Fairfax Theatre


7907 Beverly Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90048     | map |

Architect:  William C. Pennell

Opened:
1929 It was a project of The Fairfax Theater Company Inc. whose partners were Gus A. Metzger, Harry Srere and Charles A. Nichthauser. Metzger and Srere also built the Roxie on Broadway in 1931.

Seating:
1504 when it opened in 1929. As a triplex it was 786 (172 + 422 + 192)  after reseating by Laemmle in 2001 with wider seats.

The Fairfax on Video: 
See Haeyong Moon's 2 minute video "Save the Fairfax Theatre" on YouTube for a nice tour including close ups of many of the decorative elements of the building.

Also see Haeyong Moon's short video about the preservation campaign: "Honk to Save the Fairfax."

Status:
It's going to be a five story 71 unit apartment complex with a rooftop pool and ground level retail. The developer will retain the facade, the theatre's terrazzo entrance and rehab the marquee. The rest will be demolished. The project got approval from the City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee in April 2013. Curbed L.A. had the story. And also a followup story about the final city council approval.



A rendering of the Howard Lax design for
the project, from the 2013 Curbed LA story.
full size view

In 2009 the owner, Alex Gorby of B&F Associates in Santa Monica, had first proposed demolishing the building to erect a mixed-use condo building with street level retail and basement parking. The architect for the condo project, Howard Laks, proposed saving the facade and erecting a new building behind it. The Hollywood Conservancy termed this "a facadectomy" and unacceptable.

In June 2010, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to deny the Fairfax Landmark status citing the division of the auditorium and changes to the facade over the years. Park La Brea News had the story.

History:
The Fairfax was operated for decades by Fox West Coast Theatres and, later, Mann Theatres when they acquired the remnants of the circuit. Mann got out around 1979 and the house became an independent.

The Fairfax occasionally ran live shows. In a post on the Friends of the Fairfax Facebook page Hillsman Wright recounts that the Fairfax was the venue for the LA production of "Oh, Calcutta" in 1969.

In late 1981 it was tri-plexed. The front half of the theatre was left intact with two little theatres in the rear of the main floor. A hallway down the middle (between the two rear auditoria) provided an entrance to the main theatre.

Cineplex Odeon took over in the operation of the building in the April 11, 1985 and kept the triplex scheme but gave the venue a refurbishing under the direction of Mesbur+Smith Architects of Toronto.

Laemmle Theatres took over in 2001 (around the time Loew's Cineplex Odeon headed into bankruptcy). The Laemmle renovation work included new wider seats and new carpet. They exited the property in September 2006.

The theatre closed in January 2010 after heavy rains on an already problematic roof made it not feasible for the last operator, Lyndon Golin's Regency Theatres, to continue running films.

The building owner was unwilling to make repairs. Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation called it "demolition by neglect" in a story on the blog LAist on the Historic Fairfax Theatre.

More Information:
See the page on Cinema Treasures for a lively discussion about the history of the Fairfax Theatre.  The page also has interesting research on W.C Pennell, the architect of the building.

The Cinema Tour page on the Fairfax has a good collection of photos of the theatre (including lots of interiors) by Adam Martin.

The Park LaBrea News ran a nice story about The Fairfax Theatre condo project (pdf format). 

LACurbed did a nice Mad Libs piece about the Fairfax preservation battle in 2009. Dakota's LACurbed story from January 2010 "Fairfax Theatre Saga" featured some nice Wendell Benedetti photos. Also see the June 2010 update.

The L.A. Times ran a January 2010 piece entitled "Fairfax Theater May Do a Slow Dissolve."  The L.A. Times reported on the LAHTF's preservation battle again in March 2010 in their story: A Cliffhanger at Fairfax Theater."

Join the Friends of the Fairfax. The contact person is Gaetano Jones who can be reached at friends.fairfax@gmail.com.  See the Friends of the Fairfax Facebook page.




The lobby in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter





    Friends of the Fairfax   

www.facebook.com/group.php


A view of the lobby by Wendell Benedetti.
 full size view




A 2009 ceiling view by Don Solosan on the
 Friends of the Fairfax Facebook page via the
 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.
full size view

Also on the Facebook photo album:
 snack bar - Don Solosan |  looking at the screen - Don Solosan |
   | boxoffice - Don Solosan |




    Hollywood Lost and Found   

www.hollywoodlostandfound.net



This vintage view of the Fairfax appears with a
nice 2006 write up on the Hollywood Lost and Found
blog post "The Fairfax Theatre" by Rick Mitchell.

This view appears to be a cropped version of the
 one in the Hollywood Photographs collection.

The article is a nice discussion of the Fairfax and
changing booking patterns in the movie business.




