Culver / Kirk Douglas Theatre



9820 Washington Blvd.    | map |

Culver City, CA   90232


Website: www.centertheatregroup.org

Opened: August 13, 1946 as the Culver Theatre.

Architect:   Carl G. Moeller did the 1946 building. Steven Ehrlich was the architect for the renovation into the Kirk Douglas.

Moeller was involved in a number of Fox West Coast projects. The interior of the Culver was a "Skouras Style" confection.

At a time when much design was getting the modern look, the head of Fox West Coast Theatres, Charles Skouras, had his architectural team in the late 40s and early 50s take a different tack towards a lush neo-baroque feel.

The program was an attempt to create a program so theatres could be remodeled (or constructed from scratch) in an economical fashion while creating a new sumptuous feel for post-war audiences with new expectations of luxury.

While many of the buildings ended up quite different from each other, you could always spot certain prefabricated elements: lush red draperies, exotic gold plaster swirls encompassing the proscenium, etched aluminum surround panels at the snack bar and drinking fountains, etc. The basic program was applied to hundreds of theatres. While the components differed, the consistent style was unmistakable. Fox maintained its own huge assembly plant to produce many of the decorative elements.

In a remodel it might be just a shiny "padded-looking" gold and aluminum snack bar and a few Skouras swirls below the proscenium like the Palace downtown.  Or it could mean gutting the building and ending up with a totally new creation in an old shell like the Crest in Sacramento.

Seating: 1,091 -- with the rear of the house in a stadium style configuration.

The Culver was operated by Fox West Coast and its successor companies National General Corporation and Mann Theatres. It was later an independent operation after being dropped by Mann.

The auditorium was triplexed with 3 long skinny theatres served from the original booth. It  closed in 1989 and was gutted in 1994 after some of the triplexing work suffered damage in the Northridge earthquake.

Status: Interior remodeling began in 2002 for a 317 seat legit house operated by the Center Theatre Group, the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The venue reopened in 2004.

Skouras Style in the Movies:  It's uncertain where this Hollywood neo-Baroque craze came from that surfaced in the mid to late 40s. There aren't any other building types that I've seen with interiors similar to the "Skouras Style" interiors typical of the Fox West Coast theatres of the period.

Charles Skouras, head of FWC, obviously was in love with it as components of the style appeared in every new job or remodel the circuit did. Sometimes a whole new interior, sometimes just a few golden plaster swirls around the proscenium.

The other place we see do a similar style was in the movies. Did Skouras see a film set he liked? Did production designers see their films in Fox West Coast Theatres and go back and design similar looking sets? Who knows. But it's there in a number of films.



Here Ginny Simms is singing "I've Got You Under My Skin"
in the Cole Porter biopic "Night and Day" (Warner Bros., 1946).

The set could have been constructed from pieces left over
from Fox snack bar remodeling projects. As far as this film is
concerned, it's a one-off. Nothing else in the film looks like it.
 larger view


Pages on other FWC theatres of the period:  Fox Inglewood - 1949 |  California Huntington Park - remodel  |

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of stories about the Culver.  The Cinema Tour page has 26 photos of the exterior, boxoffice and lobby.

Culver City's website has a nice "Then and Now" page with lots of vintage views of the city to browse through.




A detail of the marquee in 2010.
photo: Bill Counter



A look at the 1946 terrazzo at the Culver.
photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click any of these to enlarge ]




More terrazzo.
photo: Bill Counter - 2010






A view of the Culver Theatre after closing.
photo: Gary Graver -- undated

More theatre photos by Gary Graver (1938-2006) can be seen
 on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2."




    Culver City Website    

www.culvercity.org



The city's website has a very nice "Then and Now" page.
Actually three pages of vintage and matching modern
views from around Culver City.
full size view

This 1947 view of the Culver on the site comes
from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives.


The photo also appears
on Vintage Los Angeles.




