Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For Sale: Downtown's United Artists Theater; Slightly Used

The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at downtown L.A.'s historic Broadway theater district, centering on the potential rebirth of the United Artists Theatre.

The newspaper spoke to Hillsman Wright, the executive director of the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation, who's got his eye on the United Artists:

The Spanish gothic-styled picture palace was built in 1927 by studio founders D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. It’s one of 12 remaining historic theaters that dot a six block stretch along Broadway Ave., forming the historic core of downtown Los Angeles...

The UA Theater got saved by religion. The building is best known for its iconic Jesus Saves signs that became the burning neon brand for Dr. Gene Scott, the grizzled televangelist who exhaled scripture between puffs of cigar smoke and musical interludes on his saxophone. Scott was invited to move his operation into the theater in 1990 where he would broadcast his quirky Christian programming over the next 15 years. His staff also kept up the restoration and maintenance.

When Scott died in 2005, his widow, Melissa Scott, decided to move the empire north to their Glendale campus. They are now selling the theater with its 12-story office tower for $12 million (dropped from $15) and Wright wants more than anything to buy it. His plans are to turn the UA back into an entertainment venue for films and/or live performances because he believes the grandiose d├ęcor honors performers and inspires the audience. Although the 28-foot stage can’t accommodate big productions, he says there are other theaters that can. So the UA would host medium sized productions or movies.

The UA seats 2,214. Anybody got $12 million to spare?

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