Monday, August 29, 2016

"I Saw the Light"

Hank Williams came to Hollywood in April of 1952 to talk to Dore Schary at MGM about a proposed film project. As an introduction to that scene in the biopic of the singer "I Saw the Light" (Sony Pictures Classics, 2015) we get a 15 second snippet of stock footage featuring the Chinese. The film, directed by Marc Abraham, stars Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen.

Kurt Wahlner, curator of the Grauman's Chinese history website, notes that they got the year right but the footage was actually shot a bit later. He says: "My extensive research indicates that it was taken in October or November of that year, as all the large forecourt trees were trimmed in October, 1952. This shot has the bushier palm trees, but the tree in the corner has been clipped already."

See our many pages on the Chinese Theatre for photos and history.

On IMDb: "I Saw the Light"

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Last Action Hero"

In John McTiernan's "Last Action Hero" (Columbia, 1993) young Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) gets a magic ticket from a friendly projectionist that propels him into another dimension of the movies. He starts on 42nd St. in New York City at the "Pandora Theatre" (actually the Empire) but when we go inside we're at the Orpheum, 842 S. Broadway, in Los Angeles.  The Pandora, as we see from the signage, is about to be demolished so it can be replaced with a new Loew's multiplex.

When they shot the 42nd St. sequences the neighborhood was already being redeveloped. The theatres were all closed and plans were in place for the "New 42nd St."  The filmmakers had to make the street grungier again and put appropriate film titles on the various marquees.

Danny's a big fan of fan of Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his ticket allows him to enter Jack's world where the heroes always win. The film is surprisingly funny and what's not to like?  It's all about the joy of going to the movies in run-down old theatres.

Inside the Orpheum with a creature coming down the aisle. It's death. He's escaped off the screen from a nearby theatre's screening of "The Seventh Seal."

Strange things are happening in the theatre after the screen goes blank. 

Spectral phenomena in a view of the top of the Orpheum's proscenium.

Our young hero alone in the theatre.

The set built for the booth scenes. Definitely not the Orpheum booth. We're still running 2,000 foot reels yet we have an automation system installed. Looks like our Magnarcs have been converted to Xenon.

Another look at the booth set. Exactly the improvised situation you would hope to see going up to the top of an old legit house that had no booth originally.

We're supposedly in New York City in this sequence (as in the whole movie). Yet Arnold and his young friend are in a rainy night traffic jam chasing the bad guy (Charles Dance) on 8th St. in front of L.A.'s Olympic Theatre. See our pages on the Olympic for more about the 1927 vintage theatre, now used for retail.

A lobby scene shot at the Orpheum.

A look back toward the booth. Don't you love that 2x5 multicell horn?

A wider shot up to the booth.

A look at the rear of the main floor. The filmmakers took pains to make the Orpheum look much more rundown than it was at the time.

All is well at the end of the film as our heroes, young and old, race up an aisle of the Orpheum. Head over to our Orpheum Theatre pages for information about the building, a 1926 design of San Francisco based G. Albert Lansburgh.

When we go to the premiere of the film "Jack Slater IV" we're at the National Twin in Times Square.  Leo the Fart's funeral sequence was filmed at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach.

The site Movie-Locations has a page on filming locations. On the Set of New York also has a page which has images of several New York locations.  The blog MediaTwin has a great post about the film's recreation of the 42nd St. grindhouse era. The website Silver Screens also has a page about the film which has good coverage of all the theatres on 42nd St. that we see in the film.  

On IMDb: "Last Action Hero"

"Fight Club"

Brad Pitt is at a rewind bench placed near the south wall of the booth at the Los Angeles Theatre in David Fincher's "Fight Club" (20th Century Fox, 1999).

Edward Norton is at the other end of the booth telling us that Brad doesn't like his "shit job"as a projectionist so he amuses himself by splicing frames of porno into the family films he's showing.

While Norton tells us about the process of running a booth, Brad helpfully points out what a changeover cue looks like.

A view along the booth front wall with Norton again talking to us while Pitt, behind, is looking out a port ready for a changeover.

The "Fight Club" booth scene appears in "Projection: 85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies," a delightful 12 minute compilation by Joseph Holmes that's on Vimeo.

Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter have a bit of a tussle before she gets on a bus in front of the Olympic Theatre, 313 W. 8th St. On the marquee is "Seven Years in Tibet," a Brad Pitt film from 1997.

