Culver / Kirk Douglas Theatre

9820 Washington Blvd.    | map |

Culver City, CA   90232


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.

The Culver in the Movies:

A look at the Skouras-style boxoffice of the
Culver Theatre in John Berry's "Tension" (MGM, 1949).
Thanks to Ronald Schwartz for the screenshot,
a post on Photos of Los Angeles. 
larger view | on Photos of LA

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).
 larger view

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.

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

Also in Culver City: Meralta Theatre

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.

There's a Culver City Historical Society with information to share. 

A look at the 1946 terrazzo at the Culver.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

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    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.

    Center Theatre Group

Views of the tower and facade by Craig Schwartz.

full size view

Head to the CTG Press Kit for high
resolution views of these two photos

A facade photo by Craig Schwartz.
full size view

Also by Mr. Schwartz:

 | night view |

    Ikurnarsky on Flickr

A 2008 look at the original boxoffice.
full size view

    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

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

A 1963 view looking west along Culver Blvd. with
Washington Blvd. veering off to the right. The tower
of the Culver Theatre is in the middle of the photo. 
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 | THS on Facebook

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

 buy on Amazon

A look at the auditorium.
full size view

A typical Skouras style light fixture.
full size view

An entrance ramp to the auditorium.
full size view

All three photos are credited
to the Ken Kramer collection.

    Theatre Projects

A look at the inside of the Kirk Douglas that was on the website
of the firm that was the theatre consultants for the renovation.
Sorry, there isn't a larger view.

    Vintage Los Angeles

A lovely 40s view looking west taken from the
top of the Culver Hotel. Thanks to Tyler St. Mark
for the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.
full size view | on Facebook

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 | on Facebook

The remodeled Culver Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on these to enlarge ]

A night view.

photo: Bill Counter
- 2010

A detail of the marquee.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

A view of the rear of the theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2011

More terrazzo.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

    American Classic Images

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  |

    B'hend and Kaufmann Collection

A 1950s photo by Nate Singer of the Culver's
The Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann
Collection is part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
 and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

    Culver City online    

The city's website once had a very nice "Then
and Now" page that included
this 1947 view of the Culver
from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives.
The section
seems to be a victim of a re-build of the site.
full size view

The photo also appears on Vintage Los Angeles.

    Gary Graver   

A undated view of the Culver Theatre
after closing taken by Gary Graver.

Gary Graver  (1938-2006) was a noted filmmaker
 and cinematographer. 
More theatre photos by Gary

can be seen in two compilations on You Tube:
 "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2."  
Thanks to Sean Graver for the use of the photo.

    L.A. Public Library Collection

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

    Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

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

    Photos of Los Angeles

Thanks to George Chialtas for this lovely
 shot of the Culver's neon, a 2016 post
on Photos of Los Angeles.

    Roadside Architecture

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

More views on her California Theatres -- page 6:
| terrazzo | night viewtower detail |

    Ken Roe on Flickr

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

     Mark Smith Collection    

A 1983 look at the theatre from
Mark Smith's collection.
A fine detail of the theatre's tower.
A look at the building as the Kirk Douglas.

Thanks, Mark!

    Theatre Historical Society  | THS on Facebook

A c.1987 look at the Culver's tower on the THS
Facebook page. It's a photo by Robert Finucan.
 full size view | on the THS page

Thanks to Jason Vega for spotting the photo.

    Ian Wood - "Los Angeles"

 The top of the Culver's sign by drone, one of many
 treats on Ian's 6 minute 2015 video. It includes flyovers
of Capitol Records, the Griffith Observatory, City Hall, the
canals of Venice, Lake Hollywood and more. Don't miss it!
full size view | the video on Vimeo

    You Are Here

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

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