Fox Wilshire / Saban 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. Almost all of the original color scheme is gone with the exception of the proscenium -- restored in 2008 to all its silvery wonder.

The uniquely styled "curlicue" front curtain opened iris fashion in several stages. See the California State Library photos taken during several phases of its operation.



The floorplan for the Fox Wilshire from an article by
S. Charles Lee in the December 28, 1929
issue of Motion Picture News. It seems to be a
preliminary version. Many areas weren't built as shown.
full size view

Also in the article:
alternate exterior treatments  |

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 the 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.

A 2014 story in the Hollywood Reporter discussed the creation of the Steve Tisch Cinema Center at the Saban with the venue upgrading its digital projection gear and going after more premieres and film festival events.  But there wasn't much followup with additional film events.

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 from the Nederlander Organization in 2006 by a group called the Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center. They had been renting for over a decade and had made repeated offers to buy the building but were always rebuffed. Jimmy Nederlander reportedly told them "We but theatres. We don't sell theatres."  But with the closing of their competitive threat, the Shubert, things changed.

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 1983 with a touring production of "Private Lives."

Stage Specs:

Proscenium: 50' wide x 31' high
Stage depth: smoke pocket to backwall: 25' 6" smoke pocket to front of apron: 6'
Centerline to stage left wall: 39'
Centerline to lockrail stage right: 32' 4"

Grid height: 66'5" grid to roof: 6'
Rigging: 46 sets operated stage right at stage level 52' long battens 57' high trim
House Lights: operated stage right
Road Power: 3 400A Camlock disconnects DSR 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.

Upstairs: 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 Papers collection:



A look into the penthouse dining room.
full size view



The fireplace in the penthouse.
full size view

The other 8 views in the collection 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

Richard Gere visits a bar that used to be on the corner
of the Fox Wilshire building in Paul Schrader's "American
Gigolo" (Paramount, 1980). See our Theatres In Movies
post for that shot and views of several other theatres.

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.

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

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.  Also see the site's Fox Wilshire page.


 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
direct you to a full size version on the website hosting it.
Assume that all the images are subject to copyright
restrictions.  Contact the webmaster of the site in
question concerning reproduction or other use. 


     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



A Mott Studios look from the east
 at the newly opened theatre.
full size view 


More from the California State Library --

In addition to what's shown on this page, there are many more
1930 Mott Studios photos in the collection. They are cataloged
rather haphazardly in 6 sets -- each with a mix of shots
from different areas of the theatre:

| #001443784 - 8 views | #001443782 - 2 views |
| #001443449 - 11 views | #001386544 - 17 views |
| #001386542 - 18 views | #001386306 - 17 views |


  more from L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation  

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


A 2010 view by of the new Saban Theatre
marquee at night
by Don Solosan in the LAHTF
group Facebook page photo album.

full size view



    L.A. Now and Then    

 www.facebook.com/lanowandthen


Thanks to Bruce Kimmel on the L.A. Now and Then
page for this 1953 "How To Marry A Millionaire" photo.



    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


    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



   USC Archives    

digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm



Looking west toward the Fox Wilshire in 1940
 from San Vicente. This detail is from a larger Dick
Whittington Studio photo, part of a set of 4.
Thanks to BifRayRock for including the
set on his Noirish Los Angeles post #20227.


   Vintage Los Angeles    

www.facebook.com/VintageLosAngeles


Thanks to Jerry Beck for this
lovely 1936 view of the theatre.



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 Dave Urov repost




The Fox Wilshire in 1976 for the premiere of
"Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same." Thanks to
Maurice Ideses for posting the shot on Vintage Los Angeles.





A 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 entrance to the theatre in 1973.

photo: Sean Ault collection

Thanks, Sean!



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

from 2012 see: | exterior view |


     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 Heritage.

full size view



Another photo from the Marc Wanamaker
collection. On the corner that's the Wilshire Links,
 a miniature golf course. It's evidently 1934.
full size view

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


The photo above (along with other Wilshire Links
views) can also be seen, in a non-watermarked version,
 on BifRayRock's Noirish Los Angeles post #20496.




    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 | theatretalks.blogspot.com



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



    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.
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




A perhaps late 30s view looking east toward
 the Fox along Wilshire from La Cienega.
It's a Herman Schultheis photo.
full size view



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" |

| 1956 Sid Avery - "Trapeze" | another with marquee |
| from above | wider | roof sign | another |
| even better ?dusk shot |

| 1981 facade view - Herald Examiner collection |
| 1986 - Mike Mullen - "La Cage"

1978 views by Anne Laskey:
   | sidewall  | wall detail | marquee shot | marquee detail |
| tower view | from 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


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


    UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers    

calisphere.org | digital2.library.ucla.edu

www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf3000050c/



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


Photos by Mayson Shouler:
  | early construction - 2/27/30 |
form work rising - 3/27/30 | 


More:
| view at night with searchlights - credited to S. Charles Lee |
Also of interest are ten photos in the collection
  indexed under "Sheehan Apartments," the penthouse suite
  atop the Fox Wilshire Theatre Building for Howard Sheehan
  of 20th Century Fox.


  Anton Wagner - California Historical Society  

digitallibrary.californiahistoricalsociety.org


A lovely 1932 view looking  east on Wilshire toward
the Fox. It's one of several hundred photos taken by
Anton Wagner while in L.A. working on his PhD thesis
about the relationship of topology to character.

full size view | on the CHS site



A detail from the Anton Wagner photo.
Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor
BiRayRock for spotting the image in the collection.
 He has it on his Noirish post #37501.