Fox Ritz Theatre

5214 Wilshire
Blvd. (near La Brea)

Los Angeles, CA 90036    | map

Opened: October 15, 1926. Originally the West Coast Ritz, it soon became the Fox Ritz when Fox bought a controlling interest in the circuit.  It was operated for decades by the Fox circuit and its successor companies.

Architect: Lewis A. Smith. See our blogspot posts for more by the prolific Mr. Smith.

Seating: 1,660 originally, reseated down to 1,402 

Status: Demolished in 1977 for a parking lot.

For a time the Ritz was used by Mike Todd as a private preview house. Mr. Todd died in a plane crash in 1958.

Smell-O-Vision at the Ritz:  In 1960 the Ritz ran the Mike Todd Jr. 70mm production "Scent of Mystery" in Smell-O-Vision. It was with 6 channel stereo sound and all the smells.

An ad for the New York run of "Scent of Mystery" from
an article featuring a reprint of the 1960 Variety review
of the film on the great website
full size view

An L.A. Times ad for "Scent of Mystery" at
 the Ritz. Ken McIntyre found it for his
Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

The film was later re-cut as "Holiday in Spain" and went out in both 70mm and 3 strip Cinerama and Cinemiracle versions. See the "Holiday in Spain" listing on Roland Lataille's Cinerama website for all the details. There's also an article about the process from Boxoffice magazine.

The Belknap collection's Hollywood Ballyhoo section also has a page on Smell-O-Vision. The page notes:

"Todd, Jr. invested his inheritance in the development of Smell-O-Vision, a process in which evocative smells were pumped to the cinema audience through pipes leading to individual seats in the auditorium. Bottles of scent were held on a rotating drum and the process was triggered by a signal on the film itself.

Only one film, 'Scent of Mystery', was made in Smell-O-Vision and was far from a milestone in movie history. Mike Todd, Jr. lost his entire investment and left the film business. As an added audience incentive, Eddie Fisher, best friend of Mike Todd, Sr. and, at the time, the husband of Todd's widow, Elizabeth Taylor, sang the memorable theme song from 'Scent of Mystery.'

Filmmaker John Waters paid homage to Smell-O-Vision with his 1980 film, 'Polyester.' Waters created the process of Odorama and, rather than pumping in scents, used individual audience 'Scratch and Sniff' cards."

Later action at the Ritz: In 1963 the Ritz was leased to the Lindy Pen Co. and became the Lindy Opera House, a venue for legit dramas, musicals and revues.

In 1976 the Ritz was renamed the American Theatre with grand plans for a bi-centennial revue that had only a short run.

The Fox Ritz in the Movies:  We get a fine scene in John Schlesinger's "The Day of the Locust" (Paramount, 1975) with William Atherton, Karen Black and Donald Sutherland in which were supposedly going to the movies in Glendale. We're actually at the Ritz.

Leaving the auditorium after a movie "in Glendale."
 Note the beige drapes installed for the 70mm installation
 at the theatre covering the proscenium and way beyond.
 larger view

A shot of the lobby in "The Day of the Locust."
Our crew has broken the glass of a display case
 to get starlet Karen Black's photo.
 larger view

Heading out toward Wilshire Blvd. in
1975's "The Day of the Locust."

Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for identifying the shooting location
as the Ritz and Wendell Benedetti for the screenshots from He added them as comments to a discussion
 about the film on our Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

You can see the clip of the sequence filmed at the Ritz on
YouTube. The end of the film features the Chinese Theatre
-- or rather a set of the Chinese. See our Movies In Theatres
post on the film for more screenshots.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Fox Ritz. Also see their list of theatres by Lewis Smith.  

Also on the Miracle Mile: The Four Star and the El Rey Theatre. See the Vintage Los Angeles Miracle Mile photo set for more views of the area. There's also Facebook page: I Heart Miracle Mile.

    Motion Picture News    

On the Internet Archive is the Motion Picture News
issue of December 28, 1929. Section Two is the
"Theatre Building & Buyers Guide" with a small photo
looking east along the Ritz's facade in an article
 "Harold B. Franklin Analyzes Theatre Personality."
the page | on FB/LAtheatres

     Neat Stuff

A dazzling 1954 view looking east on Wilshire
from the Neat Stuff Blog. It's from a 2009 post called
"Vintage Los Angeles." 
You can see a bit of the red Ritz
vertical sign in the center just to the left of the Whelan
Drug sign. The photo was a find on eBay.

full size view

Four Star Theatre is down the street on
the same side just two more blocks.

The photo also appears in the Historical Photos Collection
on the Miracle Mile Residential Association website.

    Noirish Los Angeles

Historic Wilshire Blvd. Theatres -- The Fox Ritz

"Handsome Stranger" posted this great 1929 view
looking east along the
Miracle Mile. His post #4301 also
has some other very nice vintage L.A. views.

