Westlake Theatre

    
638 S. Alvarado St.

Los Angeles, CA 90057         | map |

 

The News: The property has emerged from post-CRA limbo with the City of Los Angeles looking for proposals to redevelop the theatre and adjacent property they own. The focus would be on restoring the theatre as a live performance venue along with whatever else pencils out and benefits the community: offices, retail, hotel, parking, whatever.

They are looking for a developer with "a strong understanding of the unique urban fabric and historic and cultural assets of the Westlake community." Their Westlake Theatre Mixed-Use Project RFP deadline has been extended to April 15, 2016.

Opened:  September 22, 1926 by West Coast Theatres. The opening attraction was "Other Women's Husbands" plus a Fanchon and Marco stage show.

Architect: Richard M. Bates, Jr.  The Heinsbergen Co. was the decorator and responsible for the murals. In 1935 S. Charles Lee was involved in a decorative upgrade during a two week closure.

Seating: 1,949

Status: It's now vacant after having been a swap meet for a number of years. It was purchased by the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency in 2008. Main floor seats have been removed and the floor leveled but most of the decor is intact.

With the 2012 state-wide disbanding of such agencies there was a triage going on of CRA assets. Some were sold, some the City of Los Angeles assumed ownership of (such as the Westlake), and some seemed to be in endless deliberation. As of 2016, the city is looking for redevelopment proposals.

Eddie Kim did a November 2013 story in the L.A. Downtown News about the process of unloading the CRA properties. There's hope that a viable project will eventually materialize to renovate the theatre and create a mixed use building around it. We'll see what happens.

History: The Westlake was operated for decades by Fox West Coast Theatres.

Later operated as a sub-run house by Metropolitan Theatres. It ended its movie days in 1991 as a Spanish language house.  The roof sign still works and got a renovation in 1987 as part of the MacArthur Park Public Art Program.  It hasn't been on recently.

The building was sold by Metropolitan in 1991 to Mayer Separzdeh who proceeded to level the main floor with a new concrete slab. The building reopened as a swapmeet. The balcony was not in use during the swap meet days.

The City of Los Angeles, alarmed at the possibility of additional alterations, declared the building a Cultural Historic Monument in September 1991.  In addition to buying the theatre in 2008, the CRA alsao acquired some surrounding parcels.

In 2008 a concept for a mixed use project designed by Utopiad was floated but got nowhere as no interested developers materialized. The illustration below was a rendering for that project.


Some 2009 CRA news with a slightly different proposal for the theatre surfaced in an L.A. Times article: "
A home sweet home for Culture Clash in MacArthur Park?"  Culture Clash is a local Latino theatre troupe. That was the last of the CRA proposals.

The Westlake Theatre on Video: See the "Tour of the Westlake Theatre" by Pico Union Now on YouTube.

More information: Don't miss the terrific article Hadley Meares did for KCET in 2014: "Sign of the Times: Sensation, Scandal and Salvation at Westlake Theater." It's part of their "Lost Landmarks" series.

A May 2014 Curbed L.A.story  "Mapping the Huge Wave of Gentrification About To Hit Westlake" discusses new housing, transit accessibility and two other nearby theatres in the news: the Hayworth and the Playhouse.

See Cinema Treasures on the Westlake Theatre for oodles more historical data and recollections by many contributors. The page also has links to more photos from a variety of sources.

An earlier Westlake Theatre: The 1912 and 1913 city directories list a Westlake Theatre at 680 S. Alvarado. In 1914 they were advertising as being on "S. Alvarado near 7th St."  It's unknown if it was the Theatre De Luxe at 654 S. Alvarado or another building south of it.



The Westlake Theatre
 facade looking south

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click any of these photos to enlarge ]



The boxoffice re-purposed as a key shop.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



More terracotta facade ornament.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



Behind the gate: the theatre's entrance.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016

The swap meet operation that had been in the
 building was phased out by the city a few years earlier
 but a number of items still remain.



A wide angle view of the lobby's ceiling.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016

The mural we see is not the one from the
20s. Here's a photo of the original version.




A lobby view.

photo: Michele Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2009

Michelle's photos originally appeared on the
LAHTF Facebook page. More from her on that page:
 |  paint detail - above organ grille  |
 |  mural detail  |  stairs to balcony  |  upper lounge  |
 |  plaster detail  |  roof sign  |  boxoffice  |

You can view higher resolution views of these photos on
Michelle's Westlake Theatre set on Flickr. The Flickr set
containsa few that aren't on the LAHTF pages including:
 | lobby ceilinganother lobby ceiling view  |
 |  balcony ceiling plaster detail  |

Thanks, Michelle!

