20 January 2012

Theatres of 2011 - Part 2

Theatres 3 and 4 are both located in Inglewood, CA. Inglewood has a bad reputation because of its inclusion in the gangster rap genre, which is unfortunate. It's history is deep and rich and, luckily for time travelers such as myself, full of architectural reminders of another era. I like to think of Inglewood not as a crime-ridden caricature of itself, but as the place where Brian Wilson was born, and the town who erected a statue -- albeit a rather small statue -- in memory of a loyal dog in front of the downtown post office (get out your magnifying glass for the plaque reading, it's worth it).

16 April 2011, © Monika Seitz Vega

The 5th Ave Theatre is at 2541 W. Manchester Boulevard. It was built in 1939 (the same year as the nearby Academy, which will be featured in a later post) and has been closed since the 1980s. Closed since the 80s is going to be a trend with these posts. The 80s were dark days.

5th Ave Theatre, 16 April 2011 © Monika Seitz Vega

The condition of the 5th Ave is heartbreaking. What was once a brilliant marquee is bent, broken, and destroyed by rust to the point that rainwater collects the iron and drips methodically onto the marble of the tiled sidewalk, eating it away. The building is an eyesore, covered in tagging and stucco (and I HATE stucco!) and if you look closely enough you can almost see it slumping over, depressed.  It's just so sad. It's made worse, I think, by the fact that there's not any chance that the 5th Ave's grey clouds are going to clear up. It doesn't have the breathtaking spire of the Academy, or the incredible interiors of the Fox. At the same time, though, there's no reason for it to be razed. The corner of Manchester and 5th is far from a real estate hotbed, so it seems that the 5th Ave will keep sitting and waiting for now.

The Fox Theatre in downtown Inglewood opened in 1949 on the site of the Granada Theatre, which burned to the ground in December, 1945. The theatre was last operated by the Mann chain and in operation until the -- wait for it! -- 1980s. Unlike the 5th Ave, the Fox is still in decent shape (some recent interior photographs are available at the theatre's Cinema Treasures page) and has a dedicated group of local preservationists fighting for it. 

16 April 2011, © Monika Seitz Vega

One more thing about Inglewood -- it's the home of Randy's Donuts. Not the only giant donut on earth, but likely the most infamous. My morning coffee tastes better than ever out of my Randy's travel mug.

16 April 2011, © Monika Seitz Vega

I think this is as good a time as any to mention the Los Angeles Historic Theatres Foundation. Visit their website, become a member, and attend their fantastic tours. Coincidentally the next tour is a week from tomorrow, at Hollywood Blvd's El Capitan. It's absolutely worth getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday for.

That wraps up Part 2.... for those keeping track at home, so far we've visited:
*Fox Theatre, Inglewood, CA
*5th Ave Theatre, Inglewood, CA
*Warner Theatre, Huntington Park, CA
*Union Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

See you next time.

18 January 2012

Theatres of 2011 - Part 1

I love movie houses. Each year since 2008 I've made it a point to visit and photograph as many theatres within the year as my travels will allow. Over the next several posts I'll be sharing my photographs and stories of the 17 different theatres I visited for the first time during 2011, two at a time, beginning today with the Union and the Warner Huntington Park. 

The Union Theatre is located at 1122 West 24th Street in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, near Exposition Park. It dates back to the 1920s. Over the years the single-screen Union has been a movie house, theatrical venue, church, and meeting hall. Since 2005, the theatre has been the home of the Velaslavasay Panorama. It is a darling little theatre, and a definite throwback to the days of neighborhood movie houses.

Union Theatre, 17 November 2011 © Monika Seitz Vega

The art deco Warner Theatre in Huntington Park, which sits at 6714 Pacific Blvd., was built in 1930. It exhibited films until the 1980s, when many of the old single screen giants were compromised by the megaplex generation. These days, Pacific Blvd. is a pedestrian-heavy street filled with a mix of discount stores and chain shops. The Warner was designated as a California Historical Landmark in 2007 and remains in good condition, despite being twinned during its management by Pacific Theatres in the 1980s. The troubled economy of the last few years has put Huntington Park's plans to renovate the Warner on hold.

Warner Theatre, 2011 © Monika Seitz Vega

In store for next time.... Two from Inglewood, CA -- the 5th Ave. and the Fox Inglewood.

If you're interested, previous years' collections are on view via Flickr: