Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

See a 2014 facade view by Stephen Russo on the
 LAHTF Facebook page for a long thread of very interesting
comments about the dormant building.




A view of the exterior from the east.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The Warner's boardup mode -- all dressed in ArcLight black.

photo: Bill Counter - January 2014

After Pacific Theatres told a church group and a few other tenants
to leave in mid 2013, the building was mothballed.  We're looking west
toward the marquee. The arch near us is the office building entrance.



A Hollywood Blvd. facade detail. This guy
 is above the entrance to the office building.


photo: Ken McIntyre  - 2



Despite the signage, there will be no bargain
matinee any time in the near future.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The marquee of the mothballed Warner.

photo: Bill Counter - January 2014



A marquee, vertical sign and tower vista.

photo: Ken McIntyre -
Photos of Los Angeles - 2013


Ken's photos on this page originally appeared on
his Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
this view | north on Wilcox | Hollywood Blvd. detail |
 | Wilcox up toward tower |



The entrance to the theatre.

photo: Bill Counter  - 2012

The boxoffice layout, doors and marble
seen here date from a 1960-61 remodeling.



A closer view of an entrance chandelier.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click any of these images to enlarge ]




A postcard view looking east.


[ click on any of these to enlarge ]

On the right you'll see the facade of the Fox (then called
the Iris) in this view from 1956. Note "Cinerama Holiday"
playing at the Warner Theatre down the street.   

The card is one that was part of the collection on
the now vanished website Yesterday LA.



A much later view looking east toward the Warner.

photo: Google Maps - 2009


That's the Fox on the right -- here with the
marquee just rows of vertical fluorescent tubes.

Click on the image to enlarge or head
to Google for an interactive view.





Signage still showing "Warners" on the inside.

The towers were originally used for the Warner Bros.
owned radio station located in the building.


photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The Wilcox side after the boardup. We're
 looking south toward Hollywood Blvd.


photo: Bill Counter - 2007

The area closest to us is a passageway leading backstage.



The Wilcox arches -- the west exit from the lobby.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007



An earlier look at the Wilcox arches
and the
west lobby exit doors.

photo: Ken McIntyre - 2013



The west side of the building as we look north.

photo: Bill Counter  - 2007



Looking back along the Wilcox facade
 toward Hollywood Blvd.


photo: Ken McIntyre  - 2013



Another look at one of the gargoyles on the Wilcox side.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007




The rear of the theatre.  The stage backs into the corner.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

More 3 Strip Cinerama process information: See Roland Lataille's In Cinerama web site for lots more data and Cinerama memorabilia. His Warner Hollywood page has ads and other items relating to the Warner in its Cinerama days.

For lots of fun check out the site about the documentary "Cinerama Adventure." See the very informative From Script To DVD website's This Is Cinerama in Los Angeles page compiled by Michael Coate. Our information about Cinerama runs at the Warner comes largely from that source.

The site In70mm.com has lots of Cinerama information. See their Cinerama page and the article on Cinerama pictures on digital.  For the latest Cinerama filming in Los Angeles there's the article "Cinerama 2012." And don't miss the six page Cinerama section on Widescreen Museum.

The Cinerama Dome held a 3 strip festival in September 2012 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the process. On YouTube see several shorts by Michael Cahill about film historian Dave Stromaier shooting a new 3 strip Cinerama film in Los Angeles: "Cinerama 2012"  Part 1  | Part 2

Other 3 strip projection in Los Angeles included the Forum Theatre, 5050 W. Pico, as a test house for the process and Crest Labs, who processed Cinerama footage.  The Century Drive-In put in a 180' wide screen and ran several three-strip films. 

The Cinerama Dome was designed with a wraparound projection booth for 3 strip projection but Cinerama had abandoned the process and gone to 70mm by the time of the theatre's opening.  Equipment was later installed for revival screenings.  The Dome and the Cinerama in Seattle are the only two theatres in the country currently capable of showing the original Cinerama format.

In 1958 Grauman's Chinese was equipped for a rival 3 projector process, Cinemiracle, for showing "Windjammer." It ran 37 weeks and then moved over to the Music Box (then called the Fox) for a 15 week run there. That was the only film in the process as the company was purchased by Cinerama and then shut down. Cinemiracle, unlike Cinerama, used only one booth and mirrors to get the beams from the side projectors to the screen. Several later Cinerama installations incorporated this single booth idea. Cinerama, Inc. was later acquired by Pacific Theatres.


more warner bros. hollywood theatre pages:
street view timeline  |  main lobby  |  basement lounge  |
upper lobby areas  |  auditorium  |  stage  |  stage basement  |
 |  other basement areas  |   booth and attic  |