Saban Theatre -- formerly the Fox Wilshire Theatre

    
8440 Wilshire Blvd.

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

| map |

(323) 655-0111    (323) 655-4900 

Website: The Saban Theatre's website  www.sabantheatre.org has all sorts of information including a photo tour and technical specs. 

Also visit the Saban Theatre on Facebook.

Opened: September 19, 1930 with the Marx Brothers in "Animal Crackers" as the Fox Wilshire Theatre. The premiere was attended by Fay Wray, Jeanette MacDonald, Robert Montgomery and many others.



A ad in the opening night program.
It was added to our Los Angeles Theatres
Facebook page by Woody Wise.
full size view

Architect: S. Charles Lee designed one of the most stunning of all the Los Angeles movie palaces. It was Lee's second theatre in Los Angeles. The Tower had opened in 1927, the Los Angeles followed in 1931.  See our Blogspot posts for more of Lee's work.

The Fox Wilshire was the first of many he would do in the art deco style but he never got a chance to another large theatre that would rival this one.

The interior color scheme of black and silver was enhanced by coral colored seating and drapes. Check out the seats!  Almost all of the original color scheme is gone with the exception of the proscenium -- restored in 2008 to all its silvery wonder.

The front curtain opened iris fashion in several stages. See the links for other phases under the "proscenium views" section of the California State Library photos.



The floorplan for the Fox Wilshire from an article by
S. Charles Lee in the December 28, 1929
issue of Motion Picture News
full size view

The new theatre was featured in the October 25, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World in an article by Tom Hacker titled "The Modern Motif in Fantastic Mood":

"Describing the Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Cal., a new Fox theatre that challenges the theory that the modernist can't play make believe.

The new Fox Wilshire in Beverly  Hills, Cal., just opened, represents the ultimate in dazzling and daring treatment. Basing his design on modernistic principles, S. Charles Lee, the architect, employed a unique and highly imaginative motif, which is incorporated in both interior and exterior of the large edifice. The Wilshire seats 2,500 persons, making it the third largest motion picture theatre in Los Angeles.

The Fox Wilshire was constructed around basic acoustical and projection plans. Beginning at the extreme rear of the stage, the auditorium is fashioned in the shape of a mammoth horn to attain perfect sound reception.

The color scheme is silver and black and coral, with an elegant organ screen forming the proscenium arch. The organ console carries the same design and is flanked on either side by glass panels overlaid with bright silvery metal. Various colored lights are installed in the rear of the two panels. The electric lighting fixtures are multi-colored and the light is reflected in the silver, changing the entire color effect of the auditorium as the light dissolves from one shade into another.

The extreme modern design of the house extends also to its individual furnishings and seats, all of which were especially created. The mammoth curtain is a distinct innovation. Opening like an iris, it develops from three to four phases of color and design as it unfolds. Coral shades, beginning in the carpets, are carried into the color scheme of the seats, blending gradually upward into the many shades of silver and black in the mural and ceiling decorations.

In line with the advanced theory of construction, the Fox Wilshire has an oval foyer, with curving stairs on either side leading to the balcony. Toilet facilities are located on a half-level of these stairs, as opposed to the usual basement location. This position affords these rooms an abundance of light and air. A cosmetic room adds to the facilities of the women's department.

The treatment of he main foyer, like that of he balance of the house, is black, coral and silver, having black walls and a silver ceiling supported on silver columns. Of the dark shade, three tones are featured, including dull, medium and bright. Light cast on these tones gives an affect of red, silver and black.

As extra insurance against casualty, the building was constructed of monolithic concrete, which is said to be both fire-proof and earthquake-proof. Fire exit facilities exceed by 25 percent those required by law. Special equipment for the hard-of-hearing is another of the refinements. The headphones are plugged in a socket near the seat by an usher. A volume control regulates the sound.

The projection room has been developed to accommodate wide-film projectors or any new innovation that it might be necessary to install. The stage has also been built with wide-screen in mind.

