Sunday Afternoon at the Roxie Theatre

Jan 30, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Imagine if you were alive circa 1932. Chances are you would have spent Sunday Afternoons at either of these theaters, located south of 5th, on Broadway:

The Roxie (which replaced Quinn’s Superba theatre); Clune’s Broadway (aka the Cameo); and the Pantages (aka Dalton’s and Arcade). Indeed, you may have gone to the Theaters well into the 90’s, until they all closed.

Roxie Theatre in its heyday

The Roxie Theater first opened on November 25, 1931, and although equipped for live stage performances (including a pipe organ), its long narrow auditorium was better suited for viewing movies. The Roxie was the last theater built on Broadway, before Hollywood usurped the Broadway Corridor as the cinema and theater destination of choice for Los Angeles.

Designed by John M. Cooper, the Roxie’s Art Deco styling represents a significant departure from Broadway’s earlier theater designs. At an approximate building cost of $100,000 during the Depression era, the Roxie had a much starker interior when compared to several of the other downtown theatres. Nonetheless, audiences still enjoyed the shows.

Original auditorium of the Roxie Theatre circa 1945

Of course, movies were the main show at the Roxie, but once in a while, the theatre made headlines for other reasons, too:

On Christmas Day, 1954:

Only clues to the identity of a woman who slashed her wrists and died early yesterday between a row of seats in a downtown all-night theater were a Canadian dollar bill and a telephone number written on a cafe receipt, homicide detectives reported. The body was found by a patron, Claude R. Williams, 2108 S Maple St., when the house lights went up at 5 a.m. yesterday after the last show in the Roxie Theater, at 518 S Broadway.

Police said both the woman’s wrists were deeply slashed and blood had flowed down the sloping floor of the theater past several rows of seats. Beside the body detectives found a double-edged razor blade which evidently was the instrument of her suicide. The woman wore a brown wool suit and brown suede shoes. Beside her lay a black nylon raincoat. Her brown leather purse held only $2.62 in cash; the Canadian bill and a receipt from a cafe at 10113 W Washington Blvd. Detectives said the telephone number handwritten on the receipt was the number of the cafe.

The cafe proprietor, Dave Brandt, told police, however, that he could recall no woman answering the description of the suicide. Detectives said the woman apparently slashed her wrists, slumped to the floor and died without attracting any notice in the dark theater. No patrons reported hearing an outcry…The victim was described as 5 feet 1 inch in height, about 138 pounds, of stocky build, about 40 years of age. She had auburn hair, hazel eyes and false teeth.

The Roxie Theatre circa 2010

The Metropolitan Theater group was the last management organization to operate the Roxie. Right before its closure, it was a Spanish language house only. Currently the Roxie is in disrepair with its lobby used as a store.

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