Sunday at the Theater – Million Dollar Theater Edition

Jan 24, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Los Angeles used to have a thriving theater area located in downtown known as the Broadway Corridor. It consists of twelve theaters, each with their own distinct architecture, history, and character.

They all played a major role in bringing an amalgam of stage, culture, visual arts, and literature to the people of LA. Located within only nine city blocks, these Theaters stand in tribute to the engineering achievements of the early 20th century.

The theaters located in the Broadway Corridor include the following list:

1. Roxie Theater

2. Cameo Theater

3. Los Angeles Theater

4. State Theater

5. Arcade Theater

6. Palace Theater

7. United Artists Theater

8. Tower Theater

9. Globe Theater

10. Orpheum Theater

11. Rialto Theater

12. Million Dollar Theater

For the next several Sundays, Travelin’ Local will feature a series of articles, entitled “Sunday at the Theater,” highlighting these marvelous theaters; their history, architecture, beauty, and announcing any upcoming events.

Million Dollar Theatre

For today’s inaugural story in this series, we’re starting with the northern most theater, and subsequently work our way south. Ergo, the Million Dollar Theater is our first stop on this magnificent tour:

View Los Angeles’ Broadway Theatre Corridor in a larger map

Located at 307 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, its one of the first movie palaces built in the United States. The Million Dollar Theater, which opened in February 1918, was the first movie house built by entrepreneur Sid Grauman. He’s the same gentleman who built, owned, and operated the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd, that’s still very much a vibrant focal point for Hollywood’s culture, film premiers, and lore.

Window Curtain

The northern most theater in LA’s famous Broadway Theater Corridor, the Million Dollar Theater’s name is eponymous; it cost a million dollars to build it at that time.

“Sculptor Joseph Mora did the elaborate and surprising exterior ornament, including bursts of lavish Churrigueresque decoration, multiple statues, longhorn skulls and other odd features.” Source: Wikipedia

The Million Dollar Theater first operated as a movie theater. But by the 1940s, it became a Mecca as a Spanish spoken language theater only. The Million Dollar Theater and the Fouce Family, who owned the theater, were pioneers in the then unheard of Spanish entertainment industry here.

In addition to its extremely successful stage productions, the Million Dollar Theater was also the most prominent Spanish language cinema in the United States, with every major Mexican motion picture premiering there.

Door Embellishment

By the 1970s to the 1990s, “Gonzalo L. Checa, President of the Spanish division of the Metropolitan Theater Corporation, was responsible for the upsurge of attendance at the Million Dollar Theater in the 1970s, due to his expertise and keen insight of the entertainment needs of Los Angeles’ Hispanic community.

Checa oversaw, contracted, and scheduled the fantastic showcase stage shows, and the movie premieres of many notable Mexican film stars. During this golden heyday, the lines of people waiting to attend the Million Dollar shows would literally wrap around the block.

Side Door

For several years in the 2000’s, a Spanish language church operated at the Million Dollar, but in 2006, the theater closed. However, 2 years ago the theater re-opened to host Spanish language shows.

As the crowds increase, there’s more than a glimmer of hope that it’s a sign of the reemergence and beginning of the Million Dollar Theater’s–post haste–return to its previous long storied glory days.

To enjoy more of this architectural, historical, and cultural landmark, just sit back and watch this slide-show; but you have to bring your own popcorn:

Keep abreast, as each Sunday Travelin’ Local will be featuring another “Sunday at the Theater” story.

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