Another shot on 8th St. just west of the Olympic.  

Edward Norton walking down 8th St. after Helena boards the bus. Again we get some of the Olympic. In the background at 8th & Broadway is the Tower Theatre. The website Silver Screens has a page on the film with several additional shots from this scene.

See our pages on the Olympic Theatre and the Tower Theatre for more about these buildings. 

On IMDb: "Fight Club"

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"The War of the Worlds"

 Early in the George Pal production "The War of the Worlds" (Paramount, 1953) we get this shot of a guy up on a ladder changing marquee letters as a Martian spaceship plunges through the atmosphere. Nice, but it's something on the Paramount back lot.  The film, directed by Byron Haskin, stars Gene Barry and Ann Robinson.

Our real theatre views happen much later in the film as the aliens get closer to Los Angeles and we evacuate the city. Here, in a shot looking south on Hill St. taken from atop the Hill St. tunnel we get a bit of the Mason Theatre stagehouse over on the left. It's the structure with the peaked roof and smoke vents atop.

The theatre's entrance was actually over at 127 S. Broadway. See our Mason Theatre page for many views of the entrance as well as interior shots.  The Mason was demolished in 1956.

As we clear out the city there's this shot looking east on 8th St. At the far right we get some of the signage for the RKO Hillstreet, a building that would be demolished in 1965.

Down between Hill and Broadway is a view of the Olympic Theatre, 313 W. 8th St. Of note here is that this is the first image to surface with the theatre's current vertical sign on the building. Both the style of the sign and its location had been changed.

Previously there had been two verticals, one at either end of the facade.  The marquee we see is a jazzed up version of the one that was on the theatre in 1927. It would get changed out for an angled one sometime before 1970 -- we see the new version in "The Omega Man."

Another shot from near the end of the film showing the Olympic's vertical. Again we're looking west toward Broadway. See our Olympic Theatre pages for more about the theatre. The building is still around but now converted to retail.

On IMDb: "The War of the Worlds"

"Loving You"

The word is that Elvis Presley performs on the Ivar stage in "Loving You" (Paramount, 1957). See our page on the Ivar Theatre for more information on the venue. The theatre is located at 1605 Ivar Ave. in Hollywood.

On IMDb: "Loving You"

Monday, August 8, 2016

"Down To Earth"

For film enthusiasts, the high point in "Down To Earth" (Columbia, 1947), an  otherwise dreary film, is driving east on 8th St. past the RKO Hillstreet where another Hayworth film, "Gilda" is playing. We see the theatre (and other downtown L.A. nighttime sights) out the back window of her taxi via a process shot.  

The eleven minutes of background footage that Columbia shot in 1946 is a great tour of a vanished civilization -- and much more interesting than the completed Hayworth film.  The footage is on Internet Archive as "Downtown Los Angeles Streets - 1946." Internet Archive also has another link to the footageIt also appears as a post on the site Ultra Swank.

A look back at the RKO Hillstreet, 8th & Hill,  as we continue east on 8th.  See our page on the RKO Hillstreet Theatre for many photos. It was built in 1922 by the Orpheum circuit, a design of G. Albert Lansburgh.  Sadly, it was demolished in the 60s.

The Hillstreet receding into the distance. That's a bit of the Olympic Theatre marquee on the right.

 A bit more of the Olympic appearing as we get closer to Broadway.

About as much of the Olympic Theatre, 313 W. 8th St., as we're going to see on this pass.

A quick look at the 8th St. side of the Tower Theatre building after crossing Broadway. The newsstand was on the extreme end of the building -- that's the alley at the left.   We also get a look at 7th St.

Another look at the Olympic marquee in the "Down To Earth" footage on a return trip heading west on 8th. The marquee at the time was  a much flashier confection than the one on the theatre in the 70s and beyond.  See our Olympic Theatre pages for many photos of the building. It's still there on 8th but now used for retail.

Later there are quick looks at all the theatres on the east side of Broadway including the Orpheum, Tower Theatre (again) and the Globe.  In the shot above it's the Tower (at the time called the Music Hall) and the Rialto Theatre beyond.