Ventilating and cooling equipment balances the humidity of the air with the number of patrons present. The balance of the building is devoted to stores and offices, the managers' headquarters being located off the right stairway leading to the mezzanine and balcony. The exterior of the seven-story building is modernistically designed in a dull gray finish, with the theatre marquee in bright black tile. A revolving neon tube sign carrying the name of Fox has been installed on the tower."


Seating:
  2,295 originally. Now about 1,900. Among other changes, the lobby was enlarged into space formerly the last few rows of the main floor.

Status:
Alive and well as a concert venue managed by promoter Lance Sterling. The theatre occasionally hosts other events as well. Restoration work continues in various areas of the theatre, much of it funded by a $5 million donation from Haim Saban.

The L.A. Times ran a March 2014 profile of Sterling, who also has the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills and books another Canyon Club in Las Vegas. Mr. Sterling was also profiled in a November 2013 Huffington Post article saying at the time that he hoped to book 150 shows, mostly classic rock bands, into the theatre in 2014.

Beverly Hills Patch had a September 2013 story about a city pilot program for historic buildings allowing a reduction in property taxes if the amount saved will be put toward historic restoration. The Saban's projects included upgrading their readerboard with a black and white LED display, more seating upgrades, restoration work in the lobby, installation of a pit lift as well as other projects.

The theatre was renamed the Saban Theatre in 2009. In recent years the theatre has had only sporadic bookings of runs Broadway plays, smaller musicals (the stage is only 25' deep), concerts and religious events. 

The first film to play the theatre in years was the December 2006 premiere of "Dreamgirls." 

The building was purchased in 2006 by a group called the Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center. At the time they renamed the theatre the Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills and started a program of restoration. Early projects were new carpet, reupholstered seats and a repainting of the proscenium area. Tech work in recent years has also included lighting and sound upgrades.
 

The Fox Wilshire closed as a film venue around 1977. It got a renovation in 1981 (with a muted color palette) by architect Richard McCann and reopened as a legit house under Nederlander Organization management as the Wilshire Theatre. Among other attractions, Liz and Dick appeared in 1985 with a touring production of "Private Lives."

Stage Specs:
Proscenium: 50' wide x 31' high 
Stage depth: curtain line to backwall: 25'     curtain line to front of apron: 6'
Grid height: 66'5"   grid to roof: 6'
Rigging: 46  52' long battens      57' high trim      operated stage right
House Lights: operated stage right
Road Power: 3  400A Camlock disconnects SR  1  200A switch SL

The Wilshire as a Movie Theatre: The
Fox Wilshire was always a premier first run venue for Fox West Coast Theatres. Later operated by Mann Theatres after they took over the remnants of the Fox Circuit on the west coast. Marilyn Monroe attended the premiere here in 1953 for "How to Marry a Millionaire."


The ad for the premiere engagement of
 "How To Marry a Millionaire" at the Fox Wilshire
in 1953.  It was unearthed by Ken McIntyre for his
 Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
full size view

John Cassavettes had an office in the building and his 1976 film "Killing of a Chinese Bookie" had a run here.

The office tower had an opulent penthouse apartment for Howard Sheehan of 20th Century Fox, as seen in this photo from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Archive:



A look into the penthouse dining room.
full size view



The fireplace in the penthouse.
full size view

The other 8 views in the archive are
indexed under "sheehan apartments"

70mm at the Fox Wilshire: In the 1959 the theatre was was equipped for 70mm and hosted the exclusive premiere run of Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" in 70mm Technirama and 6 channel stereo. 

The Fox Wilshire played a number of long run reserved seat 70mm engagements including  "Exodus" (1960), "Sound of Music" (1965), "Sand Pebbles" (1966), "Far From the Madding Crowd" (1967), "Star" (1968), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "Fiddler on the Roof" (1970) and "Man of La Mancha" (1972).

