Golden Gate Theatre


5176 Whittier Blvd.    | map

Los Angeles, CA 90022  

Opened: 1927. The theater was a project of developer Peter Snyder. Just a block west of the Golden Gate is the United Artists.

Architect: Clifford A. Balch. Balch also did the El Rey on Wilshire and the Fox Pomona as well as many other projects.

The announcement of the project indicated that the theatre was intended to be a legitimate playhouse but that capability for movies was also planned.

Seating: 1345

Status: In 2012 it was converted into a CVS drugstore. See the stories on The Eastsider and Curbed LA.

History: The theatre was originally entered via a walk through a courtyard with entrances on both the Atlantic Ave. and Whittier Blvd. sides of the building.

The retail buildings in front of the auditorium building sustained heavy damage from the 1987 Whittier earthquake and were demolished in 1992.  There were originally 13 storefronts as well as apartments on the second floor. 

The building was known as the Vega Building.The corner retail space on this site had been a drugstore in the 50s, the Golden Gate Pharmacy.

The L.A. Times had a May 2009 story about the planning process "Future of 1927 East L.A. Theatre..." and the intentions of the Charles Company, the owners of the property.  LA Eastside had a story "Save the Site of the Golden Gate Theater" that elicited many responses. 

The first proposal was to insert the store as a "box within a box."  EGP News ran a story about the concerns of the L.A. Conservancy regarding this National Register building: "...Golden Gate Theatre in Jeopardy." The L.A. Times reported in May 2010 that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had approved the conversion plan.

The exterior has been cleaned and preserved to a certain extent. Many interior historic elements have been preserved as well.  The floor has been leveled, the lobby stairs to the balcony removed and the stage filled in with a pharmacy and mechanical equipment.

More information: See the theatre's page on Cinema Treasures for many memories of growing up, shopping and going to the movies in East Los Angeles. 

See the LA Eastside article "Memories of a Lost Boulevard."

Also see the Wikipedia article on the Golden Gate Theatre. SkyscraperPage has an East LA photo tour worth browsing.

See the 2012 article in The Eastsider about recycling a burger joint sign for the new CVS store.



The top of the facade.

photo: Bill Counter - February 2012




The top of the facade -- before cleaning.

photo: Bill Counter  - 2010


Another facade detail.

photo: Bill Counter - February 2012


House left organ grille before restoration work.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


[ click any of these to enlarge ]



House left organ grille after restoration.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - March 2012


Proscenium before restoration work.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


Another proscenium view -- before restoration.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012



Proscenium after restoration.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - March 2012

The metal box within the arch is for the CVS pharmacy.
The drive through area is behind the backstage wall.



Looking down toward the main floor
lobby prior to removal of the stairs.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


Looking up -- a view after stair removal.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


The lobby area inside the front doors -- the
stairs up to the balcony have been removed.


photo: Michelle Gerdes - March 2012



    American Classic Images   

americanclassicimages.com


A 1984 view from the collection of American
Classic Images. These were discovered in the collection
by Cinema Treasures researcher Ken McIntyre.
 full size view

Also in the collection:
| 1983 view -- showing both facades  |
  |  1984 view -- Atlantic facade  |


    California State Library   

www.library.ca.gov


There are lots of great theatre photos in this
collection--including this 1980 exterior of the
Golden Gate by William Reagh. 
 full size view

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



    The Eastsider   

www.theeastsiderla.com


This blog ran a nice story on the 2012
CVS opening with several photos.
full size view

See the article for larger
views of these and others:
 "From Films to Pharmacy."



A plaster ceiling detail.
full size view


The medallion on the front of
one of the proscenium boxes.
full size view



    Michelle Gerdes on Facebook   

facebook.com/losangelestheatres



A Summer 2012 view out the front
doors as the conversion was underway to
get the space ready for CVS.
full size view



A close look at one of the light fixtures
-- evidently from a 40s or 50s remodel.
full size view




A view of the mezzanine area added
to the stagehouse for storage and
mechanical equipment. 
full size view




A look toward the stage in mid-summer 2012. The area
within the proscenium is the new pharmacy.
 full size view



    L.A. Public Library Collection   

www.lapl.org 



A 1938 shot by Herman Schultheis looking
west along Whittier Blvd. The Golden Gate is
running "Swing Your Lady" with Humphrey Bogart. 
 full size view



A 1956 exterior view of the Golden Gate.
Note the building entrances on both Atlantic
 Ave. and Whittier Blvd. 
full size view




A 1982 Paul Chinn photo looking east on Whittier Blvd.
In the middle of the Christmas decoration mess you
can make out the vertical sign of the Golden Gate.




