Melrose Theatre / Ukranian Culture Center

Ukranian Culture Center    4315 Melrose Ave.  

Los Angeles, CA   90029     | map

(323) 668-0172   

Ukranian Culture Center on Facebook

Opened: 1924 as Jensen's Melrose Theatre by Henry C. Jensen.

Jensen was a German immigrant brick maker who prospered as Los Angeles exploded with new construction in the teens and 20s.  His firm, Henry C. Jensen & Sons, evolved into builders and building operators.

In addition to the Melrose, Jensen was involved in two nearby Echo Park ventures: Jensen's Theatorium at 1624 Sunset Blvd. (later called the Holly Theatre, now a market) and Jensen's Recreation Center at 1700 Sunset Blvd.  The Theatorium he didn't own when it opened in 1912 (it was leased to the short-lived Globe Theatre Co.) but in 1916 or so he started running it himself and added his name to it.

He also operated Jensen's Raymond Theatre in Pasadena (1921) and the Palace Grand Theatre (1914) in Glendale.

Ken Roe on Cinema Tour notes that this was "a 'better class' neighbourhood theatre which had a 10 piece orchestra and a Link 2 Manual/4Rank organ which accompanied the silent films."  The theatre was primarily for films and did not have a big stage.

Architect:   Elimar E.B. Meinardus

Seating: 880

It was still listed as Jensen's Melrose in the 1929 directory.

In the 50s it was operated by Fox West Coast, then a unit of National Theatres. In addition to its nightly public screening duties, it was also used as a test house for the Cinemiracle process.  Fox West Coast also operated Grauman's Chinese, where Cinemiracle had its public L.A. debut in 1958.

The Cinemiracle installation at the Melrose featured a 24' x 63' screen and a temporary projection installation at the back of the main floor. Roland Lataille's In Cinerama website has a page on the Melrose. Roland notes that a 3 strip print was made from "Raintree County" and demonstrated at the Melrose in July 1957.

Status: Closed in 1959. It was sold and remodeled into the Ukranian Culture Center, which opened in 1961.  See their Facebook page.  Most of the interior detailing remains, now with an opulent new paint job after lots of restoration work including plaster repairs.

The main floor has been leveled. The balcony got walled off into a separate room with a great job duplicating the feel of the main floor proscenium.

More information on the Melrose: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Melrose.  See the Cinema Tour page for a history contributed by Ken Roe along with some of Ken's photos.

Ms. Hemmerlein's lovely 2015 Avoiding Regret photo essay about her visit to
 "Jensen's Melrose Theatre (Now Ukranian Cultural Center)" has many photos of the building.

Martin of You-Are-Here fame has a nice facade view of the theatre and gives an opening date of 1923.  Also see his Recreation Center photo.

Jensen's Recreation Center:
The nearby Jensen's Recreation Center (also 1924) at 1700 W. Sunset Blvd. featured street level shops, a barber shop, 46 apartments above,  a bowling alley and a billiard hall.

In 1998 it became City of Los Angeles Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 652. It was designed by the same architect as the Melrose Theatre, E.E.B. Meinardus.

The roof sign has been restored. Diane Pell Omori noted on Facebook that: "The bowler on the roof used to 'throw' the bowling ball and the neon lights would light up in a way that actually looked like he was bowling. It was pretty cool."

A view by Michael Smith on Flickr.
full size view

A detail of the delightful roof sign,
also from Michael Smith. 
full size view

See the Los Angeles Conservancy's "Building Spotlight" piece on the Recreation Center.

A good source for information about the area is Historic Echo Park and, specifically, their page on the Recreation Center

Also look at the piece on the Recreation Center in Echo Park Now. And don't miss the wonderful interior view of the bowling alley that they link to.

A stage view from the rear of the main floor.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

The balcony has been walled off as a separate meeting space.

[ click on any of these photos to enlarge ]

The view up the stage left
organ grille area and column.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

Thanks, Sandi!

The photos come from Ms. Hemmerlein's lovely
2015 Avoiding Regret photo essay about her visit to
 "Jensen's Melrose Theatre (Now Ukranian Cultural Center)"

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    Cinema Tour

An interior view by Ken Roe on the Cinema Tour
page about the Melrose Theatre. The photo was
taken before the 2011 redecorating project.
 full size view

    Ukranian Cultural Center on Facebook

Melrose Theatre - Ukranian Culture Center Los Angeles

A May 2011 view of the hall from the balcony. 
full size view

Jensen's Melrose Theatre - Ukranian Culture Center restoration -- May 2011

A view of the stage from the main floor during
restoration -- and a bit of backstage as well.
 full size view

Check out the dazzling May 2011 photo album for 43
views of the building after the redecorating project.

A detail of the proscenium after the 2011
re-gilding and repainting.
 full size view

A stunning view of one of the column
capitols at the organ grille area. 
full size view

A detail of a light fixture in the theatre. 
full size view

One more from the album... where are we? 
It's a different proscenium.

You're looking at the new space created in the
balcony.  Looks like we're set up for a film. 
full size view

    Waltarrrrr on Flickr

Melrose Theatre by Waltarrr

A view of the Melrose shot in 2009 by the

omnipresent photographer, Waltarrrrr.
 full size view

A view of the theatre in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter

[ click on any of these photos to enlarge ]

Los Angeles Movie Palaces -- a detail of the Melrose Theatre facade.

A detail of the facade.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Los Angeles Theatres: Melrose Theatre - 1924

A view of the Melrose Theatre building.
We're looking east along Melrose Avenue.

photo: Google Maps - 2011

Click on the image to enlarge or go
to Google for an interactive view.

A look at the detail on the lobby ceiling.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

Thanks, Sandi!

The photos come from Ms. Hemmerlein's lovely
2015 Avoiding Regret photo essay about her visit to
 "Jensen's Melrose Theatre (Now Ukranian Cultural Center)"

You can also track Sandi's adventures on
the Avoiding Regret Facebook page.

Plaster detail work in the ladies room vestibule.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

The doorway in the shot above leads out into the lobby.

The medallion and chandelier in the middle of the ceiling.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

The center of the proscenium.

photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2015

    American Widescreen Museum

Cinemiracle 3 strip projection at the Melrose Theatre Los Angeles.

A look at the front of the booth at the Melrose. We're set up
as a test house for Cinemiracle with 3 modified Century projectors
and a separate sound reproducer.  It's all detailed on the section
about Cinemiracle on the comprehensive and delightful American
Widescreen Museum site.

The only Cinemiracle film, "Windjammer," ran in three strip
at the Chinese and at the Music Box on Hollywood Boulevard
(at the time called the Fox) in 1958.

The photo above also appears on Roland
 Lataille's In Cinerama site.

    Hey Skinny on Flickr

A 2006 proscenium view by Hey Skinny on Flickr. 
full size view

A look toward the rear of the house.
The event was a Felt Club bazaar. 
full size view

Note that the main floor has been leveled and the
balcony walled off to form a separate room.

    Just Above Sunset Photography

A series of dazzling detail views of the facade
appear on the Just Above Sunset Photography
page "Straight From 1924."

    Ken McIntyre on Cinema Treasures

A 2008 lobby view by intrepid Cinema Treasures
contributor Ken McIntyre. Note the look prior to the
2011 redecorating. It's on
his Photobucket album.
full size view

    Vintage Los Angeles

A nice detail of the top of the proscenium added
to Vintage Los Angeles by Linda Stewart.
full size view

A facade detail -- Linda Stewart photo.
full size view

The arch over the entrance
-- Linda Stewart photo..
full size view

Also by Linda:

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