Four Star Theatre


5112 Wilshire Blvd. (between Highland & LaBrea)

Los Angeles, CA 90036 

| map


Status: It's to be demolished in mid-2014 and replaced by a 6 story apartment and retail complex called The Mansfield. Julie Grist at the Larchmont Buzz had the December 11, 2013 story. She noted that the theatre was deemed (by the developer's consultant, Chattel, Inc. of Sherman Oaks) to be too altered to be considered historic. The Historic Resource Assessment, with many photos, is available as a 59 page PDF.

Hillsman Wright, of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation notes: "The sad, sad truth is that there are consultants who will come up with the desired negative result for just a few dollars more. The same names come up time after time."

A January 2014 followup by Ms. Grist had some nice historic photos of the exterior. Thanks to Torr Leonard and Chris Willman for spotting the article.

The neighboring Burger King is also being swallowed by the project. Neal Boverman had a December 13, 2013 story on Curbed L.A.  The project is a design by Plus Architects for The Korda Group.

The theatre was sold in October 2012 with a leaseback provision that allowed the former owner, the Oasis Christian Church, to continue using the building for up to 8 months while their new property was being renovated. PRWeb had a November 2012 story on the transaction.

The building was put on the market in mid-2012. Since 2001 it had been used by the church. In 2007 it was renamed the Oasis Theatre and was available for rentals, with church services on Sundays. 

The former storefront space had been renovated into a warren of classrooms and meeting spaces. Among other uses, the building's many rooms were for a time serving as classrooms for a charter school.

Opened: In the early 30's and originally named the United Artists. The Four Star was part of an ambitious building program by the UA circuit in the early 30s as a result of a booking war with Fox West Coast. Fox ran the bulk of the theatres in the Los Angeles area and UA, angry with the terms and the bookings they were getting for their pictures, embarked on a building spree.

The program for 15 theatres was detailed in a November 22, 1930 story in Exhibitors Herald-World. A November 29, 1930 story announced an expansion of that to 25 theatres.The theatres that actually got built at the time in the L.A. area were all similar in style and constructed on a budget of $150,000 to $200,000 each. Albert Lee Stephens, Sr. was the actual owner of the UA/Four Star theatre at opening -- it was leased to UA.

They specifically targeted areas where Fox had houses and there were no independents to run their pictures. In some cases, like in Inglewood, they ended up across the street from a Fox house. Here, the Four Star was in the next block east from the Fox Ritz.

The fun part of the story is that by the time these UA theatres were completed, a truce had been declared and they all ended up getting operated for UA by Fox West Coast. The L.A. Times covered the story on September 5, 1931.

The theatre closed for a bit around 1932. When it came alive again it was called the Four Star. The four stars in question were, of course, the founders of United Artists: Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith.  The opening as the Four Star took place November 29, 1933 with "Berkeley Square" starring Leslie Howard. The Los Angeles Times, quoting a FWC press release, had described the philosophy in a November 20, 1933 story:

"For years it has been the dream of Winfield Sheehan, film producer, to see a theater within easy reach of Hollywood that might, in a sense represent a laboratory where stars, directors, producers, technicians of the film industry might enjoy the finest creations of their fellow-workmen. Concurring in this thought, Charles P. Skouras, head of Fox West Coast Theaters, has created the Four Star Theatre, a showhouse that will be devoted entirely to the finest achievements of the motion-picture industry, a place where screen devotees, both within the industry, and the lay public, may applaud the outstanding examples of the motion-picture art.

There will be no stage shows or prologues. There will be no ballyhoo, fanfare, lights. There will be none of the gaudy, glittery trappings usually associated with the screening of great pictures. The Four Star Theatre will be a haven where picture lovers, whether they be glamorous celebrities or obscure nonentities, may relax and amid simple settings [and] enjoy the entertainment they came to see."

The L.A. Times also had story about the new policy on November 24, 1933. The Four Star turned out to be a good location for premieres and the theatre got many from the late 30s until 1970. Among the many premiere events were "Grapes of Wrath" in 1940, "Julius Ceasar" in 1953 and "The Magic Christian" in 1970.

The tower got augmented with additional neon stars and other animated adornment around 1947 or 1948.

A 1951 ad for the premiere of "Ace in The Hole" with
Kirk Douglas attending. Ken McIntryre
found it for his
 Photos of Los Angeles
Facebook page.
full size view

The United Artists circuit eventually operated the house themselves as the UA Four Star after the consent decree forced Fox West Coast to give up many theatres. It hosted many major runs including a first run engagement of  "The Graduate" in 1967 and some 70mm runs.  UA removed the 70mm equipment in the mid 70's and the theatre was sub-leased to the Mitchell Bros. between 1973 and 1976 as a porno venue.

It was later operated as an independent and re-equipped for 70mm. In the 80's and early 90's it had a grand period as a revival house showing classics, Indian movies and lots of 70mm presentations. The theatre stopped showing films in 1997 upon the building's sale to the Oasis Church. It had been through several owners after the Stephens family sold it in the 70s.

Nick Matonak of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation reports that the plaster ceiling in the auditorium fell as a result of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He also notes that the Norelco projectors once in the Four Star ended up at the Warner Grand

Architects: Clifford A. Balch and Walker & Eisen (Percy Augustus Eisen and Albert Raymond Walker) were associated architects on the project.

Balch and the W&E firm individually designed many other Los Angeles theaters in addition to teaming up for the UA building spree. The Four Star was a standard United Artists style house for the period with deco panels on the front labeled "Unity" and "Artistry."