Note the Fox Ritz Roof sign in the middle of the photo
The Stranger found it on e-Bay.  It's on the Skyscraperpage
forum thread Noirish LA - page 216.  
full size view

Thanks to Hoss C for finding this 60s
"For Rent" view of the Ritz and posting it on
his Noirish Los Angeles post #25218. We're
looking west on Wilshire toward La Brea.
full size view

The view above also appears in the Historical Photos Collection
on the website of the Miracle Mile Residential Association.

    Photos of Los Angeles

A 1975 look east on Wilshire posted by Ken McIntyre.
The sharp eyes of Steven Otto spotted the vertical sign
saying "OPERA"
on the right. The photo was taken
when the Ritz was called the Lindy Opera House
and used for legit shows.

full size view

    USC Archives    

A 1926 look at the stage end of the building
 from Dick Whittington Studio. On the marquee:
 "My Official Wife," the opening attraction.
Thanks to Flying Wedge who found the
 photo above in the USC Archives and included it
 in his Noirish Los Angeles post #17458.

An entrance detail from the photo above.
Note the guy up on the ladder putting the
 milk glass letters on the marquee.

In this detail from a 1930 view in the USC Archives
we're looking east on Wilshire. You can spot the Fox Ritz
by the roof sign. The photo was taken from the Tower
Building, west of La Brea. The image is in the USC
C.C. Pierce Collection.
  full photo

A 1932 view looking east on Wilshire toward
La Brea with the Ritz on the right.  It's a photo taken
for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
full size view

The Fox Ritz on Miracle Mile.

A 1932 view that gives us a slice of the Ritz
vertical down on the next block on the right. It's a
photo from the
California Historical Society.
full size view  |  another shot  - a bit closer

The image above also appears on the
Facebook page I Heart Miracle Mile.

The large building on the left opened in 1929 as the
E. Clem Wilson Building. Major tenants later were General
of America Insurance and Mutual of Omaha.

It's still there -- now with a big Samsung Mobile sign on the top.
See I Heart Miracle Mile's
Wilson Bldg. description.

Also in the USC Archives:
| looking east 1929 - zoom in for the Ritz down the street |
| looking east 1939 - a glimpse of the Ritz sign on the right,
El Rey on the left | 1940  aerial view - Ritz on the right  |

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     Elizabeth Fuller's LA Postcards    

  Elizabeth Fuller has amassed a wonderful collection
of Los Angeles postcards-- 686 at last look. Here's a
classic Miracle Mile view from her collection.

Here we're looking east. The El Rey Theatre sign
poking out at the left. Down the street in the middle
of the image there's the roof sign for the Fox Ritz.
full size view |
on Flickr

Also see Elizabeth's cards of:
Wilshire at night |  Prudential Building  |
  1947 Miracle mile night view  |

     I Heart Miracle Mile

A 1929 view looking west on Wilshire. We get a bit
of the Fox Ritz signage on the left of the photo. 
full size view

You'll also find the photo above on the
Miracle Mile Residential Association
Check out their Historical Photo Collection.

On the MMRA site: this Ritz view

     L.A. County Natural History Museum

An early 30s look west toward the Fox Ritz
 from the Museum's Seaver Center Collection.
Another view west toward Wilshire and La Brea.
Thanks to BifRayRock for finding these in the NHM collection
 and including them in his Noirish Los Angeles post #32327,
 also featuring views of the Four Star.

     L.A. Public Library Photo Collection  

A 1931 look east on Wilshire Blvd. past the fox Ritz. 
full size view

A view of the facade while running a Greta Garbo
feature, "As You Desire Me" from 1932. 

full size view

A detail of the second floor terra cotta
from the Library's collection. 
full size view

A 1947 panoramic look at the block
full size view

The streamlined facade in 1950. 
full size view

A view west on Wilshire toward the Four Star
and the Fox Ritz. The 1950 photo is from the
 Library's Blackstock Negative Collection.
Thanks to BifRayRock for including the photo
above on his Noirish Los Angeles post #19498

The marquee of the Fox Ritz in 1955.
full size view

The ticket lobby of the Ritz after the
Skouras renovations of the 40s.
full size view

The lobby of the Fox Ritz in the 40s.
full size view

A 1937 balcony view of the proscenium and grand
 drape of the Fox Ritz
from the Library's collection. On the
sides of the stage are advertising placards. "Beyond the Blue
 Horizon" on the left and "True to the Army" on the right.

full size view

Another more detailed look at the proscenium. 
full size view

A sidewall view from the Library's extensive collection.
full size view

A look toward the rear of the house. 
full size view

A 50s look at the balcony after the
disastrous Skouras-style renovations.
full size view

Also in the Library's collection:
 | 1930 from above -- looking east |

    Vintage Los Angeles

Historic Los Angeles Theatres -- The Fox Ritz

A great 4 minute drive along the Miracle Mile in
August, 1967.  The Fox Ritz is at the right (in 1967 called
the Lindy Opera House) -- the vertical says "Opera."

We also get glimpses of the Four Star (with
4 flashing stars atop the tower) and the El Rey. 
The footage is from

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