Monday, April 14, 2008

The Million-Dollar Million Dollar Theatre Gamble

(Flickr pic by Agilitynut.)

One-time movie director-turned-disco promoter-turned developer Robert Voskanian is readying downtown's Million Dollar Theatre for its close-up.

As the L.A. Times writes, Voskanian and partners signed a 20-year lease in 2006 from the Yellin Co. to run the theatre. The Million Dollar, which opened in 1918, had hit tough times (like most of Broadway's movie palaces), and has been completely dark since a church left five years ago. Now, Voskanian has invested $1 million in renovations -- which is a start.

The paper writes:

Located at Broadway and 3rd Street, the Million Dollar was once considered the grande dame of the marvelous movie palaces that line L.A.'s historic theater district. It was Sid Grauman's first movie house in town, designed by noted architect Albert C. Martin Sr. and hailed as one of the finest in the world when it opened on Feb. 1, 1918, to a crowd of celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille. For decades, it would serve as the site of glitzy Hollywood premieres, often preceded by live vaudeville shows featuring the likes of Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson...

The Spanish Baroque auditorium (designed by William Woollett) must have been awe-inspiring in its day, with its massive arched proscenium, 75-foot-high coved ceilings, filigreed organ grilles and massive balcony, an engineering feat at the time. The tenants have replaced the ragged carpets and painted everything from the gold vases in the alcoves to the ornate chandeliers. But there's a lot left to do, judging from the water stains on the high ceiling caused before leaks were fixed. The balcony is closed off pending repair of a rickety exterior staircase. But the show must go on. Already scheduled this year are a film festival, a beauty contest and two screenings as part of Last Remaining Seats, the conservancy's annual film series in historic venues.

For the venue's first major concert in a decade, Mexico's Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan will perform there on May 11.

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