Forum Theatre

4050 W. Pico Blvd.
  | map

Los Angeles, CA 90019

Opened: May 14, 1924 as an independent operation with D. W. Griffith's "America" featuring Lionel Barrymore.

Architect: Edward J. Borgmeyer. The murals were by Christian von Schneidau.

Seating: 1,766 -- all on one level.

History: Dr. H.B. Breckwedel of the Symphony Theatre downtown was behind the project. The theatre originally featured reserved parking (for an additional 10 cents) in its adjacent 500 space car park. There was a Forum Ballroom, located on the second floor above the lobby.

Soon it became part of the Warner Bros. empire and was advertised as the Warner Bros. Forum Theatre. The organ in the theatre was a 4/37 Kimball. In 1931 Warner Brothers pulled it out and installed it in their new Warner Bros. Western Theatre, now called the Wiltern.

The Warner circuit was soon in deep trouble and bailed out of the Wiltern in mid-1933 but kept the Forum. At the time they also had the Warner Downtown (the former Pantages) and the theatres they had built in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, San Pedro and Huntington Park. They eventually went back into the Wiltern after it ran for a few years as an independent.

The Forum building was sold in 1949 to Sherill C. Corwin and Sol Lesser who then took over the operation from Warner Bros. Corwin was the founder of Metropolitan Theatres, Lesser had long been involved with Fox West Coast. Other Warner houses soon got spun off to the newly independent Stanley-Warner Corp. following the consent decree.

The Forum closed as a film house sometime prior to 1955. That year it was used for  recording sessions for the Pacific Jazz label that included Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Hoagy Carmichael and other artists. And, as Bruce Kimmel has noted, it also had a fling as a legit house. In the late 40s it hosted a musical revue "My L.A.."  In the 50s "Pajama Tops" was one production to play there.

The program cover for "Pajama Tops" with Barbara Eden
at the Forum in 1956. It was for sale on Amazon.
Thanks to Arnold Darrow for spotting it.
larger view

Cinerama at the Forum: It was the offices and a test screening house for Cinerama from March 1961 until 1978.  Cinerama Historian Roland Lataille's In Cinerama website page on the Forum Theatre notes that the louvered Cinerama screen encompassed a 146 degree arc with a size of 34' x 88'.

The theatre was used for testing lenses, evaluating prints and as a shipping depot.  It was initially equipped for 3 strip projection and (later) with 2 Norelco DP70 35/70mm projectors when Cinerama started working with a 70mm format.

The first demonstration of 70mm single strip Cinerama at the Forum was June 6, 1963. The theatre still retained its 3 strip projection capability with the last screening in that format on October 17, 1978 -- a private showing of "How The West Was Won."

Status: It's been a Korean church since the late 70's. The original auditorium ceiling is obscured with a dropped ceiling and murals have either been painted over or otherwise covered.  A 2006 report from Jeff Bridges on Cinema Treasures:

"The exterior is pretty much intact, but the auditorium is destroyed. It looks as though a new building was built inside of the theater, so the original might be above the very strange A-frame ceiling of the auditorium. I cannot imagine why anyone would spend the money to construct an A-frame ceiling underneath the huge original ceiling. The building is massive on the outside and when you see the interior space now, it feels as though you are in a tiny church. Most of the detail in the lobby and stairs going up on the sides is still there, although it has been painted over with white and beige glossy paint. I imagine it would have been gold originally. There is no sign of any murals left unless they are behind walls or above the weird ceiling."

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of historical data and links to additional photos. Bill Gabel and Ken Roe have contributed an informative history of the theatre.

An upper facade detail.

photo: Ken McIntyre- 2008

The northeast corner.

photo: Ken McIntyre- 2008

    California State Library

From the State Library: a 1979
exterior by William Reagh.
 full size view | data page

The photo above is also in the
 Los Angeles Public Library collection.


A view of one of the murals in a 1978
photo by Tom Zimmerman.
full size view | data page

    In 70mm

A photo of the Forum booth with two Norelco
 DP70 35/70mm machines as well as Cinerama 3-strip
 equipment.  It's on Thomas Hauerslev's
 DP70s in California page.

