Golden Gate Theatre

5176 Whittier Blvd.    | map

Los Angeles, CA 90022  

Opened: 1927. The theater was a project of developer Peter Snyder. Just 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. See our blogspot posts on Balch for information on a few more theatres he did.

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: 1,345

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. 

EGP News had a 2009 story on an alternative plan prepared by Barrio Planners that would have involved reconstructing the Vega Building that used to surround the theatre. It went nowhere. But the illustration does provide us with a nice aerial view of what the complex once was.

The aerial look at the theatre and building once surrounding it.
full size view

In the completed CVS project the exterior got 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. The balcony is now a mechanical room.

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

Thanks, Michelle!

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    American Classic Images

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

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

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

    more from Michelle Gerdes

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

A proscenium view from Michelle's Flickr set.
  full size view

A detail of some sidewall ornament. It's on Flickr.
  full size view

A view of the balcony looking back to the remains
of the booth from Michelle's Flickr set.
 full size view

A view of the mezzanine level of the
 lobby in Michelle's Flickr set.
 full size view

Compare this to the lobby view in the
Los Angeles Public Library collection.

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

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

A Summer 2012 view out the front doors as the
conversion was underway to get the space ready for
CVS. It's on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.
full size view

A close look at one of the light fixtures --
evidently from a 40s or 50s remodel. The photo is
on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.
full size view

A view of the mezzanine area added to the
stagehouse for storage and mechanical equipment.
  It's on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.
full size view

A look toward the stage in mid-summer 2012. The
area within the proscenium is the new pharmacy. The photo
is on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.
 full size view

    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

The theatre in 1987. It's after the earthquake but
before demolition of the damaged buildings on
the corner. The photo is from Robert Gonzales.
full size viewon Photos of LA

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

Robert Gonzales looks up at the facade in 2014.

The glorious stagehouse vista in 2014. It's
 a photo from Robert Gonzales.
full size view

Jesse Vega caught this 2014 shot back under
 the balcony looking out toward the front doors.
Note the 40s light fixture still in place.
 full size view

Looking up from the drugs toward the
house right organ grille. Thanks to Jesse
Vega for the 2014 photo. 
full size view

Looking back at the front of the balcony --
now with a wall up to conceal a new mechanical
room. It's a Jesse Vega photo from July 2014. 
full size view

What's playing on the big stage? Oh,
it's now the pharmacy. Thanks again
 to Jesse Vega for the photo.
 full size view

    Roadside Peek    

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."

    Who Remembers in East L.A.

A May 2014 look up the CVS facade.

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 on any of these photos 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 Gerdes - 2012

    Call Me Curly on Flickr

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

    The Eastsider

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

    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.

    L.A. Public Library Collection 

An early rendering of the project.
full size view

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
in the 20s from the Library's collection. 
full size view

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

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

The main lobby and the Skouras-style clamshell
snackbar. It's a 2011 Tom Zimmerman photo
 full size view

The balcony level lobby.
full size view

Looking down to the main floor.
 This area is now marooned -- the stairs up
were removed during the CVS remodel.
 full size view

Time for a drink. Tom Zimmerman, 2011.
The 2011 vista from the balcony
by Tom Zimmerman.
 full size view

A Tom Zimmerman proscenium mural detail.
 full size view

The rear of the Golden Gate's auditorium before
the CVS work. Note that the walls of the booth
at the top of the balcony have been removed.
  full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The stripped out stagehouse prior to the
 CVS remodel. Tom Zimmerman, 2011.
full size view

There are many more 2011 Tom Zimmerman photos in
the Library's collection. Head to their photo collection and
search "Golden Gate Zimmerman" and 36 will pop up.

    USC Archives

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's "Anna Christie."