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Sunday Afternoon at the Theatre – The State Theatre Edition

Feb 20, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Built in 1921, The State Theatre was formally part of the Loews Theatre group. Founded by Marcus Loew in 1904, the chain was the largest movie theatre group until 2006. To provide films for his Theatres, Loew founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM).  I found it very interesting that in this case, the Theatre created the film company as well as the films, rather than the reverse.

Located at the corner of 7th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, the State Theatre is also home to 12 stories of offices and residences.

Back in its heyday, it was the most profitable of the Broadway downtown Theatres. Surprisingly, one of the reasons for this, was Los Angeles’ former large and expansive rail system.

The State Theatre was designed by the San Francisco firm of Weeks & Day, with the Theatre’s auditorium holding up to 2,350 seats.

The State Theatre

The State Theatre is Southern California’s largest brick veneer facade, combining both brick and rusticated terra cotta trim. Originally, the Theatre had two entrances– one off of Broadway (which still exists)–and the other off of 7thth Street (which no longer exists)–which connected to the west end of the Theatre’s lobby.

Typical of the beginning of the film era, initially the State Theatre showed only silent films and Vaudeville performances, which were accompanied by an un-amplified pit orchestra until 1925–when a Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed.

Interesting to note:

Among the famous troupers to appear at Loews State during these years (1925 until 1935) were a perennial favorite called the Meglen Kiddies, many of whom became stars for Hal Roach’s "Our Gang" comedies. A 1929 attraction from Bakersfield, called the Gumm Sisters, featured a lead singer who earned the nick name of "leather lungs" because of her ability to be heard distinctly all the way to the back of the 125 foot long auditorium. With the discontinuance of vaudeville at the State in 1935, the Gumm Sisters and the Fanchonettes traveled to Culver City to appear in an experimental Technicolor musical called "Fiesta in Santa Barbara," "Leather Lungs" changed her name to Judy Garland, and put her six years experience at Loews State to a new use. Source: Bringing Back Broadway

In 1963, The State Theatre then became the first Spanish language theatre in Los Angeles, with an opening night premiere of "Cielo Rojo" which brought out thousands of fans. Ultimately, The State’s popularity slowly declined and currently, it’s used as a Spanish language church.

As Travelin’ Local continues our Sunday Afternoon at the Theatre series, it’s important to remember that the past is never too far from the current, and there’s always good times and bad times.

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Architecture, Culture, Downtown, Entertainment, Film, Los Angeles, SoCal
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