ARCHITECTURE LOS ANGELES THEATRES THINGS OF THE PAST

Demolishing The Largest Movie Theatre In Los Angeles

September 24, 2014
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Grauman’s Metropolitan first opened its doors on January 26, 1923. Built shortly after the Million Dollar and the Egyptian Theatres, Sid Grauman spared no expense in creating what would be the largest theatre in all of Southern California.

With a seating capacity of 3,387 seats, the auditorium was enormous. It was the second largest theatre to be built in the West, only behind the Fox Theater in San Francisco, which amazingly had 4,651 seats. The next largest theatre in Los Angeles was the RKO Hillstreet (downtown) with 2,890 seats, which met the same fate of demolition as the two aforementioned movie houses.

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Photo by Dick Whittington via USC Archives

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A view of the 6th & Hill St. corner – there were entrances on both sides, as well as a 3rd entrance on Broadway that was used until the ’30s.

Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

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Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

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A house right view of the mezzanine. The stepped ceiling is the underside of the balcony risers.

Photo from the Merge Studios Collection via California State Library

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Another view of the mezzanine lobby – the curtained doorways look out to the main floor lobby.

 Photo from the Merge Studios Collection via California State Library

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Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

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A view of the stage curtains and house right.

Photo from the Merge Studios Collection via California State Library

In July 1924 Grauman sold his downtown holdings to Paramount Publix, who continued to use Grauman’s name in advertising despite him no longer participating in the theatre’s operation. As part of a branding campaign in 1928, Publix removed the Metropolitan name from the building and the theatre became the Paramount.

From the 1930s until the 1950s, the Paramount Downtown was a first run house, mainly featuring Paramount movies. The theatre also had stage shows featuring major vaudeville acts, bands and singers.

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Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

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1939 view of the marquee with a showing of “Gulliver’s Travels”

Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

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A glimpse of the marquee at the corner of 6th St. in 1950.

Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

Just as so  many other theatres had before, the Paramount shuttered its doors in 1960. Developers quickly planned to replace the massive structure with a new high-rise office building. The theater was demolished in 1961, but plans for the office tower never advanced. The empty space sat as a parking lot for 20 years until the high-rise International Jewelry Center was erected in 1981.

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Photo from Security Pacific National Bank Collection via Los Angeles Public Library

For more on the Metropolitan and other historic movie palaces of California, click here.

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6 Comments

  • Reply rohan October 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Fantastic ! But what the hell style was it ? Answer, 20s exotic eclectic. But really I can’t put my finger on exactly where any of it comes from. Genius. Also sad of course its gone but giant movie theatres served an ephemeral purpose, and you just couldn’t fill the huge spaces with seats so far away you could barely see the screen.

    • Reply SouthOnSpring October 2, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      We couldn’t have said it better ourselves – the style was such a mishmash! It was ostentatiously large, and admittedly hard to imagine a use for present day, but what a sight it would have been!

  • Reply Escott O. Norton October 6, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Remarkable photos and a great blog post! As pointed out by Hillsman, the round chandelier in the 4th picture is now hanging in the Million Dollar Theatre. As for filling the large house, the Hollywood Bowl regularly sells out its over 17,000 seats, and the Shrine sells out its 6,300 seats and I’ve seen movies in both venues! Can you imagine 3600 pouring out of this theatre into a thriving restored Pershing Square, eating at local restaurants then taking the metro home? Would have been great!

  • Reply paul November 7, 2014 at 12:51 am

    What a shame for this grand piece of LA history to go with the wrecking ball. And on top of that, its replacement is absolutely hideous.

    • Reply South On Spring November 7, 2014 at 1:19 am

      Paul, I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more.

  • Reply steve shriver December 8, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Nice post! Here’s a link to an article written by William Lee Woollett (architect of the interior) at the time of the building’s creation, on his thoughts about the design and ornament that adorned the interior. A real shame that they destroyed this building. Looks like it was built to last too. Hope the teardown cost them a lot!
    https://archive.org/stream/architectenginee7223sanf#page/n745/mode/2up

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