<< Go Back up to Region ‘Los Angeles: Hollywood’

Follow Mike Hume’s Historic Theatre Photography: Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Instagram Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Facebook Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Twitter
Vista Theatre, Hollywood

Vista Theatre, Hollywood

Former Names: Bard’s Hollywood Theatre

Website: http://www.vintagecinemas.com/vista/ Open website in new window

Telephone: (323) 660-6639 Call (323) 660-6639

Address: 4473 Sunset Drive, Los Angeles Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos

 Overview

The Vista, a single-screen neighborhood movie theatre, opened on 9th October 1923. Originally called Bard’s Hollywood Theatre, opening night consisted of some vaudeville acts and a screening of “Tips” starring Baby Peggy, who made an in-person appearance in for the sell-out crowd of 900.

“Where Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards Meet”

Lou Bard’s movie theatre chain, which built the Vista, would go on to build several other theatres including the 8th St (later called the Olympic) theatre downtown, and Egyptian-themed theatres in West Adams, Glendale and Pasadena.

The Vista was built as a single-screen neighborhood movie theatre, and although the exterior is designed in a Spanish Mission style, Lou Bard loved the Egyptian themes which were all the rage following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, and had his architect Lewis A. Smith design an Egyptian interior for the theatre, the highlight being ten life-size pharaonic masks lining the sides of the auditorium.

Directly after its opening the theatre settled into a pattern of two features per week, a reduction in vaudeville acts – which were often replaced by an organ concert, until finally just films were screened.

According to Ken Roe on the Cinema Treasures website Link opens in new window “the Vista featured a small Style D Wurlitzer theatre organ (2-manual/6-rank, Opus #701) that was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda on 15th September 1923. The organ was later broken up for parts”.

Seating capacity was originally detailed as 838 however for many years the reported capacity was lower, in the range of 600-700. Current capacity is 400, having removed every second row of seats to drastically increase legroom.

By 1930 the theatre came under the new management of Fox-West Cost Theatres and was renamed the Vista. The current neon marquee replaced the original 1923 marquee in 1938 at a reported cost of $1,000.

In the 1960s the Vista was known for screening cult films, however by the mid-1960s became better known as a porno house, moving from soft-core to hard-core and finally gay porn until it was refurbished for revivals in 1980 by the San Francisco-based Thomas Theaters chain.

Thomas Theaters sold the Vista to Landmark Theaters in 1982 and the theatre reopened in as a revival house, however by mid-1985 Landmark could not make the Vista’s programming a success with the direct competition from cable TV and video rentals. Landmark closed the Vista in 1985, it was sold, renamed the New Vista, and went back to screening first-run movies.

When Five Star Theatres (now Vintage Cinemas) acquired the property in 1993, the Vista was a dilapidated dive with a checkered past. Lance Alspaugh, head of Five Star, was planning extensive improvements when he was approached by designer Ronald Wright, who proposed a complete and thorough renovation and restoration. The floor-to-ceiling process, costing approximately $1 million and including earthquake retrofitting, started in 1997 and was completed in 2000. By going down to the smallest level of detail it took around a year to restore all of the pharaoh masks lining the auditorium. Earthquake retrofitted metal girders are hidden behind the red curtains adorning the pharaoh masks lining the auditorium, slightly altering the original shape of the auditorium.

Originally there was no hint of the interior Egyptian theme outside the building, however the addition of a new Egyptian-themed box office at the entrance doors, as part of the 1997-200 refurbishment, firmly planted the Egyptian theme as starting at the entrance lobby.

Like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre the Vista’s forecourt features cement handprints and footprints, however the Vista’s tend toward icons of independent and cult movies.

The Vista is built on the site used for the massive Babylon set from D.W. Griffith’s biggest and most expensive movie: Intolerance (1916). This set is the origin of the design used for the outdoor Hollywood & Highland mall.

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

 How do I visit the Vista Theatre?

The Vista doesn’t currently offer tours (as of January 2018) so check out the theatre’s website Link opens in new window for events playing at the Vista - it’s a popular and busy venue, and the manager often dresses-up as a character from the movie currently playing.

 Further Reading

Online

 Technical Information

Movie Projection
Digital Projector Sony 4K projector
Film Projector 35mm projector
Sound system JBL Dolby Surround Sound 28-speaker system
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

 Photos of the Vista Theatre

Auditorium

The Vista’s auditorium is adorned with 10 pharaoh masks, five on each side of the auditorium. The red curtains surrounding the masks hide modern earthquake retrofitted vertical metal girders pinned to the walls. Although the organ has long since been removed, the organ grilles remain on either side of the stage and are well-lit as feature pieces. Current seating capacity is a spacious 400.


Backstage

The stage is only a few feet deep, enough to accommodate sound equipment behind the movie screen. The current movie screen sits in front of the original proscenium arch, probably so that a widescreen projection screen can be accommodated without appearing too small. In the photos below it’s clear to see the Egyptian-themed pillars which originally flanked the sides of the proscenium arch, with some original drapery hanging above. The pillars have recesses for striplights which would have originally lit the curtain in front of the movie screen.

On opening night the Vista staged vaudeville acts, a practice which lasted for a short time before organ concerts were favored, and ultimately those gave way to just movie screenings.


Exterior

The exterior is Spanish Mission style, completed prior to the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb which likely set the tone for the interior Egyptian theme. The handprints and footprints are those of cult movie stars. The café space, to the right of the cinema entrance, is currently closed but a new tenant is expected later in 2018.


Lobby

The lobby is heavily decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics, some including plaster relief sculpture. The bright decoration comes from the 1997-2000 renovation work, and the dark ceiling helps subconciously prepare for the surprise of the splendour of the larger auditorium to come.


Projection Booth

The projection booth contains a 35mm projector and a Sony 4K digital projector. The 35mm projector utilizes a platter system so that an entire movie may be screened without any changeover between projectors.

The original Westinghouse DC generator is still in place, which would have originally supplied DC voltage to the carbon arc lamp projector.


All photographs copyright © 2002-2018 Mike Hume/historictheatrephotos.com. For licensing and/or re-use contact me here.



Follow Mike Hume’s Historic Theatre Photography: Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Instagram Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Facebook Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Twitter