Theatre Mart



605 N. Juanita Ave.    | map |

Los Angeles, CA   90004

The building is at corner of Clinton St. and N. Juanita Ave. -- one block east of Vermont, one block south of Melrose. Theatre Mart usually used the address of 605 N. Juanita Ave. in their advertising.

In the 1942 city directory Theatre Mart is listed as at 4049 Clinton St.  The City of Los Angeles currently uses 4051 Clinton as the address for the property.

Constructed: 1927

Noted theatre patron Alice Pike Barney opened the building as a theatre in 1928. She had previously produced several shows at the Hollywood Playhouse (now the Avalon).

Ms. Barney ran the venue for three years with a different production every week -- some written by her. Several 1929 productions at Theatre Mart include "Luna, The Man in the Moon," "The Women Plays" and "Transgressors."



Ms. Barney on the patio at what is now the
Avalon. It's from Joël Huxtable's collection.


The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature notes a production of Pedrac Colum's "Balloon" at Theatre Mart in May 1931.  Later in 1931 the Los Angeles building department and fire department paid her an "unwelcome" visit and declared the building not usable as a theatre.  Barney died later that year.

In 1933 Preston Shobe and Galt Bell did work on the building and reopened it as a dinner theatre style venue with a view toward doing a season of classics. The opening attraction, "The Drunkard," sold too well to continue with the rest of the proposed season. The melodrama by W.H. Smith dated from 1844 and was a piece promoting the temperance movement that was originally produced by P.T. Barnum. 

"The Drunkard"  opened July 6, 1933 and closed October 17,1959. That's 9,477 performances over 36 years -- a world record at the time. The record was later eclipsed by the 42 year run of "The Fantasticks" in New York. "The Drunkard" is currently in 3rd place with London's production of "The Mousetrap" being the record holder -- running since 1952.




A 1939 program for "The Drunkard." 
Click on it to enlarge.




The rear of the 1929 program with some
comments from the stars.  Click to enlarge.

Billie Burke: "I go again and again."



A look inside a 1941 version. 
Click on it to enlarge.

At Theatre Mart, the temperance message was accompanied by an olio and other celebrations including beer, sandwiches and pretzels. The original 1933 admission price was $1.00 -- which included a buffet.

The production supported a cast, crew and staff of approximately 55. Many participants were with the show for decades and many marriages resulted.

It was perhaps critical to the success of the production that many Hollywood stars paid a visit.  Boris Karloff came to the show and was the one who suggested adding an olio to the presentation.  John Barrymore was a repeat visitor. W.C. Fields came over 30 times and incorporated a production of "The Drunkard" into his 1934 film "The Old Fashioned Way."

Seating:  340 at tables and chairs during the early years of the run of "The Drunkard."  The venue served both food and drinks.

In 1959 the real villain of the story, the Los angeles Fire Department, paid another visit and ordered a reduction of seating to 260. This eliminated the show's possibility of profit and closure came soon after the seating reduction.

Architect:   Not known

Status: After it closed as a theatre, the building became the Los Angeles Press Club in 1960. The club's operation at the building included a cafe, cocktail lounge and press conference facility. The Press club later sold the building and moved to rented offices elsewhere. The building was then used as a vocal studio. It's now a private Korean gentlemen's club and restaurant, Garam.  For information call 323-663-1237.

The club is using 600 N. Vermont Ave. as their address. If you drive by, a sign and a hedge is all you see. Part way up the block on Clinton St. there's a driveway leading to a parking lot and stairs to an entrance on the west side of the building.

More information:  Billboard ran an article in 1953 about "The Drunkard" -- see the bottom of page one and a continuation on page 15. They note that  2 million patrons had seen the show in its first 20 years.

Wikipedia has an article on "The Drunkard."  The Theatre Mart production is discussed in "Theatre, Culture and Temperance Reform." Sorry, Google has it upside down. Perhaps a drinking issue.

The success of the Los Angeles production inspired many related productions. A 1935 film called "The Drunkard" with James Murray and Clara Kimball Young was about presenting a production of the show.

Veterans of the L.A. production operated a long running melodrama venue at Knott's Berry Farm called the Birdcage Theatre. There's been a long running production of the play in Tulsa at the Spotlight Theatre.

LA Stage Insider has a nice 2010 post about Alice Pike Barney and Theatre Mart. Scroll down a bit to find it.

For more on Ms. Barney also see "Alice Pike Barney, Her Life and Art" from 1994. Wikipedia also has an article on Alice Pike Barney.














Historic Los Angeles Theatres - The Theatre Mart

A view of the Theatre Mart building in 2010.

photo: Google Maps

We're at the corner of Clinton and Juanita.
That's Juanita St. off to the right.




A view of the Clinton St. side of the building in 2011.

photo: Google Maps


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




Another 2011 view.

photo: Bill Counter 

[ click to enlarge ]





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    L.A. Public Library Collection   

www.lapl.org


A 1937 view of Theatre Mart from
the Library's collection.
full size view



A c.1937 view of the Theatre Mart from the
Library's collection. It's a Herman Schultheis photo.
full view on Facebook  |  on the website




    Larry Harnisch - L.A. Times   

latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror



A look at a 1934 program featured on
Mr. Harnisch's 2008 post about "The Drunkard."  
full size view

page two & three  |  page four & five  |  pages six & seven  |

Mr. Harnish's article is a delightful history of the
show and tales by the cast members.

Mr. Harnisch had earlier discussed "The Drunkard"
on a post for "The 1947 Project."