Fairfax Theatre


7907 Beverly Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90048     | map |



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.

Architect:  William C. Pennell

The Fairfax on Video: 
See Haeyong Moon's 2 minute 2009 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 her short 2010 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.

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 1969 it was the
venue for the L.A. engagement of "Oh, Calcutta." Thanks to
Arnold Darrow for finding this program on Amazon.

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 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.

LACurbed did a nice Mad Libs piece about the Fairfax preservation battle in 2009. Dakota's LA Curbed 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."

Check in with the Friends of the Fairfax group on Facebook.



The entrance of the Fairfax
.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

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

The east side of the building.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010


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    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 | on Curbed LA




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

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



An Curbed LA 2010 post
 "Laks, Gorby Defend Fairfax Project
included this rendering of the proposed
building that would replace the theatre. 

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



    Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation   




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



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




A 2009 main auditorium ceiling view by Don Solosan.
full size view | on the LAHTF Facebook page




The organ grille area in the main auditorium
of the Fairfax in a 2009 view by Don Solosan.
full size view | on the LAHTF Facebook page



The view from the back of the big house, auditorium #2.
The two little ones were carved out of the rear of the auditorium
 when it was triplexed. Thanks to Don Solosan for the photo.
 full size viewon the LAHTF Facebook page




Auditorium #3 in a view by Don Solosan.
full size view | on the LAHTF Facebook page



Auditorium #1 in 2009. Don Solosan photo.
full size view | on the LAHTF Facebook page



Booth gear for auditorium #2 --
the main auditorium.
full size view | on the LAHTF Facebook page



Projection equipment for screens #1 and #3.
full size viewon the LAHTF Facebook page

Also by Don Solosan:
 | snack bar |

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



    Photos of Los Angeles   

www.facebook.com/groups/244565982234863/


A classic Fairfax district shot. Thanks
 to Ken McIntyre for the find. The theatre is
running "Blue Water White Death" and
"Little Big Man" which puts in 1971.

full size view | on Photos of LA



    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.


The Fairfax Theatre -- Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click any of these photos to enlarge ]

The c.1930 appearance of the Fairfax's auditorium.

photo: courtesy of Hillsman Wright -
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation

  Thanks for the photos, Hillsman!

These four vintage views were used to document the application
for landmark status for the building's interior. Despite a valiant fight by
the LAHTF and other groups, the application was denied.
The owner's
 plan to save some facade and entrance elements while gutting the
interior was approved in 2013.
As of 2016, no work has been done.

www.lahtf.org | group Faceboook page | official FB page



The original proscenium decor and drapery treatment.

photo: courtesy of Hillsman Wright -
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation


The view toward the screen after some
1940s Skouras-style redecoration.

photo: courtesy of Hillsman Wright -
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation



The original look of the lobby.

photo: courtesy of Hillsman Wright -
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation



A lobby view at the end.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



    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 2015 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:

 The State Library has two additional 1930 vintage
Mott Studio exterior views in their collection.
All four are cataloged as set #
001387204.


    Hollywood Lost and Found   

www.hollywoodlostandfound.net



This 1930 view of the Fairfax appears with a nice
2006 writeup on the Hollywood Lost and Found blog
post "The Fairfax Theatre" by Rick Mitchell. The article
is an interesting discussion of the Fairfax and changing
booking patterns in the movie business.

The photo is to a cropped version of one appearing
 in at least three collections including that of
 the Los Angeles Public Library.


    Kids Need To Read   

www.flickr.com/photos/kntrfoundation


A good look at the neon in 2009 when the theatre
was under Regency management. The photo, on Flickr,
was taken when the Kids Need To Read Foundation
sponsored an event at the Fairfax.

    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

The photo above is also in the California State Library collection
and the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photographs Collection.




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 marquee | boxoffice |


    Mesbur + Smith Architects   

www.mesbursmith.com/design



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.


    Regency Theatres   

www.regencymovies.com



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


    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.


    USC Archives   

digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm


The view east on Beverly Blvd. toward Fairfax in 1931.
It's a photo from the Dick Whittington Studio.
full size view




Where's the theatre?  Zooming in
toward Fairfax gets us a view.
larger view of the detail



An even closer look at the entrance.

Thanks to BifRayRock for finding the photo in
 the USC Archives and deconstructing it in
 his Noirish Los Angeles post #20189.


Also see the Noirish Los Angeles post #20187
by Chuckaluck for more views of the
 Beverly/Fairfax intersection.