The Fox Wilshire in the Movies:


The theatre is featured in Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie"
(Fox, 1976) when Mel Funn uses the venue to preview
his new film.
Here's a view of the boxoffice area --
note the posters for "Young Frankenstein."
 larger view




Mel Funn and his crew in the lobby.
larger view



A look the rear of the main floor in "Silent Movie." 
All draped -- except you get a view of some decorative plaster
on the balcony rail. At the time of the filming, the front of
the house was also draped -- with a waterfall curtain. 
larger view

The Fox Wilshire also puts in an appearance
in 1983's "Terror on Tour."

The Fox Wilshire / Saban on Video:



Some footage outside the Fox Wilshire for the 1953
premiere of "How To Marry a Millionaire" is on YouTube.


See "Ed Kelsey on the Saban" a great 10 minute visit to the theatre. The clip features noted Los Angeles theatre historian Ed Kelsey discussing the 2008 restoration work on the proscenium by Evergreene Architectural Arts along with other aspects of the ongoing restoration including seating, carpet and lobby work. The video is by Don Solosan and appears on the LAHTF YouTube channnel.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of data and stories about the theatre. Of particular interest are a number of posts by Vokoban reproducing articles about the theatre's construction and opening.

Our information about 70mm roadshow runs at the Fox Wilshire comes from Michael Coate's list on Cinema Treasures. For a great compilation of information about 70mm runs at the Fox Wilshire, see his 70mm in Los Angeles page on the website www.fromscripttodvd.com.

See the Beverly Hills Heritage's Fox Wilshire album. At last look it had 75 photos.




A lobby ceiling view.

photo: Stephen Russo - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation  - 2012

[ click on any of these photos to go to a larger view ]



Another lobby view with an earlier paint job.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

The chandelier is original but had been gussied up
 with the "Skouras treatment" in the late 40s.




The lobby at balcony level.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010




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     Sean Ault Archives     




A view east on Wilshire toward the theatre. In the
 foreground is the Wilshire Links, a miniature golf
course owned by Mary Pickford.
 full size view
| on FB/LATheatres

Thanks to Los Angeles transit historian
Sean Ault for the photo!



     California State Library     

 www.library.ca.gov


The State Library Collection includes a large number
  of c.1930 photos from the Mott-Merge collection.
Here's
a view in the grand lobby, looking toward
the
Wilshire Blvd. exits. 
full size view



A look toward the west stairs.
The auditorium is off to the left.

More views of the main lobby:
   | west stairschandelier  |  lobby chairs and mirror
   |  drinking fountain, sofa, view of mezzanine  |
  |   wall and window detail  |   stair detail -- and register book  |  

Balcony lobby:
     |  foyer view  | sofa and ramp detail  |  another sofa and ramp view
sofa and columns  |  another foyer view -- ramp and sofa  |

 Lounges:
  |  main lobby lounge  |
|   main lobby lounge seating - sofa at check room |

lounge seating - and phone booth  |  lounge furniture & mirror  |
more lounge furniture  |



A look at the proscenium and the main
drape fully closed showing one set of the
curious traveling curlicues.
  full size view
| in the LAPL collection



The main drape opening to reveal more of the
act curtain -- and the second set of curlicues.

 full size view | similar view from balcony right



A wonderful view of the Fox Wilshire Theatre's
  proscenium and house right wall. On stage
we see the painted act curtain
full size view

More proscenium views: 
 | grand drape 3/4 open | act curtain from main floor |
| screen view  |  larger screen size  |



The house right organ grille.
full size view




A view of the dazzling side wall of the balcony from

  the State Library Collection.  WOW!   
 full size view




Looking back at the booth.
full size view

Other auditorium views: 
 
 | chandelier detail | rear of main floor seating 
rear of main floor |   auditorium rear  - from house left front  |
 | another main floor view toward rear  - toward house right  |

| looking toward rear - right wall and booth |
 | front of right wall - from balcony | front of balcony seat detail  |


Stage:

| speakers behind the screen
|
[ It's a Western Electric 16A model, a "compact"
 unit designed to be flown -- introduced in 1929 ]


