Historic Broadway Theater District
The lights are Bright on Broadway! No not that Broadway there is another Broadway, the Broadway in Los Angeles California where the Historic Core of old majestic theaters lies within reach of those who love the history and charm of the old movie palace, the bright Marquees, and the smell of popcorn that is embedded in the seats and walls.
The theater district of Downtown Broadway in Los Angeles goes from 3rd street to 9th. Although some of the theaters date back as far as 1911 one of the reasons Route 66 is so popular is that many star actors and musicians made their way to LA on Route 66 to become famous. It was the place to be known on the West Coast and the terminus for the Route ended smack in the middle of the Historic Core at 7th and Broadway. This was the destination for many who were seeking fame and fortune in the early days of the route.
The highest concentration of old movie palaces in America are on this street. Broadway is one of the oldest Streets in Los Angeles and in 2008 the city proposed 40 million for the program “Bringing back Broadway” to revitalize this area. It has been my privilege to be in many of these old palaces, and they are magnificent.
The State Theater at the terminus was built in 1921, Judy Garland performed there with the Gumm Sisters in 1929. The Orpheum is well know today as the home of “So you think you can Dance” and also American Idol. It is a working theater and you can attend performances there. The Orpheum was built in 1926.
The Palace theater home to the LA Route 66 90th Festival was built in 1911. The Los Angeles the jewel of the street was built in 1931 and is French Baroque. The Globe was Built in 1913 and has a wonderful Marquee. The Rialto built is 1917 has been repurposed to be Urban Outfitters and to their credit turn on the neon on the Marquee every day.
The Million Dollar Theater was opened in 1918 by Sid Grauman of Chinese Theater (home of the hand prints of Stars) Hollywood fame. The Tower Theater has just been purchased by Apple and is being repurposed both as a store and apartments above. The Tower Theater was built in 1927.
The United Artist Theater was built in 1927. The United Artist were Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks
The Street is alive with the pulse of the era, of stars and musicians and vaudeville players. The Facades are in good shape, they were built to last and the Marquees, whoa when all these were lit, it must have been something for the Marquees are huge and impressive. Inside they open to rows and rows of wonderful seats, to draperies of tapestry and expensive art work on the walls. With ornate pieces of lighting to gilded trims and tasseled ropes. To walk among these palaces and they are palaces, most held 1500 or more seats is to know a time when movie going was the excitement and joy of the week. A nickel probably would have gotten you into most of these when they first opened.
You can walk the 6 blocks of Broadway easily and make your first stop or last in Grand Central Market for coffee or something to eat on 3rd. It is my hope that you will not let the traffic deter you from experiencing these sites and lights on our Broadway. It is so worth the effort especially if you like old theaters.