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Sunday Afternoon at the Theatre – The Tower Theatre Edition

Feb 13, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Opening on October 12, 1927, the Tower Theatre was the first downtown theatre to be wired for sound.

Using a French inspired theme in the interior, architect S. Charles Lee combined Spanish, Moorish, and Romanesque styles on the exterior. Considering the long and narrow lot on which the theatre was built, it’s amazing how detailed and intricate the exterior facade appears.

As with many of the downtown theatres, the Tower also was to change its name—it was changed to the Newsreel Theatre during the 1950s. Interestingly, the ads from the Newsreel are visible even today, as visible on the top portion of the photo below.

Top Edge

Another unique feature of this theatre is the stained glass window directly over the Marquee. If you look closely, you can see a slight green reel of film etched into the glass in the middle of the stained window.

Stained Glass

Currently the Tower Theatre is occasionally used as a film location. As its only apparent purpose, the Tower has been featured in several films including:

In 1965, the Tower went through a $250,000 renovation, reopening with "The Sandpiper", starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Unfortunately, both its new look and second try, couldn’t stop the theatre from having to close yet once more. It shuttered its doors for the final time, in 1988.

Here’s a slide show including other details and photos of the Tower Theatre:

One interesting note about the Tower; there used to be a “top” part to the clock tower, but due to damage sustained in the San Fernando (aka Sylmar) earthquake, it had to be removed.

Here’s a side by side picture comparison, courtesy of the Los Angeles Historical Theatre Committee:

1928 and present day

At our online lifestyle magazine, History meets Theatre while Travelin’ Local. If you haven’t been following this series, here’s the other Sunday at the Theatre articles so far:

Sunday at the Theater – Palace Theatre Edition

Sunday Afternoon at the Roxie Theatre

Sunday at the Theater – Million Dollar Theater Edition

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

2 Responses to “Sunday Afternoon at the Theatre – The Tower Theatre Edition”

  1. Jannie Funster says:

    A very cool old place. I wonder what happened to the original top? Bet there’s a good story in that.

    The Sandpiper, the theme song “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” Now THAT was a song!! Well,still is.


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @Jannie Funster, I bet so, too. I wish I’d been able to find out more information about it.

    After reading your comment, I had to refresh my knowledge of “The Shadow of your Smile:”


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