    Roland Lataille - In Cinerama

Sound equipment being installed at the Forum for
Cinerama. The photo is from the collection of Cinerama
historian Roland Lataille. The photo appears on his
Cinerama History page devoted to the Forum Theatre.
full size view

    Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

An early look at the Forum
discovered by Ken McIntyre.

    Penny Postcards from California

A neat 1927 postcard view from this
 colorful site's
City of Los Angeles page.
full size view

    Photos of Los Angeles

A view of some sort of filming outside the Forum
Theatre in 1925. Ken McIntyre located the photo for his
Photos of Los Angeles page. On the marquee is "The
 Home Maker" with Alice Joyce and Clive Brook.
 full size view  | on FB/LAtheatres

    Theatre Talks - Cezar Del Valle | theatreposts

A 2002 view of the Forum facade from Cezar Del Valle's
dazzling collection. It's a Betty Sword photo. 
full size view

A view from a 1924 Architectural Record article
that's in the Theatre Talks collection. 
full size view

A view of the Rotunda, again from
the Architectural Record article.
 full size view

A rare inner lobby photo. 
full size view

A luscious auditorium view from the
1924 Architectural Record article. 
full size view

Also see Cezar's Forum Theatre
post on the Theatre Talks blog:

 Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian.
 For other interesting material see his website
Theatre Talks and visit him on Facebook.

A view of the Forum Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on any of these images to enlarge ]

The view west along the facade.

photo: Ken McIntyre- 2008

In the colonnade.

photo: Ken McIntyre- 2008

The northwest corner.

photo: Ken McIntyre- 2008

Thanks, Ken! You can see more of Ken's set on
Photobucket. If you start at his first Forum photo you
can page through about 16 images of the exterior.

Don't miss the Facebook page that
Ken curates: Photos of Los Angeles.

Another look from across the street.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please 
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that 
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will 
direct you to a full size version on the website hosting it. 
Assume that all the images are subject to copyright 
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.

    Jeff Bridges on Flickr

A 1958 marquee view from Jeff on Flickr. He notes:
"This is a snapshot that I found in a term paper at an
estate sale. The paper is titled 'A Geographic And Cultural
Analysis Of A Metropolitan Area', by Adele H. Mason."
on Flickr | on Cinema Treasures

The image also appears on Photos of Los Angeles.

    L.A. Public Library Collection

A 1926 aerial view of the Forum Theatre. Note
 the gas station to the left of the theatre -- and
the theatre's "acres of free parking" behind it.
full size view another 1926 aerial shot

An early look at the facade before
any signage went up.
full size view

The Forum's facade from the east
with the beginnings of a marquee.

A stunning 1932 nighttime look at the Forum.
full size view

A 1938 view of the Forum marquee.
full size view

A lobby view of the Forum.
full size view

A view of the inner lobby from the LAPL collection. 
 full size view

The auditorium of the Forum Theatre.
full size view

    USC Archives

A 1955 shot by Brunk for the Herald Examiner
from the USC Archives. The theatre was being
used for a transportation workers union meeting.
full size view  |  another angle

    West Adams   

by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Don Lynch, John G. Kurtz
Arcadia Publishing "Images of America" series, 2008

Arcadia Publishing  |  Google Books preview

A facade view of the Forum Theatre.

An auditorium view. 

Both of these views appear on the Skyscraper Page
discussion thread "Noirish Los Angeles" page 223 as part
of Gaylord Wilshire's post #4448, where he has
included full size views.

    Charmaine Zoe's Marvelous Melange

A 1925 or 1926 look at the Forum from a trade magazine.
The caption reads "The front of the handsome Forum Theatre,
 Los Angeles, showing the feature space given to Educational's
 comedy 'The Goofy Gob,' in the electrical display."
full size view | on Flickr

 Thanks to Charmaine Zoe for including this
photo in her Vintage Cinemas: California Flickr set
of treasures found in various trade magazines.