Hollywood is constantly changing as we mentioned in last weeks post about all of the construction happening in our neighborhood. However, there are still some good old classics in the area that really make Hollywood a special place. Located just around the corner from the Hollywood Pantages is The Montalbán Theatre.
Built in 1926, the theatre’s architect was Myron Hunt, whose work included the Rose Bowl, CalTech, the Ambassador Hotel, and many other Southern California landmarks. Named The Wilkes Brothers Vine Street Theatre in honor of its builders, it was the first legitimate Broadway-style theatre in Hollywood. Its inaugural presentation in 1927 was an acclaimed production of Theodore Dreiser’s “an American Tragedy.”
The Mirror Theatre now known as The Montalbán Theatre in 1932
The Montalbán and The Hollywood Pantages have more in common than a zip code. In the early 1930’s Howard Hughes acquired the theatre to convert it into the first fully-automated cinema and renamed it the Mirror. The Hollywood Pantages too was owned by Hughes in the early 1950’s.
By 1935 Hughes was out of the movie business and sold the theatre to CBS Radio. Durring this time local station KNX hosted its now famous Lux Radio Theatre. For many years legendary producer/director Cecil B. DeMille was the producer and host.
An early incarnation of the Montalbán Theatre as the CBS KNX Radio Playhouse
As the years went on the focus turned to television. CBS sold the theatre to Huntington Hartford, heir to the A&P grocery store fortune. He spent $750,000 to remodel and restore the theatre into a legitimate stage venue.
The Huntington Hartford Theatre now known as the Montalbán in 1963
In 1964 James Doolittle, who at the time was running the Greek Theatre purchased the theatre. Over the next 20 years Doolittle added to the reputation of the theatre with his smart productions.
Interiors of The Montalbán Theatre.
When the Doolittle era came to an end, UCLA took over, but, after several years, the theatre went dark until Ricardo Montalbán stepped in. He envisioned having a physical presence in Hollywood that would provide inspiration and training for emerging artists in the Hispanic community and thus enable them to mainstream into the performing arts and the broader entertainment industry. The theatre was a perfect home base for implementing that vision, and the Hispanic community, which respected his talent, success and his inclusive politics, mobilized to support the acquisition of the theatre. In 1999 a generous and anonymous donation enabled the Ricardo Montalbán Foundation to buy the building, and the Foundation reopened the theatre in May 2004 as The Montalbán.
Ricardo Montalbán in The King and I.
Today the Montalbán Theatre is one of the few remaining mid-sized and fully-equipped proscenium theatres in Los Angeles and is known for its excellent sight lines and acoustics. The Theatre and the Foundation are partnered with community performing arts groups such as the Harmony Project, the Lula Washington Dance Company, the Tierra Blanca Arts Center and the UDLA. The Montalbán has also hosted a variety of professional productions including Selena, Culture Clash’s Zorro in Hell, The Who’s Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar (with the original cast), A Night Without Monty Python (with Eric Idle and other stars), a closed-circuit broadcast of the World Cup, an evening with comedian Billy Connolly, and most recently a two-week run of John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown.
For more information about The Montalbán theatre and their events CLICK HERE.
Blog Source: http://www.themontalban.com/history-of-our-theater/