The footage:

Also: Nicole Wonders has taken the 11 minutes of footage and done a modern trip through downtown Los Angeles on the same streets for a time travel comparison.
Check it out on YouTube:
| part one  | part two  |  part three  |

Thanks to Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for sending the link to this time travel adventure our way.

On IMDb: "Down To Earth"

"Boston Blackie's Rendezvous"

We get the signage of the Olympic Theatre, 313 W. 8th St., in "Boston Blackie's Rendezvous" (Columbia, 1945). It's a crime drama starring Chester Morris and Nina Foch. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Jeff Bridges for the screenshot. He's got it on Flickr.

See our Olympic Theatre pages for many photos of the building. It's still there on 8th but now used for retail.

On IMDb: "Boston Blackie's Rendezvous"

"Café Society"

We visit three movie palaces in Woody Allen's "Café Society" (Lionsgate, 2016). When Bronx native Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) comes to Hollywood he goes to see the sights after he can't get in to see his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a big-time agent). We get a nice pan down the pagoda at Grauman's Chinese to find Eisenberg admiring the hand and foot prints of Gloria Swanson. The time is the 30s -- in the forecourt posters are out for "Swing Time."

Later Bobby gets acquainted with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), Phil's secretary. We get a similar pan down the facade of the Vista Theatre, where Bobby and Vonnie have gone to see Barbara Stanwyck in "The Woman In Red."

Our third visit happens as our narrator mentions something about "Hollywood movie palaces" and we get this nice shot down an opulent Moorish lobby nothing like anything in Hollywood. We're actually at Loew's 175th St. in New York.

On IMDb: "Café Society"

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"The Omega Man"

A commuter's dream: deserted streets of downtown Los Angeles in Boris Sagal's "The Omega Man" (Warner Bros., 1971). Here we see Charlton Heston cruising west on 8th St. past the Tower Theatre, 8th and Broadway, in a traffic-free Los Angeles.  He seems to be the only guy around but, as the ads said: "Pray for the last man alive. Because he's not alone."

A great look down on the Tower in "The Omega Man" -- before the top of the clock tower was removed.  Here' we're looking west on 8th with the red vertical of the Olympic Theatre down there in the shadows. Behind the Tower, it's the Hamburger / May Co. department store building. Across the street on the northwest corner it's the Merritt Bldg., here with a Home Savings office still on the first floor.

See our many web pages on the Tower Theatre for information on this S. Charles Lee designed theatre from 1927.

Charlton Heston pulling up in front of the Olympic, 313 W. 8th St. It's all self service. The staff is gone so he has to go up to the booth to thread it up himself.  

On his Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page Ken McIntyre has a screenshot of the scene above paired with a 2012 exterior view.

As Heston gets out of his car at the Olympic we get another shot featuring the Tower Theatre as we look east on 8th. Thanks to the blog "Dear Old Hollywood" for this one. It comes from their 2009 article "The Omega Man - Film Locations."  The site Omega Planet also has shots of many filming locations.

It's movie time! In the booth striking the arc in a Magnarc. Well, a more experienced projectionist would do it with the door closed. 

In the auditorium watching "Woodstock." Not the first time -- he knows all the lines. It's unknown where this was shot -- the sidewall decor doesn't look like the Olympic's.

Heading out after the show at the Olympic.  If you'd like to learn more about the theatre, we've got three pages on the Olympic Theatre with many photos inside and out.  The building is now used for retail.

On IMDb: "The Omega Man"

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


It's curious that in Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin" (Carolco Pictures, 1993) we visit the Los Angeles Theatre twice for premieres that didn't happen there. And get no mention of the premiere there for "City Lights," which opened the theatre in January 1931.

The film's characters discuss "Modern Times" (1936) and we see several shots from the film. But we don't get to a premiere for it.  Our first visit is to see "The Great Dictator" (1940), Chaplin's first talkie. In this shot we get the Los Angeles Theatre's majestic act curtain slowly rising to reveal the empty screen.  Note they've dressed the stage with palm trees -- not an unusual touch in early theatres.

They don't tell us we're at the Los Angeles and this is the only time in the film we see the auditorium. Well, they had to shoot it somewhere. The film actually had its premiere October 11, 1940 at the Carthay Circle, a theatre no longer with us.

A title card announcing the patriotism of United Artists,  a company in which Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford were major shareholders.

A moment later we get Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.) and Oona O'Neil Chaplin (Moira Kelly) on the house right side of the theatre's first balcony. Kelly also played Chaplin's first love Hetty Kelly much earlier in the film.

