1050 S. Hill St. / Los Angeles
(L) 2007 & (R) 2010
- Entrance to the Belasco Theatre, before and after reconstruction -
This was the second theatre built in Los Angeles with the Belasco name (the first was at 327 S. Main Street).
It opened November 11, 1926 (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos) under architects Morgan,
Walls & Clements, a company that produced a number of great theatres, including the Mayan-- built next
door as soon as the Belasco was finished. The entire auditorium is covered by a huge gilded dome.
- Belasco facade details -
Some of the auditorium wall surfaces hare plaster but have the appearance of gathered draperies.
Currently the main floor seating has been removed, but originally it seated 1601. The balcony has
tables and chairs. In addition to the theatre the building has an upstairs ballroom, which has a
separate entrance and can hold up to 400.
(L) 2008 & (R) 2010
- Belasco Theatre Auditorium, before and after reconstruction -
The Belasco was intended primarily as a house for straight plays, while the Mayan was designed
for musicals. Frederic Belasco was one of the original partners but the theatre was named for the
more famous brother, producer David Belasco. The big bankroller for both this and the Mayan
Theatre was oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny, who hoped to get a new more fashionable legitimate
theatre district started away from Main Street.
For the decade that Edward Belasco was managing the theatre, the format was generally legit plays
on two week runs. He had a knack for getting Hollywood talent with legit roots to appear in his
productions. The venue was a hotspot for Hollywood performers and directors checking out the
latest dramas. Many attractions first appearing in Los Angeles at the Belasco were subsequently
filmed. Many of the productions were offered in conjunction with the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.
- View from stage -
Performers appearing here included Fay Bainter, Tallulah Bankhead, Lionel Barrymore,
Joan Bennett, Richard Bennett, Billie Burke, Ruth Chatterton, Ina Claire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.,
Glenda Farrell, James Gleason, Betty Grable, Helen Hayes, Hedda Hopper, Leslie Howard,
Gertrude Lawrence, Edmund Lowe, Alan Mowbray, Ken Murray, Edward G. Robinson,
May Robson, Flora Robson, Gilbert Roland, C. Aubrey Smith, Sidney Toler, Frederic March and Warren William.
In the late 1930s, the Belasco was used for several WPA Federal Theatre Project productions.
The Belasco closed in 1952 as a regular theatrical venue. It was in use as a church until 1984.
It got a renovation in the mid-80s but until 2011 had seen only occasional film shoots and other rentals.
It's been renovated for renewed use as a bar, dance club and restaurant. Christina and John Kim have
invested nearly $10 million into restoration and improvements to the structure after securing a long term
lease from building owner Mehdi Bolour. The 2nd floor ballroom will sometimes be used for events
separate from the main theatre space. There's also a downstairs lounge, a street level wine bar
("Vintage 10 Fifty") and two restaurant spaces.
- Lobby (2011) -
In August 2010 the Downtown L. A. News ran a story, "Bringing Back the Belasco," about the Kim's
struggles with the City of Los Angeles and its next-door neighbor, the Mayan, about the re-opening
of the theatre. Concerns about noise, congestion and drug use, with a doubling of crowds on the
block were made if two theatres were running. Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic
Theatre Foundation noted that this was precisely the kind of action the buildings were designed for.
The Belasco's stage depth is 38 feet, with both left and right wing space of 50 feet. All dressing
rooms and a large green room are in the basement. There is a pit (currently covered) and the
stage has a movable paint bridge.
We get a brief glimpse of the Belasco interior in the 1999 film "Being John Malkovich"
(which also features a view from the stage of the Los Angeles Theatre.) The Belasco has also
been featured in "Swordfish" with John Travolta (2001) and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005).
In Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (Touchstone/Warner Bros, 2006) with Hugh Jackman
and Michael Caine we get several interior views of the Belasco. It functions as a cluttered
workshop for Jackman's final illusion. Movie-Locations.com has a page on "The Prestige."
(The film also features the Palace and Los Angeles Theatre interiors.)
- 1920 hat check tag -
Programs available from this theatre:
The Heart of the Geisha /1905
Fortunes of the King /1905
Sowing the Wind /1905
Sheridan (or) The Maid of Bath /1905
When Knighthood Was In Flower /1906
Captain Swift /1908
A Grand Army Man /1908
In The Bishop's Carriage /1908
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes /1926
- 1944 postcard -
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