    TN Jones on Flickr   



A 2008 view of the facade by T N Jones.
 It's part of his Culver City set on Flickr. 
full size view

More by Mr. Jones:
 |  boxoffice  |  tower  |  exterior looking west  |
 | other theatres  |



    Steve Lyon on Wikipedia    

commons.wikimedia.org



A 2007 night view of the theatre by Steve Lyon. 
full size view



    Mid Century Modern    

... and Historical Los Angeles in the '60s, '70s, and '80s

www.facebook.com/groups/75888708987


A 1963 view looking west along Culver Blvd. with
Washington Blvd. verring off to the right.

The tower of the Culver Theatre is in the middle of the
photo.  The shot was added by Michael Snider to the
Facebook page started by the indefatigable Alison Martino. 
full size view

City Hall, with the  "Culver City" roof sign is
visible on the left side of Culver Blvd.


    Skouras-ized for Showmanship   

Skouras' West Coast Theatres
by Preston J. Kaufmann


Theatre Historical Society, 1987
THS Website

purchase from THS | buy on Amazon

This 1987 THS annual (#14) is packed with photos of
theatres that Fox West Coast gave the moderne
"Skouras look" in the 40s.



A look at the auditorium.
larger view



A typical Skouras style light fixture.
larger view



An entrance ramp to the auditorium.
larger view

All three photos are credited
to the Ken Kramer collection.








A view of the Culver Theatre in 2010.
photo: Bill Counter

[ click on these to enlarge ]




A 2010 night view.
photo: Bill Counter




A view of the rear of the theatre.
photo: Bill Counter - 2011





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    Agility Nut / Theatres    

www.agilitynut.com/theatres/ca


A nice look at the box office by Debra Jane. 
full size view

More views of the Culver on
her California Theatres -- page 6:
|   terrazzonight view  |  tower detail  |


    American Classic Images   

www.americanclassicimages.com


A look at the marquee in 1983 when the
 
theatre was operating as a triplex.
 full size view

Also in the American Classic Images collection:
1982 view  |  1983 view from higher up -- at dusk  |



    Sean Ault Archives by Osiris Press   



Looking east on Washington Blvd. toward the Culver
 in a nice 70s view from the Sean Ault Archives.  That's
part of the Sony (old MGM) studio complex on the right.
 full size view
  | on FB/LATheatres

Thanks to Sean Ault, renowned L.A. transit
 historian.  You can see many more items from
Sean's Osiris Press transit archive on YouTube.





    B'hend and Kaufmann Collection   

digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm


A 1950s photo by Nate Singer
of the Culver's snackbar.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection is
part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.



    Center Theatre Group    

www.centertheatregroup.org


Views of the tower and facade by Craig Schwartz.

Click to enlarge or head to the CTG Press Kit for
high resolution views of these two photos
.



Also by Mr. Schwartz:
 | night view  |




    Ikurnarsky on Flickr   

www.flickr.com/photos/lteagarden



A 2008 look at the original boxoffice.
full size view


    L.A. Public Library Collection   

www.lapl.org


A 1969 view of the marquee from the Library's collection.
full size view



    Ken McIntyre on Photobucket    

s132.photobucket.com/home/kencmcintyre/index



Tireless Cinema Treasures researcher Ken McIntyre
located this 1947 look at the marquee.
full size view



    Ken Roe on Photobucket   

www.flickr.com/photos/kencta/



An evocative 2005 look at the Culver Theatre neon at
night from world-wide cinema explorer Ken Roe.
full size view



    Theatre Projects   

www.tpcworld.com



A look at the inside of the Kirk Douglas on the website
of the firm that was the theatre consultants for the renovation.
 It's on their "News Items" page.



    Vintage Los Angeles   

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles


A 1988 look at the Culver Theatre as a triplex.
John L. Rouse took the photo in 1988 and added
it to the Vintage Los Angeles collection. 
  full size view


    You Are Here   

you-are-here.com/theatre



A construction view from the unstoppable LA fan Martin. 
full size view

Also from Martin:
  | more recent view -- from the west  |