|Cameo Theatre, 2005|
|Roxie Theatre, 2006|
|Tower Theatre, 2005|
The most fascinating theatre of all was the one no one could see. The United Artists Theatre is at the southern end of the downtown core, south of 9th Street. Built in 1927 by architect C. Howard Crane, it was the flagship theatre of the United Artists Studio, a group of leading film actors who broke away from the major studios to control their own artistic careers.
Since 1990, the 13 story office building the theatre was housed in had been owned by the evangelist pastor Gene Scott, who broadcast television sermons from the building, which he had topped with a giant neon "Jesus Saves." A secretive group, the church refused access to non-members, even those interested in historic preservation.
In 2011, several years after Scott's death, the building was sold and over the last couple of years it has been converted into a boutique hotel, part of the Ace Hotel group. The theatre has been restored, anticipating a regular schedule of entertainment events. The Ace Hotel opened in January, and on February 1 the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation conducted the first public tour of the United Artists Theatre in over twenty years.
It's been six months since I've visited Broadway, and as you might expect of an area in transformation, a lot has happened in that time. Boutiques, art galleries and home decor stores have opened in former vacant spaces, and trendy restaurants have sprung up replacing the taquerias and hash houses of the working class.
|Urban Outfitters interior|
The little Taco Mexico stand up the block was doing a brisk business. Some customers, especially the historic preservationists, prefer $1.50 tacos to $15.00 hamburgers.
Just across 9th Street, the beautiful Eastern Columbia Building made a good companion for the United Artists Building, echoing its vertical lines with its own Art Deco design, clad in stunning aqua terra-cotta tiles. Built just 3 years later, in 1930, it one-ups the gothic verticality with stylized zigzags and chevrons, and carved stone tracery for gold and copper bling.
A home décor boutique in the Eastern Columbia's lobby is full of colorful, fun, retro items, targeting affluent young tenants of the condos in the building.
|Click all photos to "embiggen"|
After a tour of the neighborhood, I went back to the theatre to await the tour. More about that later.
Yes, Broadway has cleaned itself up, but part of me misses the old grit.