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

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
Tower Theatre

Tower Theatre

First Opened: 5th October 1927 (91 years ago)

Former Names: Music Hall, The Newsreel

Status: Closed for renovation

Website: www.towertheatrela.com Open website in new window

Telephone: (213) 629-2939 Call (213) 629-2939

Address: 802 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos


The Tower Theatre was the first theatre designed by architect S Charles Lee, one of the most prolific and distinguished movie theatre designers of his time on the US West Coast. Lee’s design for The Tower replaced the 650-seat Garrick Theatre and is notable for fitting a 1000-seat auditorium (906 as built), plus street-level retail stores, into a lot measuring just 50ft by 150ft.

The Tower theatre opened in October 1927 as the first Los Angeles movie theatre wired for sound. Some sources also credit the Tower as being the first LA theatre with air conditioning, however Grauman’s Metropolitan (later known as the Paramount) a few blocks up the street opened with air conditioning in 1922, and the State Theatre was advertising their new “refrigeration plant” in the summer of 1927.

The architecture is Baroque Revival with the auditorium styled after the Paris Opera House. The theatre originally housed a Wurlitzer organ and the organ chambers were cleverly hidden on either side of the upper section of the proscenium arch. The organ was on a hydraulic lift at the center front of the Stage.

A magnificent stained glass window above the theatre’s entrance is dedicated to the art of movie making with, among other items, a roll of film unspooling.

The Tower was the location of the sneak preview and Los Angeles premiere of Warner Bros’ revolutionary part-talkie The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson.

The original audio equipment mounted behind the screen was too big to be accommodated within the 6ft deep stage, so a hole was cut in the rear wall to allow the equipment to poke out into the alley behind the theatre, enclosed by a containing box. If you look at the outside of the theatre’s rear wall you can still see the patched-up hole.

In 1946 Metropolitan subleased the theatre and it was renamed the Music Hall, then renamed the Newsreel in 1949. The theatre was remodeled in 1965 with a rather bright color scheme which sadly destroyed many stencil/mural details including the intricate central elliptical dome. At this time the name also reverted to The Tower.

The main floor, originally raked, had its seats removed and the floor leveled with a “temporary” structure in anticipation of the space being used for a swap meet, however the plans never came to fruition. The stage was re-floored and extended forward in 1991 for filming of the movie The Mambo Kings (1992). The original stage and footlights still survive underneath.

The theatre has not been in regular use since 1988 although it is used for occasional special events programming. It remains a popular filming location for television and movie shoots with highlights including Last Action Hero (1993), Transformers (2007), The Prestige (2006), Coyote Ugly (2000), End Of Days (1999), The Professionals (1977 TV series), and Twin Peaks (2017 TV series).

The Tower is owned by The Broadway Theatre Group who also own the Palace, the Los Angeles, and State theatres, all on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles.

Rumors surfaced in May 2016 that Apple Inc. was going to lease the Tower for a Downtown LA Apple Store. In August 2018 the Los Angeles Times broke the story Link opens in new window that Apple would be bringing an Apple Store to Downtown LA housed in the Tower Theatre. Timelines for the project are currently unknown.

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances



 Listed/Landmark Building Status

 How do I visit the Tower Theatre?

The Tower does not currently offer theatre tours; you can however signup to the theatre’s mailing list to hear about upcoming events on The Tower Theatre website Link opens in new window.

The theatre has previously participated in Councilmember Jose Huizar’s annual Night On Broadway event (usually the last Saturday in January) when the theatres along Broadway in Downtown LA open to the public for free and host a variety of live entertainment programming. The Tower was on the bill in 2015 and 2016 but not 2017. Check out the Night On Broadway website Link opens in new window for more details and to stay informed.

 Further Reading



Historic Photos & Documents

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

 Photos of the Tower Theatre


Most of the photos here are taken under high pressure sodium light. To see a faithful color rendition of the auditorium look for the “True Color” photo.



Other Public Areas

Projection Booth

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