Monday, June 30, 2008

The Other Broadway

Spent Saturday morning on a walking tour organized by the Los Angeles Conservancy of the Movie Palaces that remain in downtown Los Angeles on Broadway between Third and Ninth.

Around 1910 nickelodeons and vaudeville theaters began to appear on Broadway. The opening of Sid Grauman's opulent Million Dollar Theater in 1918 established Broadway as a venue for motion pictures, and helped cement the street's reputation as the city's principal theater district.

By 1931, Broadway between Third Street and Olympic Boulevard was the West Coast equivalent of New York's Great White Way. With a dozen major theater in a seven-block stretch, the Broadway district contained the highest concentration of movie palaces in the world at the time, with a combined seating capacity of more than 17,000.

Construction of the Chinese, Egyptian and Pantages theaters on Hollywood Boulevard in the late 1920s, however, prompted a shift in theatrical activity, eventually resulting in the emergence of Hollywood as the city's first-run theater district. Hollywood retained its dominance until the 1960s when the Westwood Village theaters began to attract premieres and large audiences.

Despite the loss of some theaters downtown, the Broadway Historic Theater District has remained largely intact, providing a rare glimpse into the past when theaters and theater-going figured prominently in the fabric of urban life.

Volunteer Tour Guide Reem Baroody did an outstanding job leading our group for the three hour tour. I had lots of questions and couldn't stump her once.
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