Booth:

  | booth - looking west  |
  |  projectors and dimmer board  - east end of booth |

Exterior views:

 |  exterior at night  |   night view  - from the east  |
 |  another night view - same angle  |   daytime view  - from the east  |
 |   from across the street - and a bit west  |   another view from the west  |
 |  daytime view - looking south |  view from across the street - and a bit west |
 | from a bit to the east  |  similar view  |  from directly across the street  |
 |  sidewall  |   sidewall detail another wall detail  |

Entrance:

| entrance vestibule | boxoffice area |   



   Huffington Post    

www.huffingtonpost.com



A luminous look at the Saban's proscenium
appears with Mark DeCarlo's November 2013 article
 "L.A. Boogie Nights" about the theatre's ramped
up booking schedule for 2014.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres



   Los Angeles Conservancy    

  laconservancy.org | LAC on Facebook


A lobby view by Larry Underhill that's part of the
Conservancy's 2012 "Last Remaining Seats" album.
The series included two screenings of
"The Wizard of Oz" at the Saban.
 full size view


Also in the 2012 set:
| exterior view -- Gary Leonard  |
 |  marquee - Gary Leonard  |

| across the main floor - uncredited  |
 |  proscenium plaster detail -- Larry Underhill  |




   more from L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation   

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


A view by of the new Saban Theatre marquee at night
by Don Solosan in the LAHTF Facebook photo album.
full size view




A view by Don Solosan looking from the stage
to the back of the house. The event was a
2010 LAHTF "all about" tour of the building.
  full size view




A proscenium view by Mr. Solosan from halfway
back on the main floor. Again we are at the
LAHTF theatre tour.  full size view

similar view from house right  |



Another shot by Mr. Solosan looking
 across the main floor.  full size view

On the screen is part of a slide program
 discussing how to save the Fairfax Theatre.

The LAHTF photo collection on their old Facebook group page
 has many
great images of other Los Angeles movie palaces. 




    Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr    

 flickr.com/photos/79761301@N00


Eric's terrific Los Angeles Theatres set
  has great photos of the Saban/Wilshire Theatre
  including this 2008 view of the lobby. 

Start on the full size view of this picture and
  you can page forward to an auditorium view
  or back to other lobby views.




    Motion Picture News    

archive.org/stream/motionpicture

On the Internet Archive is the Motion Picture
News issue of December 28, 1929.  Section Two is the
"Theatre Building and Equipment Buyers Guide" featuring
photos of many different theatres.  Included is an article
by S. Charles Lee about the Tower and Fox Wilshire theatres:
"Stretching The Building Fund and the Plot Area."



A rendering of the Fox Wilshire lobby "showing unusual
 adaptation of modern note"
from Motion Picture News.
full size view  | on FB/LATheatres



A rendering of the auditorium treatment:
 "modernistic without resort to extremes."

full size view  |  on FB/LATheatres

Also in the article:
alternate exterior treatments  |  floorplan  |




    Photos of Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/groups/244565982234863



A look at the entrance of the Fox Wilshire
while under Nederlander management.
full size view



    Ken Roe on Flickr    

www.flickr.com/photos/kencta 


Here's a nice 2002 shot of the
Fox Wilshire
proscenium by Ken Roe.  
full size view



A 2002 view of the side wall and organ
grille
area, also by Ken Roe.  
full size image



Rear of the auditorium in another
2002
shot by Ken Roe.  
full size view    

More great photos of the Wilshire Theatre:
rear sidewall  |  sidewall detail  |  lobby  |

[ and, of course, check out the rest of Ken's 
wonderful work in his Flickr album ]



    Scenes of L.A. During WWII    

dsl.home.sprynet.com/landmark    


On the Fox  page of this site is this photo by Dennis
  Lewis Sr. looking east on Wilshire Blvd. toward the
  Fox Wilshire Theatre during WWII.   
full size view



   Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles



A perhaps late 30s view -- again looking east along Wilshire
from La Cienega. Maurice Ideses added this item from his
collection to the vast archive on Vintage Los Angeles.

full size view




Headed west on Wilshire in 1962. A view on Vintage
Los Angeles from the Richard Wojcik collection.
Look at that Fox sign!
full size view





A more recent view that nicely shows off the office
tower. It was added to the Vintage Los Angeles
collection by Billy Vera.
 full size view








The Saban Theatre, formerly the Fox Wilshire, is one
 of the great surviving art deco L.A. movie palaces.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click on any of these photos to to enlarge ]



A view of the new deco style marquee.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The boxoffice area.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

There was considerable restoration in this area in 2009
including re-creation of the original doors.




A facade detail.
 
photo: Bill Counter - 2010




A showcase.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010





A look at the west side of the
 Saban / Fox Wilshire Theatre building.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A lovely exterior view.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

The LAHTF is an organization that offers tours of historic theatres,
promotes events and works
toward preservation and reuse of the buildings.

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



Restoration work on the proscenium.

photo: Richard Rubins - 2008

The photo is courtesy of Esther Adir,
Saban Theatre. 
See more of Richard's photos at
www.zalephoto.com.



A view of the shimmering proscenium.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010


The restoration work by Evergreene Architectural Arts
was performed in 2008. It had all been a deep dusty
 burgundy since the 1981 renovation.




Another look at the restored proscenium.

photo: Stephen Russo - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation  - 2012




A detail of the plasterwork above the proscenium.

photo: Stephen Russo - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation  - 2012


Also by Mr. Russo:
| exterior view - 2012 | balcony painted detail revealed  - 2012 | 




Some original balcony stencil work.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2012

The details were uncovered during investigations
by Ed Kelsey and Evergreen Architectural Arts. For more
 information, see Don's video "Ed Kelsey on the Saban."




A view down from the top of the balcony.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

The drapery is to close off the rear of the balcony
when the feeling of a more intimate venue is desired.



A wonderful shot looking toward
the rear of the auditorium.

photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation  - 2010

The photo originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page. It also
 appears (uncredited) in a November 2013 Huffington Post article.


Also see Wendell's Historic Los Angeles Theatres set on Flickr
which includes a higher resolution view of the photo above.




A panoramic look at the Saban
proscenium after restoration.

photo: Saban Theatre Facebook page - 2012




A detail of the lobby chandelier.

photo: Stephen Russo - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation
- 2013

Stephen's photo originally appeared
on the LAHTF Facebook page.




The inner lobby/bar area.

photo: Don Solosan - Los Angeles
Historic Theatre Foundation - 2010

This area used to be seating but became part of
 the expanded lobby in the 1981 renovation.


     Beverly Hills Heritage     

www.facebook.com/BeverlyHillsHeritage


An amazing late 30s look east toward the Fox
Wilshire from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives
and the Beverly Hills Historical Society.

full size view



Another photo from the Marc Wanamaker collection.
full size view

See the Beverly Hills Heritage Fox Wilshire album.
At last look it had 75 photos from a variety of sources.




    Cinema Tour    

www.cinematour.com


The Cinema Tour page on the Fox Wilshire features
  this great view from the Boxoffice Magazine
1949-50
Theatre Catalog Section.  
full size view



    Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks    

www.theatretalks.com | flickr.com/photos/theatretalks



A 2002 Betty Sword photo of the Fox Wilshire
from Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection.
The Nederlanders were running "Rent."
full size view | on FB/LATheatres



    Exhibitors Herald-World    

archive.org/details/exibitorsheraldw

The new theatre was featured in the October 25, 1930
issue of Exhibitors Herald-World in an article by Tom
 Hacker titled "The Modern Motif in Fantastic Mood."



An exterior view at night.
The rouse right stairs to the balcony.
The book at the left is the "guest register."
The photo is by Keystone Photo Service.
An alcove in the upper level of the lobby.
full size view



Looking into the main floor
ladies lounge house left.
The main ladies cosmetics room.
The photo is by Keystone Photo Service.