An ornate corner of the lobby.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



The proscenium mural.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016



A great look at the bottom of the asbestos.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



A closer look at the mural above the proscenium.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



The view up toward one of the organ grilles.

photo: Michele Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2009



Up in the balcony level lobby, looking
across the upper level of the main lobby.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



The balcony lobby house left end.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016



The view across the balcony.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016



The vista from the balcony down across
 the swap meet merchandise.

photo: Michele Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2009





 about photos from other
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We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
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     American Classic Images    

www.americanclassicimages.com



A 1983 look at the Westlake marquee
 in all its glory. The photo is part of the
American Classic Images collection.

full size view

The photo also appears on Photos of Los Angeles.

Also in the collection:
 |  facade - April 1982  |
 
marquee detail - April 1982  |
 |
  facade and sign - January 1983  |



     Blackwatch    

42ndblackwatch1881.wordpress.com


A post about the car culture of LA on the Blackwatch
blog, "Life in Los Angeles circa 1938", has this great photo
looking east at the Westlake Theatre sign. It's a 1938
  LIFE Magazine photo by Peter Stackpole. 
full size view

Blackwatch gives us this:
“They say in L.A. there are only two methods of
transportation- car and ambulance." -- Unknown

The photo above also appears
on Vintage Los Angeles.



     Stephen Friday on Flickr    

www.flickr.com/photos/fridayinla



This great view from Stephen nicely shows
some plaster ornament in the foyer.
  full size view

Check out his full set of 29
views of the Westlake Theatre.



     Marchand and Meffre    

www.marchandmeffre.com



Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have a great
portfolio of photos of ruined or decaying theatres
around the country on their website.  Here's their
exterior photo of the Westlake.
 full size view | on Flavorwire

A selection of the duo's theatre photos are featured in
"Beautiful Photographs of Decaying & Repurposed Movie Palaces,"
 Jason Bailey's May 2012 article on Flavorwire.

The photo above also appears on the Facebook pages
 Photos of Los Angeles and
Cinema Heritage Group.




An interior look down from the balcony.
  full size view |
on Flavorwire

See Marchand and Meffre's Theatres portfolio as well
 as their very interesting Ruins of Detroit section.




     Hadley Meares - KCET    

kcet.org/socal/departures/columns/lost-landmarks


This 2014 marquee detail by Hadley Meares appears
as part of her terrific article for KCET: "Sign of the Times:
Sensation, Scandal and Salvation at Westlake Theater."
 It's part of their "Lost Landmarks" series.

full size view



     Motion Picture News    

archive.org/search.php


On the Internet Archive is the Motion Picture News
issue of December 28, 1929. Section Two is the
"Theatre Building and Equipment Buyers Guide"
which included this photo of the Westlake's lobby
on a page of Fox Theatres. Robert Power
Studios is credited as the decorator.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres



     Photos of Los Angeles    

facebook.com/groups/244565982234863


A 1978 view looking north on Alvarado added by
Ken McIntyre to the Photos of Los Angeles collection. 
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres




An undated exterior shot appearing
on Photos of Los Angeles.

full size view



A 2008 look at the roof sign by Ken McIntyre.
full size view



The re-purposed boxoffice in 2008.
full size view



A more recent view of the theatre by Mr. McIntyre.
full size view



A 2009 lobby photo by Mr. McIntyre.
full size view



A 2009 lobby plasterwork detail.
full size view



A 2008 look toward the mural above the proscenium
 and the bottom of the asbestos curtain.

full size view

Also see:
| east across the park - 30s | Wilshire looking east - 1936  |
marquee detail - c.2008 |
| late afternoon facade view | south wall of building  | 
another roof sign view  |



     Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles



An idyllic 50s postcard view looking across
the lake toward the Westlake's roof sign. It's from
the Richard Wojcik collection.

full size view
| on Vintage LA



A 50s look east across the bridge in
MacArthur Park. Thanks to Dave Urov for
the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.





A view-by-drone as the craft rises
southwest of the Westlake Theatre.

photo: Ian Wood - "Los Angeles" - 2015

[ click any of these images to enlarge ]



The theatre from the air.

photo: Ian Wood - "Los Angeles" - 2015

Thanks to Ian Wood for the great work. These shots are from his
stunning video "Los Angeles" on Vimeo. The six minute ride includes
flyovers of Disney Hall, Capitol Records, the Warner Hollywood,
Cinerama Dome and lots more. Not to be missed!



