The Silent Movie Theatre

611 N. Fairfax Ave.  | map

Los Angeles, CA 90036

(323) 655-2510


Opened: February 1942 by John Hampton and his wife Dorothy as a venue for silent films. Hampton had been collecting silents since he was a boy in Oklahoma. In 1940 he and his wife moved to L.A. and bought the lot on which to build their theatre. 

Dorothy sold the tickets and the candy bars, John ran the booth. They lived in an apartment above the theatre.  With gradually dwindling audiences over the years, they closed the theatre in 1980. John Hampton died in 1990.

Film buff (and friend of the Hamptons) Laurence Austin reopened the venue in 1991. Among his improvements was bringing in a live organist for the films. Austin was shot and killed at the theatre in 1997. The crime involved Mr. Austin's partner (and projectionist) James Van Sickle and several accomplices.

The theatre was put on the market in 1998 and purchased by film enthusiast Charlie Lustman, who reopened it in 1999 with Chaplin's "Modern Times." His improvements included a new marquee, new screen and a cafe as well as a general redecorating. 

The film end of the business was break-even at best and Lustman supplemented by building a clientele for private parties and other events. In 2006 he sold the business due to declining health.

Seating: 224

Status: In 2006 the theatre was taken over by Dan and Sammy Harkham and Hadrian Belove of the organization Cinefamily. They reopened in 2007. The theatre is alive and well as the home of revivals, cult films, festivals and more.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Silent Movie Theatre. Living in Cinema had a 2007 story about the theatre's Cinefamily reopening.  Cinema Tour has a page with a 2002 night view.

The L.A. Times had a story about the 2007 takeover by Cinefamily. The Dead History Project has a fine page on the theatre with an interesting history.  Seeing Stars has a page about the theatre's history.

    Dead History Project   

The theatre's reopening in
1999 with "Modern Times."
 full size view | on the DHP site

See the DHP's page on the Silent Movie Theatre for
 more photos and an extensive history of the theatre.

A 1997 photo of the Silent Movie Theatre.
The theatre in 2000.
See the site's Silent Movie Theatre
page for some history of the venue.

    Time Out

A look back at the rear of the house on
 Time Out's page on the Silent Movie
 Theatre. It's a Jakob Layman photo.
 full size view

The screen end of the auditorium.

The Silent Movie Theatre.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

[ click on either of these photos to enlarge ]

A marquee detail.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is actively involved
in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area.
The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings. | group Facebook page | official FB page

about photos from other
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    Los Angeles Public Library

A 1980 look at the Silent Movie Theatre.
It's a Herald
Examiner photo.
full size view

    Vintage Los Angeles

A 1942 photo of the theatre added to the
Vintage LA collection by Philip Mershon.
full size view

    Water & Power Associates Museum

A 1942 pre-opening look.

Looking south on Fairfax from Melrose
 before the theatre's opening.
The two views above appear on
 Early L.A. City Views (1925+) page 3 as well
as on  Early L.A. Buildings (1925+) page 4.

The photos are also on the Dead History Project page about
the theatre where they're credited to Bison Archives.