Metropolitan Theater – Los Angeles

The Metropolitan Theater no longer stands. It only exists in photographs. It was demolished in 1960 and was a Sid Grauman Theater located across from Pershing Square, at the corner of 6th and Hill Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. I came across some photos of the theater at work. The architect of the theater is William Lee Woollett but I haven’t been able to find a book on him which is amazing. The architect of the outer building, which housed the theater, was Edwin Bergstrom.

This is a LA Public Library photo.

This is a LA Public Library photo.

A drawing of what the building originally would have looked like.

A drawing of what the building originally would have looked like.

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I found some great images of The Metropolitan Theater in this book. The book is from 1927.

This is an interior image. This book is 14 inches by 20 inches so it didn't fit on my scanner. I was reduced to taking photographs of the pages with my Kodak Easyshare.

This is an interior image. This book is 14 inches by 20 inches so it didn’t fit on my scanner. I was reduced to taking photographs of the pages with my Kodak Easyshare.

Here are some interior details.

More interior images.

The Metropolitan's proscenium.

The Metropolitan’s proscenium.

Here's a nice elevation.

Here’s a nice elevation.

Another elevation.

Another elevation.

A longitude.

A longitude.

I'm not sure what this is.

I’m not sure what this is.

The images that follow are from an old book from 1927 title Concrete in Architecture.

The images that follow are from a 1927 book titled: Concrete in Architecture. This building cost three million dollars to construct according to the LA Times though the LA Examiner claimed it was four million. It had two entrances: one on Hill and one on Sixth. There was 155 feet of frontage on 6th while Hill had 247 feet of frontage. On Sixth St. the entrance was set back ten feet from the rest of the building to create a grander entrance. There were shops along the frontage on both streets and the building itself had Edwin Bergstrom as its architect while Woollett designed the theater. The buildings foundation could support thirteen stories but only six stories were built. The Last Remaining Seats‘ Ben Hall says the theater’s style was “Hispano-Persian” and sat 3,485 people. A reporter for the LA Times who covered the premiere, Edwin Schallert, called it “primitive massiveness” which seems more accurate to me. *Charles Beardsley, in his book Hollywood’s Master Showman, says those two columns next to the stage support “mythical griffon heads.”

The Mezzanine.

The Mezzanine.

Another view of the mezzanine underneath the balcony.

Another view of the mezzanine underneath the balcony.

This is the mural between the supports in the previous image.

This is the mural between the balcony supports in the previous image.

 

It's a lion and reptile combined.

It’s a lion and a reptile combined.

A snail deer? Okay, I think somebody was on drugs.

A snail deer? Okay, I don’t want to be disrespectful but I think somebody was on drugs.

This is the balcony entrance.

This is the balcony entrance.

A way into the theater.

A way into the theater.

Movies are a diversion.

Movies are a diversion.

Inside the theater. One of the walls.

Inside the theater. On one of the walls. The walls were deliberately left “rough” to show how the building was constructed.

A wall sconce.

A wall sconce.

This is the mezzanine from the other side. The photo is from a publication called Architect.

This is the mezzanine from the other side. The photo is from a publication called  The Architect.

Here's a Buddah nestled in a niche up in the balcony.

Here’s a Buddah nestled in a niche up in the balcony.

This is from Architectural Digest.

This is from Architectural Digest. The bottom image is why I’m including this. What’s beyond that door? My guess would be a restroom.

The following photos are from this publication.

The following photos are from this publication.

It was a long article and there are lots of pictures.

It was a long article and there are lots of pictures.

It's by the architect William Lee Woollett.

It’s by the architect William Lee Woollett.

Near the proscenium.

Near the proscenium.

What appears to be the lobby.

What appears to be the lobby?

A lantern and modern art?

A lantern and some modern art.

Pendants, pendants, pendants.

Pendants.

This is a model of what's on top of the column; the mythical griffith.

This is a model of what’s on top of the column; the mythical griffith.

A model of that deer snail.

A model of that deer snail. The more I look at it the more I like it.

It's deemed a work of art.

It’s deemed a work of art by this writer.

work of art page two

Work of art page two

Bernard Maybeck, who created one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, had this to say about the Metropolitan Theater.

Bernard Maybeck, who created one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, had this to say about the Metropolitan Theater.

Bernie "Palace of Fine Arts" Maybeck page 2

Bernie “Palace of Fine Arts” Maybeck page 2

I was looking through old journals, for something else, when I found this. California Southland was a publication that was put out in the 20s. It appears to be something from a chamber of commerce entity and it was published in Pasadena.

I was looking through old journals, for something else, when I found this article. California Southland appears to be something from a chamber of commerce-like entity and was published in Pasadena.

The article is written by William Lee Woollett. It appears rather high-minded.

The article is written by William Lee Woollett. It appears rather high-minded.

That grill-work is nice.

That grill-work is nice.

I like the image of Woollett in the bottom photo.

I like the image of Woollett in the bottom photo.

