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State Theatre, Los Angeles

State Theatre, Los Angeles

Former Names: Loew’s State

Status: Seeking new tenant

Website: http://www.statetheatre.la/ Open website in new window

Telephone: (213) 629-2939 Call (213) 629-2939

Address: 703 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos

 Overview

The State Theatre opened as Loew’s State in November 1921 and was their west coast showcase movie theatre, later becoming the downtown Los Angeles home for first-run MGM movies. It is the largest theatre on Broadway by audience capacity (originally reported as 2,404 and 2,450; now 2,119).

The State was designed by Charles Peter Weeks and William Day, of architectural firm Weeks & Day, in a Spanish Renaissance style, and is incorporated into a splendid 12-story Beaux Arts style office block called the United Building. Situated at the intersection of downtown Los Angeles’ busiest retail streets of the early 1920s, the building extends half a block along 7th St and one-third of a block along Broadway, and is the city’s largest brick-clad building. The theatre originally boasted two marquees with entrances on both Broadway and 7th, however the 7th St entrance was closed in 1936. The theatre’s marquees were originally simple bronze canopies with single-line lettering but were later replaced with more elaborate two-line marquees. The surviving marquee was installed in 1949.

At the time of the State’s opening the theatre’s projection booth boasted a feature which Loew’s proclaimed as unique: a “shower bath”, with hot and cold water, for the projectionist! No sign of the “shower bath” is now evident. The projection booth was exceedingly well equipped, boasting three film projectors, two spotlights (followspots), one floodlight, and a double stereopticon (a Brenograph or similar). A vacant “seat call” system was installed in the theatre, designed by the theatre’s manager Nat Holt and stage director W. F. Scott, known as the Holtscott system. In 1927 the State advertised that its new refrigeration plant (air conditioning) system was now in operation.

In 1925 the State’s original Moller organ was replaced with a 3-manual, 13-rank Wurlitzer organ, and at the same time the vaudeville operation was turned-over to Fanchon and Marco. The State became one of their flagship venues alongside the Paramount, further up the street.

In 1929 a Bakersfield act called The Gumm Sisters played at the State, featuring a lead singer who earned the nickname “Leather Lungs” due to her ability to be heard clearly at the rear of the 125ft deep auditorium. As the Great Depression took hold and vaudeville declined (vaudeville ceased at the State in the mid 1930s) the Gumm Sisters moved to Culver City to appear in experimental Technicolor musicals, and “Leather Lungs” changed her name to Judy Garland.

Operation of the theatre was turned-over to United Artists in 1941 and the theatre’s name changed to the State Theatre. In 1963 the State was acquired by Metropolitan Theatres and it featured many general release movies dubbed into Spanish. Metropolitan Theatres closed the State in 1997.

The auditorium is vast and virtually square in shape, with a lavish Spanish Rococo style ceiling. A particular highlight is the Billiken figure occupying a niche above the center of the proscenium arch (the Billiken, as a good luck charm, sprang from the height of the “Mind-Cure” craze in the United States at the start of the twentieth century). The State also boasts a quite sensational fire/safety curtain, by Armstrong-Powers, depicting a futuristic fantasy city of onion-domed towers surrounded by planets and comet trails.

The State has been used as a filming location several times, and for its role as New York’s Bowery Theatre in Wild Bill (1995) Link opens in new window the production company re-draped the proscenium arch with swags and soft decorations which remain in place to this day.

The State is owned by The Broadway Theatre Group, who also own the Palace, the Los Angeles and Tower theatres, all on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. Until early 2018 the State was leased to church group Cathedral Of Faith. As of mid-2018 the owners are seeking tenants for theatre-related use.

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

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 How do I visit the State Theatre?

The theatre does not currently offer theatre tours. In the past the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District Walking Tour Link opens in new window has gained access to the State Theatre however this may not always be the case - check ahead for details.

Upcoming Special Events
Get Out: Screening & Live Score

Get Out: Screening & Live Score (8th November 2018, 7pm)

Spaceland Presents “Get Out: Screening & Live Score”.

Wordless Music Orchestra, Conducted by score composer Michael Abels.

Thursday Nov 8, 2018. Doors 7pm, Show 8:30pm.

This event is 21 and over. Tickets $36.50 - $81.50, on sale from Thursday 13th September at 10am.

For more info see: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1752607 Link opens in new window


Cloak & Dagger 2018

Cloak & Dagger 2018 (10th November 2018, 3pm to Midnight)

DAF / Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft with She Wants Revenge, The Faint, HEALTH, Boy Harsher, Tamaryn, BOAN, and Black Mare.

Cloak & Dagger Fest is an expansion of the cult-like weekly series created by Adam Bravin (She Wants Revenge) - an infamous party centered around dark music of all genres in an intimate, private environment.