A view of the Golden Gate's upstairs lobby
from the Library's collection. 
full size view

The photo above is also in the AMPAS
Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann collection.
 



A view of the auditorium of the Golden Gate Theatre,
also from the Library's collection.  full size view

Also in the Library's collection:
early architect's rendering  |



    Roadside Peek   

www.roadsidepeek.com    



In Roadside Peek's Grand Theatres -  Southern California
section are a number of photos courtesy of Timothy G.
Schubin of the Golden Gate Theatre.  

Here's a view from 2006. The structures surrounding
the auditorium were removed after damage from
 the Whittier earthquake of 1987. 

Also by Mr. Schubin:  |  another view  |

  There's more on Roadside Peek's
 "Spotlight on the Golden Gate Theatre."









The doors are open again! It's now a CVS.

photo: Bill Counter - February 2012


Construction was underway at the time of this photo.




An entrance detail from 2010.

photo: Bill Counter




A view of the front of the Golden Gate Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click any of these to enlarge ]



The east side of the building before construction.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




A view during construction.


photo: Bill Counter - February 2012


They're repairing concrete damage, sealing the surface,
removing balcony exit stairs and plugging openings.


A stagehouse view during construction.

photo: Bill Counter - February 2012

Behind the stagehouse is
now a pharmacy drive through.


The organ grille area house right
before restoration work.


photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


A closer organ grille view before restoration.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012


The organ grille after restoration.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012




A look at the organ grille area house right as
the building is readied for the CVS move-in.


photo: Michelle Gerdes - March 2012





The snack bar and stairs to the balcony lobby.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012




Another lobby view -- prior to removal of the stairs.

photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012




The snack bar's new storage
location -- the balcony lobby.


photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2012




Another balcony lobby view.

photo: Michelle & Steve Gerdes - 2012






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    Call Me Curly on Flickr   

www.flickr.com/photos/38330148@N04


A mid-2012 look at the repurposed burger stand
signage that got put to use to advertise the CVS.
full size view


    Michelle Gerdes on Flickr   

www.flickr.com/photos/smgerdes



A view of the house right sidewall
 from MIchelle's Golden Gate Theatre set.   
full size view



A proscenium view from the set.
  full size view




A detail of some sidewall ornament.
  full size view




A view of the balcony looking back
to the remains of the booth.
 full size view




A view of the mezzanine level of the lobby.

Compare this to the lobby view in the Los Angeles
 Public Library collection in the other column.
 full size view

The 45 photo set curated by Michelle includes some
vintage views from different sources, nice exterior shots
by Michelle as well as lots of interior views taken
 for a 2009 building survey by Chattel Architecture.

And don't miss the other collections of
 theatre photos from Michelle on Flickr.



    L. A. Conservancy   



A wonderful 1955 view of the Atlantic Blvd. facade
 from the Los Angeles Conservancy's Facebook page. 
full size view

Note that you can look into the courtyard in this
view and see the facade of the theatre itself. The
photo is from the Conservancy's archives.

The photo also appears on the Facebook
page Who Remembers in East L.A..


    LA Eastside   


Historic East Los Angeles Theatres: The Golden Gate CVS

A view from the balcony by Julia Solis included in a July, 2011
story by Al Desmadre "A Sad Farewell, Requiem for A Palace..."
 full size view




Ignore the Skouras style clamshell snack bar and take a
look beyond to more interesting original decorative work. 
full size view

See the story for other photos as well
by Jon Alloway and Julia Solis.



    Motion Picture News    



On the Internet Archive is the Motion Picture
News issue of December 28, 1929. Section Two is the
"Buyers Guide" with this photo of the stagehouse and
 the Atlantic Blvd. entrance of the Golden Gate in an article
 "Harold B. Franklin Analyzes Theatre Personality."
the page  |  on FB/LAtheatres



    Photos of Los Angeles   




A look up at the elaborate cast stone detailing
on the facade at the Golden Gate, now a CVS
drugstore. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2013.



Another facade view by Mr. McIntyre in 2013.
full size view



    USC Archives   

digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm



A view by the Dick Whittington Studio of the Vega
Building in the late 20s. Note that the theatre doesn't
have a marquee on either street at this point.
  full size view




A 1930 view from the Moss Studio. We're looking

east on Whittier Blvd. Someone added an arrow
 to make sure you didn't miss the Vega Building
and the Golden Gate Theatre.
full size view



A detail from the USC view above.  The Golden Gate
is running Greta Garbo in "Anna Christie."