The Broadway Theatre District in Los Angeles features the largest concentration of historic theatres and movie palaces on one street in the nation, most of which date back to the 1920's and 1930's. There are twelve historic theatres along Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. Each offers a different and important glimpse into the history of our city, and its primary industry - entertainment.
Vaudeville stages were all the rage when the theatres were built and famous acts such as the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Houdini, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Eddie Cantor, Lena Horne, George Burns & Gracie Allen, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, and W.C. Fields all performed to the delight of Broadway audiences.
Behind their deceptively simple exteriors, Broadway's ornate and spectacular theatres featured sweeping marble staircases leading to ornate balconies, plush seats, and soaring, star-sprinkled ceilings, along with spacious, elaborately crafted interiors, gilded rococo designs and a wide range of flamboyant architectural styles. When cinema became in vogue, the theatres were mostly converted to grand movie palaces, and functioned as such for many years before many of them closed their doors.
Still, the importance of the Theatre District in the home of the motion picture industry is clearly evident. The theaters provided drama, comedy, and vaudeville presentations until full-length motion pictures became popular. Thomas Tally, Sid Grauman, Oliver Morosco, and others vied for the honor of city impresario as the theaters along Broadway become larger and more numerous. Theatre architecture was more flamboyant than commercial styles and the influx of theatrical structures helped to provide variety for the Broadway streetscape. In all, theater development along Broadway provided a major source of revenue and a location for premieres for the movie industry, an important form of entertainment for Southern Californians, and a variety of architectural designs which gave a unique character to Broadway. (National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, 1977.)
Programming & Use of Broadway Theatres: Currently, two of Broadway's theatres, the Orpheum and the Million Dollar Theatre are open on a regular basis for entertainment programming. A third, the Globe Theatre, functions as a night club. Bringing Back Broadway aims to revitalize the theatre district and implement public policies and improvements, such as the streetscape plan, entertainment overlay zone and design guidelines, streetcar transportation system, and increased parking, that will catalyze private investment and reactivation of the theatres, along with the other commercial spaces along Broadway.
The Bringing Back Broadway initiative does not program the theatres, since they are all privately owned and operated. Information about fees and costs involved with opening these historically registered venues to the public, in terms of rental fees, permitting, electricity, water usage, security and venue staff requirements, cleaning and other related tasks are discussed directly between the prospective programmers and the venue owners/operators.