Also with the article:

    From Script To DVD    

www.fromscripttodvd.com 


This great site's page on the Fox Wilshire  has
  a number of terrific photos of the theatre including
this
view of the stage by William Kallay. 
full size view



    L.A. Public Library Photo Collection    

www.lapl.org 



From the Library's collection comes this view of suburbia
  in 1931 -- lots of free parking at the Fox Wilshire. Playing
  that week was "Don't Bet on Women" with Edmund
  Lowe and Jeanette MacDonald.   
full size view



Here we're in the ticket vestibule in 1930
about
to take a step into the main lobby. 
 
full size view

More lobby views from the Library's collection:
lobby 1930 - looking toward Wilshire  |  lobby organ - 1930  | 
  |  lobby mirror | lobby 1945   |


Back from center stage in 1930. Look at that
wall treatment at the rear of the main floor!
full size view



This enticing view is from the top
 of the
Fox Wilshire balcony.  
 
full size view

More auditorium views:
| main drape closed - also in the California State Library collection  |
proscenium from balcony center - main drape partially open |
| stage from balcony - 1942 |  orchestra on stage 1931  |
organist 1931balcony 1942   |



A view of the theatre with "Monkey

Business" playing in 1931.
full size view

A 1931 view of the theatre's entrance
with a Packard "Eight Deluxe" out front.
full size view

More exterior shots from the Library:
  |  boxoffice - 1945  |    1931 marquee - "Trader Horn" |
1981 facade view - Herald Examiner collection |

1978 views by Anne Laskey:
   |  sidewall  |  wall detail  |  marquee shotmarquee detail  |
tower viewfrom across wilshire  |  full height  from the west  |





    Kate Mercier on Facebook    

facebook.com/katemercier/LA TheatrePhotos


A 1930 look at the Fox Wilshire from Kate
 Mercier's collection. It's unknown what the
gathering of kids was all about. 
full size view





A 1934 view of the marquee from the Kate Mercier
collection.
The gentleman in the photo is her grandfather,
Hall Baetz, who
managed the Fox Wilshire in the 30s. 
full size view

The theatre is running "The Painted
Veil" with Greta Garbo.




A look east from Wilshire and La Cienega. 
full size view




A great exterior shot of the Fox Wilshire. 
full size view




An early lobby view. We're all decked
out for the "Fall Flower Week." 
full size view


Also see:
| boxoffice | flyer -  "China Seas" |



    more from the Saban Facebook page    

www.facebook.com/TheSabanTheatre



A look across the auditorium at the
restored proscenium area. 
full size view




A look at the main floor bar area. We're at the rear of
the main floor -- an area that used to be seating.
 
full size view

Head to the theatre's Facebook
page for more views.



    UCLA S. Charles Lee Archive    

digital.library.ucla.edu/sclee



A great May 8, 1930 construction view
from the S.C. Lee UCLA Archives.
full size view


More construction photos by Mayson Shouler:
 
early construction 2/27/30 |  form work rising  3/27/30 | 

Also by Mr. Shouler:
| plaster casting  |



Lee's stunning interior for the Fox Wilshire is well
  exhibited in this photo from his archive.  
full size view


More proscenium views by Mott Studios
from the S.C. Lee Archive:

  |  proscenium -
curlicue main drape 3/4 open  |
another proscenium view -
curlicue main drape closed more  | 



Also from the S. Charles Lee Archive -- ladies room mirrors. 
 
full size image on Calisphere | on the S.C. Lee site



Plus:
| view at night - credited to S. Charles Lee |

The archive also has advertising pieces depicting the
  Fox Wilshire and drawings of different concepts for the theatre.
    Lots of other Lee projects are in the archive as well, all searchable.

Also of interest are a number of photos in the archive
  indexed under "Sheehan Apartments," the penthouse suite
  atop the Fox Wilshire Theatre Building for Howard Sheehan
  of 20th Century Fox.