The premiere for the theater was held on January 21, 1923. The first film shown was My American Wife starring Gloria Swanson and Antonio Moreno. The host was Theodore Roberts and many of the stars who attended are depicted in the pictures that follow*. LA Times reporter, William Schallert, claimed there were twenty to thirty thousand people on the street who couldn’t get in because the venue was sold out even though tickets cost $5 per person. What he describes below sounds like a scene right out of Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust (1937) but it couldn’t have really been that bad, could it?

  • In a section of his article titled CROWD IS UNRULY Schallert states: “The early part of the program was punctuated at intervals by shouts from the crowds outside. At one time due to the way they crowded around the door, signs of a riot appeared. The militia was forced to hold the crowd back with their rifles and several times struggles for the possession of the guns between members of the mob and the soldiers were seen. The police had to be continually on guard to keep the crowd from storming the theater so great was the spectators desire to obtain a glimpse of the stars and of the interior of the house.”

The reporter went on to describe the proceedings onstage and said the most rousing moment was when the orchestra played the Star Spangled Banner and two men, dressed as Uncle Sam, stood up in balconies that flanked the stage to great applause. According to Schallert while there were many female stars present they weren’t part of the onstage festivities. During the proceedings, the stars in the audience, were asked to stand so the audience could see them but despite being movie stars, on this particular night, the stars were for the most part shy and declined to have the spotlight turned on them.

  • As for the theater Schallert states this in a section titled THROUGH MAIN ENTRANCE: “Of course, the house is ornate beyond any one’s conception. One gets the most striking effect by coming in through the main entrance on Sixth street. Here all the  massiveness of the mezzanine floor’s decorative scheme strikes the vision. One gazes upon an elaborate blending of color on all sides and, above, finds that these assume shape in sculpture and fresco and painting at every turn. Truly the pictorial note is sounded in every part of the theater, yet without distraction to the audience. The building as a whole has a primitive massiveness and sweep. It is not quite free from draughts as yet but this slight detriment can probably be easily obviated and when it is, the theater will be a glorious and perfect example of the palatial and magnificent that harks back the medieval era and yet is filled with the spirit of the present day.”
  • Regarding the Gloria Swanson film Schallert wrote under LOCAL OF THE PICTURE: “The romantic local of “My American Wife,” will attract the theatergoer. It offers a horse race in fashionable South America, a deul and some other items of excitement. Gloria plays detective in the picture and routs the faction that is rival to that of her lover. “My American Wife” is therefore entertaining, though not altogether believable and offers a cast of rather exceptional interest. Most of all, though, the public will want to see the theater and it will flock there during the next few weeks. The mob surging around the doors last night gave ample evidence.”

*This list of attendees is from Charles Beardsley’s book on Grauman’s theaters. All of the stars that follow were at the Metropolitan’s premiere.

LIST OF ATTENDEES

theodore roberts

She was the greatest star of them all.

ANTONIO MORENO

blanche sweet

william desmond

ruth roland

img059 (2)

buster keaton

charles ray

norma talmadge

lois wilson

marie prevost

tom mix

hal roach 2

milton sills

mary pickford

doug fairbanks

I recently found this postcard. It has some writing on the front. A mother sent this postcard to her son.

I recently found this postcard. It has some writing on the front. A mother sent this postcard to her son.

What’s interesting is that Grauman opened the Metropolitan on January 21, 1923 but by July of 1924 he had sold all his interest in this theater, The Million Dollar and The Rialto. They were bought by the Publix group and by 1929 a Paramount marquee hung outside the theater. The building was demolished in 1960 for a parking lot. The firm hired to demolish the building lost money because they couldn’t get the building down by the deadline.

That's Rube Wolf, of Fanchon and Marco on the stage.

That’s Rube Wolf, of Fanchon and Marco, on the Metropolitan’s stage when the theater was being torn down.

——————————————————————————————————

Beardsley, C. (1983). Hollywood’s master showman: the legendary Sid Grauman. Cranbury, NJ: Cornwall Books.

Concrete in architecture. (1927). Chicago: Portland Cement Association.

Fox, C. & Silver, M. L. (Ed.) (1920). Who’s who on the screen. New York: Ross Publishing, Co.

Hall, B. (1961). The best remaining seats: the story of the golden age of the movie palace. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.

Metropolitan Theater. (1922). 1922 Year book of architecture and allied arts: southern California chapter, American institute of architects, Los Angeles architectural club. Los Angeles: Young & McCallister.

Metropolitan Theater. (1925, March). The Architect, 3(3), 142-144.

Reagan, O. (Ed.). (1927). American architecture of the twentieth century. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company.

Schallert, E. (1923, January 27). Crowd surges at theater; premiere of Grauman’s metropolitan is in the midst of dazzling splendor. Los Angeles Times, 3.

Woollett, W. E. (1923, April). The architect and the craftsman. California Southland, (40), 11-13.

Woollett, W. E. (1923, May). Concrete and creative architecture. The Architect and Engineer, 73(2), 51-90.

 

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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