Restless Nites & Spaceland Presents collaborated with Adam to bring the Cloak & Dagger experience to the public last year with our debut 2 day fest. This year we return to DTLA to fill the gorgeous State Theatre with the best that post punk, dark wave, minimal synth and goth rock have to offer. Get to know the lineup, and grab tickets while you can.

Saturday Nov 10, 2018. Doors: 1pm, Show: 3pm. This event is 21 and over.

Tickets $49 Early Bird GA / $59 GA Floor / $69 GA Floor (Day of) / $65 - $175 Reserved Balcony

For more info see: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1734102 Link opens in new window

 Further Reading

Online

 Technical Information

Flying System
System Type Originally a hemp house, a counterweight system was fitted probably in the late 1920s (Single Purchase Counterweight; wire-guide)
Fly Floor 27ft 10in above Stage floor, fly floors located both sides
Linesets Approximately 30 (5 lines per Lineset)
Movie Projection
Projection Booth to Screen Approx 120ft
Screen Dimensions 33ft 4in by 18ft 6in (wide format 44ft 6in by 18ft 6in)
Stage Dimensions
Proscenium Height Approx 34ft
Proscenium Width 48ft 9in
Centerline to SL wall 48ft 5in, with Dressing Rooms overhanging the last 10ft 5in
Centerline to SR lock rail 31ft 2in
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

 Photos of the State Theatre

Auditorium

The Spanish Renaissance inteior was designed by San Francisco firm Weeks & Day. The large chandelier hung over the balcony is not original to the theatre, however we do not have a specific date for when it was added.

The five “bump-outs” along the Balcony front were not used for stage lighting; rather they were originally uplighters.

The areas currently containing stained glass were originally boxes, housing 8-10 seats per side. In later years photos show these areas out of use. The organ chambers are located above the boxes (see section below for photos of the organ chambers).


Auditorium Closeups

Backstage

Originally a hemp house, the State was fitted with a counterweight flying system probably in the late 1920s. The Pin Rails from the original hemp house configuration still exist at both sides of the stage above the dressing rooms. The current flying system comprises around 30 linesets and is notable for being operated from the offstage side, as opposed to the usual onstage position.

Both sides of the stage feature a perch attached to the rear of the proscenium wall approximately 12ft up. These would have linked to a lighting bridge just upstage of the fire and house curtains. The lighting bridge no longer exists.

The theatre features Trunk Doors on either side of the stage, a feature we think is unique amongst Los Angeles theatres. A rope line would have been lowered from the grid and tied around artiste’s traveling trunks, then lifted them to the appropriate Dressing Room level where they would have been hauled-in and moved to the Dressing Room. The reverse procedure would take place upon load-out.


Exterior

The enclosing building, the United Building, cost $2.5M to construct in 1921 and is Los Angeles’ largest brick-clad building. The theatre originally boasted two entrances, one from Broadway and one from 7th St, however the 7th St entrance was removed in 1936. The Broadway entrance has featured several marquees over the years, with the current neon incarnation having been installed in 1949.


Lobby and Public Areas

The lobbies were originally carpeted with what appears to have been a floral design. The Upper Lobby featured comfortable sofas and fan palms, and the elaborate grillework in the ceiling conceals ventilation grilles. The theatre originally boasted two entrances, one from Broadway and one from 7th St, however the 7th St entrance was removed in 1936.


Organ Chambers

Located above the boxes, the organ chambers have fairly substantial grilles out into the auditorium so the sound must have been somewhat muted. The House Right chamber is accessed via stairway and short ladder from the Auditorium Box below it whereas the House Left chamber is accessed via two ladders from the fire escape outside the Stage Right third floor dressing room corridor.


Projection Booth

The Projection Booth was proclaimed to be the largest in the world according to the Exhibitors Trade Review in December 1921. It was said to contain a shower bath, with hot running water, however there is currently no evidence that a shower bath was ever included!

The booth features two access points: a door from the rear of the auditorium and access from the fourth floor of the office building adjoining the theatre. This means the projection booth is accessible by elevator, probably a unique feature amongst Los Angeles theatres.

The booth has three main projector positions with two racks for audio equipment on the right side. The room to the right of the main projector room houses electrical equipment and the arc generators. The room to the left of the main projector room features a single projection portal and may have been used for standalone slide projection. This room links back to the office buidling via a short corridor.

As of Spring 2018 the Broadway Theatre Group Link opens in new window are getting the projection equipment back into a working state in preparation for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Link opens in new window “Last Remaining Seats” screening on 2nd June.


All photographs copyright © 2002-2018 Mike Hume/historictheatrephotos.com. For licensing and/or re-use contact me here.



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