The design is similar to the Balch/Walker & Eisen designed UA theatres in Long Beach, Inglewood, Pasadena and East Los Angeles (UA Alameda). They also did one in Berkeley (now a 7 plex) that got a stagehouse. The others were strictly for film.

Walker & Eisen (without Balch) had earlier done the building for the downtown United Artists -- although that theatre's interior was by noted Detroit theatre architect C. Howard Crane.

Seating: 900

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Four Star Theatre. Check out the Facebook page I Heart Miracle Mile.

More Theatres on the Miracle Mile: The Fox Ritz and the El Rey.




A view of the east side of the building.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on any of these to enlarge ]



The lobby in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter



The proscenium was intact and painted black.
The "stage" area behind is used for tech
 gear storage and is all of about 8' deep.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



    EP Net    

www.ebscohost.com    



A nice view of the Four Star running a revival of Valentino's
"The Sheik" in 1936 by John Swope (1908-1979) appears on
a site from this hosting company.  Image copyright The
John Swope Trust, MPTV.

full size view



     L.A. Public Library Photo Collection    

 www.lapl.org    



The 1937 premiere of "Lost Horizon" at the Four Star. 
full size view


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



A premiere at the Four Star of "In Old Chicago" in
1938
from the Herald Examiner Collection.
 
full size view




A Herman Schultheis photo advertising
 "In Old Chicago" at the Four Star.
full size view


 More of the "Old Chicago" premiere
by Herman Schultheis:

distance view | across the street | palm tree & searchlights  |
 |  from the back | rays of light | more searchlights | more views |




The July 13, 1938 premiere of "Algiers"
with Hedy Lamarr and Charles Boyer. It's
 a Herman Schultheis photo.
 full size view




Another "Algiers" photo by
 Herman Schultheis.
full size view


More "Algiers" views by Mr. Schultheis:



A look at the theatre for the 1941 premiere
of "That Hamilton Woman." It's a photo from
the Herald Examiner collection.
 full size view




    Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles


A great 4 minute drive along the Miracle Mile in
August, 1967.  The Four Star is at the right -- with
four flashing stars atop the tower.

We also get glimpses of the Fox Ritz (then
called the Lindy Opera House) and the El Rey. 
The footage is from www.producerslibrary.com.

 On YouTube:
"Wilshire Blvd. Miracle Mile August 1967."



A view of the Four Star Theatre in 2007. The church
group that had it was calling it The Oasis.

photo: Bill Counter


  [ click on these to enlarge ]




 
A view from 1992 when the theatre
was still part of the
UA circuit.

photo:
Meghan Harken collection



A view of the Four Star / Oasis in 2010.

photo: Bill Counter



A look toward the former screen area.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




The auditorium right wall.

The ceiling plaster has been removed
 and the wood truss structure is visible.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



Looking toward the booth.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010




 about photos from other
websites that appear on this page...

We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will
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Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use.

 

    American Classic Images     

www.americanclassicimages.com



A 1982 look at the Four Star from the
 American Classic Images collection.

 full size view

Also see:
1984 night view  |



    California State Library    

 www.lib.state.ca.us 



Here is a c.1930 view prior to the opening from the
Mott-Merge collection of the California State Library.
full size view 

 

Historic Theatres along Wilshire Boulevard - The Four Star Theatre

 A 1980 exterior by Tom Zimmerman.
full size view

 


    Huntington Digital Library    

hdl.huntington.org/cdm



The photo is a 1932 Dick Whittington Studio view
that Ken McIntyre located in the Huntington Library
collection. The vertical still shows the initial United Artists
name, before it was changed to the Four Star.
full size view

The marquee says "The biggest pictures, best stars,
the finest productions play the Fox Ritz Theatre" -- just
down the street and also operated by Fox West Coast. The
 UA had evidently closed already. Or hadn't yet opened 
See our page on the Ritz Theatre.


On the Huntington Library page you can use the
slider to get a larger image -- then you can pan around
to explore details.  The Huntington mistakenly identifies
the photo as one of the Ritz.



An entrance detail from the Huntington Library photo.
larger view



     Larchmont Buzz    

www.larchmontbuzz.com



A 1946 look west on Wilshire Blvd.
toward the Four Star.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The photo is from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives
and appears, with many other vintage views, in the Chattel, Inc.
Historic Resource Assessment they prepared on the building.



A detail from the photo above -- note the roof sign
for the Fox Ritz at the edge of the photo.


A look at the Four Star for the 1957
premiere of "Wild is the Wind."
larger view
| on FB/LATheatres

These photos are two of the four vintage views that
appear with Julie Grist's fine January 2014 article
"Deco Theatre Has a Polished, and Tarnished, History."

Thanks to Torr Leonard and Chris
Willman for spotting the article.

Ms. Grist also had a December 11, 2013 story
 "Goodbye Deco Theatre..." about the fate of the Four Star.
 She noted that the theatre was deemed by the developer's
 consultants as being too altered to be considered historic.



    Photos of Los Angeles    




A 1952 photo from the Bruce Kimmel collection
showing the Four Star running "Encore," a film
 of three W. Somerset Maugham stories.
Thanks, Bruce!

Stephen Russo was concerned about the leaning
 Four Star tower and offers an adjusted version.





A 1956 view posted by Ken showing the
engagement of "The Rainmaker."

full size view

A smaller (but sharper) version of the "Rainmaker"
photo appeared with Julie Grist's January 2014 article
about the theatre in the Larchmont Buzz.