A facade view.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A view of the Westlake Theatre from the south.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007




A look across the lake toward a now
vanished boathouse and the Westlake Theatre
.

photo: Michelle Gerdes collection

Thanks, Michelle!



Some of the terracotta ornament.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



A column capital.

photo: Bill Counter - 2012



The entrance light fixture.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006




Explorers from the LAHTF check out the lobby.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is actively involved
in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area.
The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings.

www.lahtf.org | group Facebook page | official FB page

Thanks, Wendell! 

His 2016 photos originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page:
| balcony lobby house left | balcony | booth | orchestra pit |

Additional views by Mr. Benedetti not included on this page:

| upper section of balcony | plenum |




The ceiling mural in the lobby.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006




Another lobby view looking up
toward the balcony level.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



A plaster frieze detail in the lobby.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006


[ click any of these photos to enlarge ]



The view toward the proscenium
in the theatre's swap meet days.

photo: Jason Turner


Jason's photo also appears on our
 Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.




A detail of the top of the proscenium.

photo: Michele Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2009




Exploring in the orchestra pit.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016

The main floor had been leveled for the swap meet operation --
 LAHTF's Bill Givens checks out what's underneath that
concrete slab. The stage is to the right.




The main stairs up to the balcony.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006



The balcony lobby house right.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016



A plaster detail.

photo: Sean Ault - 2006




In the balcony looking back toward the booth.

photo: Michele Gerdes - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2009


Note the four Santa Clauses standing guard in front
 of the booth.
Another Santa photo: Sean Ault - 2006



In the booth -- Michell Gerdes explores the mess.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2016



    more from the Sean Ault Collection    



A wonderful early postcard view of MacArthur
Park and the Westlake Theatre roof sign from
Sean Ault's collection.
Thanks, Sean!

A smaller version of the card also appears on the
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation Facebook
page as a post by Kimberly Vinokur Reiss.



A 1955 look across the lake toward
 the theatre. Thanks, Sean! 
full size view | on Photos of L.A.



     California State Library    

www.library.ca.gov



Looking east on Wilshire in a c.1943 Frasher Foto
Card from the California State Library collection. 
full size view | data page




A William Reagh look at the front of
the Westlake Theatre in 1979.
full size view | data page

The view above is also in the LAPL collection.



     L.A. Public Library Collection    

www.lapl.org 


A nice shot of the Westlake's proscenium
 from
the Library's collection.
full size view



A 1926 pre-opening view from the Library's Herald
Examiner collection. On the marquee: "Grand premiere
 opening Wednesday September 22  Stars! Lights!
 "A Night of Nights" Stars! Lights!
full size view



An exterior shot with the theatre running
 "Hot News" with Neil Hamilton, a 1928 release..
 
full size view



Looking east from Parkview Avenue toward the
Westlake's roof sign in 1936.  Construction has begun
on this stretch of Wilshire Blvd. through the park.
full size view





Construction continues through MacArthur
 park in an October 1936 photo. 
full size view




A shot of traffic on the completed
section of Wilshire Blvd.
 full size view  | another 1937 view



A 1978 exterior shot by Anne Laskey.
full size view

Also in the LAPL collection:
 | 1926 exterior - another pre-opening view |


     Ken Roe on Cinema Tour    

www.cinematour.com 


Ken has some nice photos on the
 
Westlake Theatre page of Cinema Tour
including this view of the front of
the balcony.   
full size view 

 



This is a view of the organ grille area house right
.
full size view

Also see:
 | exterior view  |

And don't miss Ken's Movie Theatres USA
set -- over 700 photos.


     Steve Shriver on Flickr    



Steve's nice detail of the proscenium and the bottom of
the asbestos from 2010 is on the Los Angeles Historic
Theatre Foundation's Facebook photo album.
On Facebook: full size view




A detail of the figures in the center ceiling mural.
On Flickr: full size view

See Steve's Westlake Theatre set on
Flickr for 10 more interesting views.


    USC Archives    

digitallibrary.usc.edu


The Westlake in 1926 running "Tin Gods" with
Thomas Meighan and Renee Adoree. Also on the
 bill is Fanchon & Marco's "Variety Ideas." It's a
photo by the Dick Whittington Studio.
full size view

The photo is part of a set of 21 pictures of theatres and
other buildings. Thanks to Godzilla for finding the set and
including one on his Noirish Los Angeles post #17461.




An entrance detail from the view above.
larger detail view