Union Theatre - Velaslavasay Panorama

1122 24th St.    | map

Los Angeles, CA   90007

(213) 746-2166

Website: www.panoramaonview.org

Opened: This West Adams/USC area venue most likely opened sometime in 1911 as the Fairyland Theatre.

Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Tovangar2 for researching the building permit that was issued in September 1, 1910. It's on the Noirish post #41879. The permit lists the size of the building as 44' x 87' with an estimated cost of $4,250.00.

Architect: Frank L. Stiff designed the building for the Union Square Investment Co.

History: There was an L.A. Times report of the Fairyland Theatre getting shut down in August 1915 due to their exhibition of a film not approved by the censor board. They gave the location as 24th & Hoover.

The building is listed in the 1916 city directory as the Fairyland Theatre with an address of 1126 W. 24th St. The address appears as 1122 W. 24th in the 1917, 1918 and 1919 directories. 

The building got a bit of a remodel in 1920 with several new exits and a rebuilt loge section that added 30 seats to the capacity. We get it listed as at 1124 24th St. in the 1920, 21 and 22 listings. In 1923 it gets an address of 1122.

In the 1929 directory it's listed as the Union Square Theatre. In 1934 it was running as the Mystic Theatre. The Union name comes from its proximity to Union Square, once a major Red Car line hub.

In the 1936 directory it was the Louise Glaum Playhouse.  Ms. Glaum was a film actress and legit performer who was involved in producing shows in a number of Los Angeles venues including the Beaux Arts Theatre. Her tenure at the Union was evidently from January 1935 through 1938. It was also known as the Louise Glaum Little Theatre of Union Square.

It was running movies again from 1938 into the 50s. The theatre was also known as  the Continental Theatre in 1938. In 1939, as the Union Theatre, it was charging 15 cents admission. It was still listed as the Union in the 1942 city directory.

After closing as a theatre, the building was in use a headquarters for a tile layers union in the 70s and later as a church. It reopened in June 2005 as a Panorama -- the Velaslavasay Panorama. The founder is Los Angeles artist Sara Velas.

The renovated complex retains theatre seating in the front of the auditorium for lectures, concerts and other events.  Tucked into what was the rear of the main floor house left is an art gallery for changing displays. There's a lush garden out back as one goes through the exit doors on either side of the screen.

The balcony area is devoted to the panorama itself, accessed by a spiral staircase in what would have been the middle of the auditorium.  The staircase allows you to enter the 360 degree panorama in the center.  The attraction "Effulgence of the North" is a 35 minute cycle of subtly changing sound and lighting effects.

Seating: 400 originally. In 1935 it was listed as having 385.  Currently only about 10 rows remain at the front of the original theatre space.

More Information about the Union: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Union Theatre for nice research by Joe Vogel.  Cinema Treasures also has a separate page on the Fairyland Theatre. The assumption by Joe Vogel on the latter page is that the Fairyland was an earlier building and the present Union Theatre dates from 1921. However, the City's building permits show remodel work in 1920 but not a new building.

The Cinema Tour page on the Union has several 2003 exterior photos. Don't miss Sandi Hemmerlein's 2013 "Avoiding Regret" photo essay on the Union Theatre.

Check out the 2010 Atlas Obscura article on the theatre and its panorama.  The blog History, Los Angeles County had a nice story about the Union in 2011. Blogging Los Angeles ran a piece about the Panorama in 2010.

The Union was one of many theatres featured in Atlantic's 2012 article "America's Most Distinctive Theatre Marquees."  Included was a night view of the marquee by Toe Stubber.

Don't miss the 2014 Curbed L.A. article about the theatre that includes many fine photos by John Eder.

Nearby: Nearby at 1117 W. 24th is a small legit venue called the 24th St. Theatre that was built as a public garage in 1920. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Tovangar2 for the research.

More Information about other Panorama buildings: The existing panoramas page of the Velaslavasay Panorama website has links to other extant buildings of this type. Also see the panorama history page for more history.  The latter page includes this illustration of a traditional panorama building:

We had a Panorama building on Main Street in Los Angeles in the 1880s on the site of the later Hippodrome Theatre

An 1888 view of the Panorama Building. In its later years
the building was a skating rink.  The photo is by Martin
Behrman from the California State Library collection.
 full size view | data page

The Los Angeles Public Library has a
slightly different version of the photo. 
Panorama Building  |

The Panorama upstairs.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

The theatre area remaining at
the front of the main floor.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

A house right view.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

    Cinema Treasures   


A look at the back of the house in 2005, prior
to the renovation. It's a photo by Ken Roe.
full size view

A look toward the screen in January 2005
in a Ken Roe photo.
full size view

A look at the facade of the Union Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

[ click on the images to enlarge ]

A night view of the theatre in 2010.

photo: Mark Peacock

[ click on Mark's photo for a larger view on Flickr ]

A look at the tile at the entrance -- it
was once a tile layer's union hall.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

The Union's lobby.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

At the rear of the former auditorium house left
we get a gallery. Here: a look up at the former booth.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

House right -- the dark hall forward to
the theatre. Or, halfway down on the left
a spiral stair up to the Panorama.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012

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    Atlas Obscura   


A look at the front of the theatre from the
site's post on the Velaslavasay Panorama.
full size view

A look at the "Effulgence of the North," an arctic landscape
on exhibit in 2012 that was created by Sara Velas.
full size view

The post has several more photos as well as
an event video.The post discusses panoramas:

"In the late 1700s and early 1900s a new form of interactive
media was invented. Considered lowbrow at the time, it was
the 3D movie of its day, a fully engaging visual experience for
 the masses, known as panoramic paintings.

Generally displayed either in a large circular room, and
surrounding the viewer, or occasionally stretched across two rollers
like a ribbon and cranked across them to create a moving landscape
for the audience, they were wildly popular in their day. Good panorama
painters, such as John Banvard (who at one point painted a half a mile
long panorama the longest in the world at the time), were made rich
and famous. But with the advent of photography, optical toys and
later film, panorama paintings all but disappeared, with most of the
world forgetting they and their creators ever even existed."

Atlas Obscura is a "Compendium of the
World's Wonders, Curiosities and Esoterica."

    Michelle Gerdes on Flickr   

A 2009 shot of the Union that's part of
Michelle's Theatres - California set.