Others featured in the lengthy but terrific film include Paul Rhys as brother Sydney, Geraldine Chaplin as crazy mother Hannah, Dan Ackroyd as Mack Sennett, Diane Lane as Paulette Goddard, Marisa Tomei as Mabel Normand and Anthony Hopkins as a fictional book editor. See it!

We're back at the Los Angeles in 1952 for the premiere of "Limelight," Chaplin's last Hollywood film -- and another film that didn't premiere there.  This time an announcer tells specifically we're at the Los Angeles. In the shot above Chaplin and his wife Oona are arriving outside -- note the "Limelight" poster.

Fox West Coast had booked the film for a Los Angeles engagement in January 1953 at one of their theatres. And then cancelled. Public protests about Chaplin were mounting.  Which we see some of in this scene of the film: "Are you a communist, Charlie?" and so forth.

Inside the entrance doors.

Making their way through the lobby.

Heading up the stairs to the landing for the faux "Limelight" premiere.

Not only did "Limelight" not get a Los Angeles premiere at the Los Angeles Theatre but it didn't play L.A. at all -- until 1972.  Fox West Coast didn't want to deal with the protests -- and nobody else would touch it either. There was an east coast premiere at the Astor in New York City on October 23, 1952 that went off evidently without a hitch. The film shows Chaplin and his wife sailing for the London premiere (which also happened). Immigration authorities (and Chaplin's enemy J. Edgar Hoover) made sure he couldn't get back into the country.  He didn't return until 1972.

The website has a page with information on some of the other locations used for the film.

Our many web pages on the Los Angeles Theatre feature several hundred photos of all areas of the theatre.

On IMDb: "Chaplin"

"Knight Of Cups"

We spend a lot of time in and on top of the Palace Theatre in "Knight of Cups" (Broad Green Pictures, 2015. Here we get a look over the edge at the Los Angeles Theatre and a deserted Broadway.

The film is a wide ranging meditation on death, family and relationships crafted by Terrence Malick. It stars Christian Bale as Rick, a screenwriter we never quite see working, and Brian Dennehy as his cantankerous old father, Joseph. Numerous women in Bales' life surface at one time or another for various degrees of happiness or trauma including Cate Blanchett, Frida Pinto, Natalie Portman, Teresa Palmer and Isabel Lucas.

Christian Bale on the roof of the Palace. The film gives us lots of voiceover musings: "Can't figure your life out? Can't put the pieces together? A pilgrim on this earth. A stranger."

See our many web pages on the Palace Theatre, a 1911 vintage vaudeville house, for lots of history and photos.

Another night Palace roof shot -- this one from the photo collection for the film on IMDb

We're on 7th St. looking west with versions of Bale and Dennehy from decades past. It looks like they're planning a fishing trip. "You're always doing it. Pretending everything's OK." Down at 7th & Hill we get a fuzzy view of the Warner Theatre.

We move from the roof to an undisclosed location for another scene. But we're still in the Palace building. It was shot in the Palace office building's 5th floor studio space.

Another 5th floor studio shot -- this one from IMDb.

A look at one of the lower office floors in the Palace office building. It's used as the office building where Bales' father, Brian Dennehy used to work. 

Trying to get in the front door of, presumably, the building where Dennehy once worked. We're rattling the doors and banging. Here we're in the ticket lobby of the Palace.

Another shot in the ticket lobby only this time we're out near the roll-down door at the sidewalk.

Trying the doors again.

Another angle looking out toward Broadway.

Is this supposed to be a theatre that Dennehy owned? Unexplained. In any case, he's ranting as he paces the stage. With a little bit of fog for effect. All curious.

Another stage shot.

Leaving the building. We're in the exit passageway north of the theatre, pointed toward the alley.

Back on the Palace roof for a daytime scene, for some reason. Here we have a view south toward the State Theatre at 7th and Broadway. The musings: "You think when you reach a certain age things will start to make sense. Then you're just as lost as before..."

A Scene near the end of the film on Western Ave. -- after many wanderings. We're looking south with a view of the Wiltern Theatre at Wilshire and Western.

You'll find many photos of different areas of the Palace Theatre on our 11 web pages about the venerable building.

On "IMDb: "Knight of Cups."