    LAHTF / Don Solosan   

 LAHTF on Facebook



A 2009 view of the boxoffice by Don Solosan
 in the LAHTF Facebook photo album.
full size view




The organ grille area in the main auditorium of
 the Fairfax in a 2009 view by Don Solosan.
 full size view




Auditorium #3 in a view by Don Solosan.
full size view



Auditorium #1 in 2009. Don Solosan photo.
 full size view



Booth gear for auditorium #2 --
the main auditorium.  full size view



Projection equipment for screens
 #1 and #3.  full size view


Also by Mr. Solosan:
 | snack bar |   auditorium ceiling  |
  | looking at the screen - main auditorium  |


Also see many more photos of other
Los Angeles movie palaces on
 the LAHTF Facebook photo album.



    Regency Theatres   

www.regencymovies.com




A lobby view from the Regency Theatres
website. Regency was the last operator
 of the Fairfax Theatre.



    Ken Roe on Flickr   

www.flickr.com/photos/kencta


A view of the signage on the Fairfax stagehouse
in 2005. It's from Ken's great Movie Theatres USA set.
The sign has now been painted over.
 full size view



A 2002 view of the front of the main auditorium.
full size view




A 2002 view of the rear of the main auditorium.
full size view



A 2002 view of the screen end of one of
 the smaller theatres. full size view

For 7 more views in Ken's set, start at his
 Fairfax exterior photo and page through.



    Theatres in Los Angeles   

www.arcadiapublishing.com

google books preview



A 1943 view of the Fairfax in
 "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell
Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker.
Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

 A copy of the image appears on
 Ken McIntyre's Photobucket pages.
full size view
















A view of the Fairfax Theatre in 2007.

photo: Bill Counter

[ click any of these photos to enlarge ]



The entrance of the Fairfax Theatre

 in February, 2010.

photo: Bill Counter

The marquee is blank as the theatre had
 recently closed due to roof leaks.





A look at the east side of the building in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter


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    California State Library   

www.library.ca.gov



The State Library has 4 views from the Mott-Merge
 collection. Here we're looking at the theatre marquee.

The attraction is the Ziegfeld epic "Sally" with
Marilyn Miller, released in January 1930.
full size view




A nice view of the marquee soffit and the ticket booth.
As of 2012 the terrazzo
is still in place.
full size view


Note that at the time the theatre was built,
the sidewalk didn't extend west past the theatre.

The other photos in the collection:

 |  closer view of the marquee  |
1930 exterior - also in the LAPL collection |



    Curbed LA   




A view of the ceiling of the main auditorium
by Wendell Benedetti/LAHTF appears with the
Curbed LA 2010 article "Fairfax Theatre Saga: Day 214."
  full size view




A great view of the chandelier in the
main auditorium by Mr. Benedetti. 
full size view

See the article for 8 more stunning
 photos by Mr. Benedetti.



A view of the proposed building that would replace
 the Fairfax Theatre that accompanies an Curbed LA
 2010 post "Laks, Gorby Defend... Project."  


Also on Curbed LA see:
 "Drama at Fairfax is Nothing New...."
"Finally Almost Approved" -- 2013




    L.A. Public Library Collection   

www.lapl.org



An early night view of the theatre in the Library collection.
It's the 1930 premiere of "Troopers Three." With star
Rex Lease there in person!

full size view




A 1930 view of the Fairfax.
full size view




A c.1945 view of the intersection of Fairfax
 and Beverly by Herman Schultheis.
full size view


The admission sign on the roof now reads 40 cents!
 A sharper version of the photo above was posted
 on Vintage Los Angeles by Richard Wojcik.

Also in the Library collection:
 | end of marqueeboxoffice  |




    Mesbur + Smith Architects   

www.mesbursmith.com



This photo of the front of the auditorium is from
Mesbur & Smith architects.
Their work at the Fairfax
in 1986 for Cineplex Odeon included restoration of
some art
deco detailing and upgrading concession
and
restroom areas.

The company specializes in entertainment projects and
did a
lot of work all over the US and Canada for Cineplex,
including sensitive work at the Showcase Cinema on LaBrea. 

Images are copyright by Mesbur+Smith Architects.



A view of the lobby in 1986. 



A 1986 exterior with the Cineplex purple neon
 featured on many of the circuit's projects.



    Save The Fairfax   

sites.google.com/site/savethefairfax


The lobby ceiling in a view by Sheri Determan
on the site's lobby page.
full size view



A view down the hallway from the lobby to the
 main auditorium. The smaller theatres are on either
side of the hall. The photo is by Don Solosan.
full size view



The proscenium in the main auditorium as
 photographed by Shari Determan.
 full size view

Check out the site's left sidebar for links to
 many more photos of the Fairfax Theatre and
 the retail spaces in the building.