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The Wiltern, Koreatown

The Wiltern, Koreatown

First Opened: 7th October 1931 (87 years ago)

Reopened: 1st May 1985

Former Names: Warner Brothers Western Theater, Wil Tern / Wil-Tern, Wiltern Theatre, Warner’s Wiltern, Stanley Warner Wiltern

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

Telephone: (213) 388-1400 Call (213) 388-1400

Address: 3790 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Featured Photos

 Overview

The Wiltern opened in 1931 and is a stunning example of Art Deco architecture. The exterior and surrounding office building was designed by Stiles O. Clements and the theatre interior was by G. Albert Lansburgh. Originally built with seating for 2,344, the theatre was modified in 2002 to remove the 1,200 Orchestra-level seats so as to create a flexible layout catering to seated, cocktail table, and standing room only configurations.

Pellissier Building
Pellissier Building

The surrounding office building and tower, with retail units at street level, was known as the Pellissier Building – the Pellissier family owned the land upon which the building was developed. The entire building exterior was clad with a special turquoise shade of Gladding-McBean terracotta, which came to be known as Pellissier Green.

The theatre opened as the Warner Brothers Western Theater, primarily intended as a movie theatre but including stage facilities for vaudeville. It was the flagship for the Warner Bros theatre chain and boasted the largest pipe organ in the Western US at the time: a 4-manual, 37-rank Kimball (opus 6644), with nine of the ranks in an “echo organ” chamber at the rear of the auditorium next to the Projection Booth. The organ was transferred from the Forum Theatre where it had originally been installed in 1924.

Auditorium Ceiling Skyscrapers
Auditorium Ceiling Skyscrapers

The decorator for the theatre’s interior was noted muralist Anthony Heinsbergen. The centerpiece of the interior design is the auditorium ceiling which heralds a multi-colored sunburst pattern of Art Deco skyscrapers, an imagining of future buildings on the city’s up-and-coming Wilshire Blvd.

Warner Bros terminated their lease due to poor business and in May 1933 the theatre closed. It reopened as an independent theatre about a year later in 1934, re-branded the Wil Tern or Wil-Tern, named after the intersection it is located at: Wilshire & Western. Over time the space/hyphen fell out of use and the theatre became known as the Wiltern Theatre. Warner Bros returned to program the theatre in 1939 and it was variously known as Warner’s Wiltern and the Stanley Warner Wiltern.

In 1956 the Pellissier family sold the theatre and surrounding building to the Franklin Life Insurance Company of Springfield (Illinois), and in 1968 Pacific Theatres took over operations from Stanley Warner.

The theatre’s organ underwent a complete restoration in 1962 by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Theater Organ Enthusiasts. Just before the theatre closed in late 1979, Pacific Theatres removed the organ and placed it in storage. Theatre organ expert Ron Mitchell advises that at a later date the console went into the private collection of Phil Maloof in Las Vegas and the remainder was “parted-out”, two known recipients being organ builder Terry Kleven, and the Carma Laboratories theatre organ installation – a passion project of Carma Labs’ President Paul Woelbing. According to a post on the Cinema Treasures website Link opens in new window the 32-foot Diaphone rank ended-up in the LDS Convention Hall’s organ in Salt Lake City.

Renovated Lobby from above
Renovated Lobby from above

During the 1970s the building fell into serious disrepair. In 1979, despite being nationally and locally landmarked, the theatre was closed and the building stripped for demolition. The then-fledgling Los Angeles Conservancy mounted a campaign to save the building and negotiated with the City to delay demolition while a feasibility study for alternative use was commissioned. Ultimately the Conservancy’s campaign saved the theatre, and it was first major preservation success for the young organization which had been formed only one year earlier.

In 1981 the building was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked with local architect Brenda Levin to restore the theatre and surrounding office building and tower to their former glory. It was a massive task given many of the fixtures and fittings had been stolen or sold, much of the plasterwork was damaged, and a large part of the auditorium ceiling had collapsed onto the seats below. Tony Heinsbergen, son of Anthony Heinsbergen (the original interior decorator for the theatre), worked on the restoration of the theatre’s murals and interior decoration.

Stage from Stage Lefy
Stage from Stage Left

Ratkovich envisioned the theatre as a performing arts center which could accommodate Broadway-size shows, so during the renovation project the rear stage wall was was knocked-down and rebuilt 15ft further back in order to accommodate a deeper stage and truck loading bay. Following the four year $9.8 million renovation and restoration project, the theatre reopened on 1st May 1985.

At its reopening the theatre’s lobby was dedicated as the Perloff Lobby, in recognition of instrumental contributions to the preservation and revitalization of the theatre by Mimi and Harvey Perloff.

In 2000 SFX took over the lease for the theatre, and in 2002 SFX’s successor company Clear Channel Entertainment embarked upon a $2 million renovation. The Orchestra-level seating was removed and the floor terraced into five levels. The new arrangement allowed for temporary theatre-style seating, cocktail/dinner tables, and standing room only configurations. The orchestra pit was also floored over.

The theatre is currently operated by Clear Channel Entertainment’s successor company Live Nation and continues to host a busy calendar of live events.

 Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

Television

Music Videos

Documentary

Award Shows

 Video from my YouTube channel:

 Listed/Landmark Building Status

 How do I visit The Wiltern?

As of March 2017 The Wiltern does not offer theatre tours but you can of course attend one of the many and varied events hosted by The Wiltern. Check The Wiltern’s website Link opens in new window for more details.

Upcoming Special Events
“Robin Hood”

“Robin Hood” (4th August 2019, 3pm)

A special screening of Disney’s clever adaption of the heroic medieval tale Robin Hood is coming to The Wiltern on Sunday, August 4! Watch the story of a fox named Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor all in the name of love and friendship.

Come early and upgrade to our *Kid Party prior to screening! There will be photo opps, face painting, bounce house, carnival games & more fun surprises! Can’t upgrade? No worries! Enjoy our outdoor coloring stations, lawn games & hopscotch!

Kids under three come in for free. More to be announced as we get closer to the screening! Yummy food, as well as soft and adult drinks available for purchase.

*Kid Party is a carnival style party available for upgrade. From 2pm to 3pm, attendees can purchase kid party raffle tickets for different on-site activities, such as: Face painting, photo opp, lawn games, bounce house and more! Minimum purchase $10 per 5 kid party raffle tickets.

All Ages (Bar 21+). Doors (and Kid Party) 2pm; Movie 3pm. Tickets $7 and up (plus fees).

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window




“The Matrix” 20th Anniversary Movie Night

“The Matrix” 20th Anniversary Movie Night (8th August 2019, 8pm)

The Matrix Screening + Pre-Movie DJ!

In honor of its 20th anniversary, a special screening of The Matrix. A classic sci-fi action film depicting a distant dystopian future where a group of heroes fight a desperate war against machine overlords who’ve enslaved humanity in a virtual reality system. Enjoy an evening of cult classic fun at The Wiltern on Thursday, August 8! Catch Keanu Reeves in all of his pre-John Wick glory.

The party continues with video game inspired DJs, drink themed cocktails and practice your poses for all the photo opps. Dressing up (tiny glasses & latex bodysuits) is highly encouraged. Take the red pill with us! More to be announced as we get closer to the screening!

Open to all ages (Bar 21+).. All seats GA.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window

 Further Reading

Online

Books

 Technical Information

Flying System
System Type Single Purchase Counterweight System operated Stage Right from Stage level
Counterweight System 56 Linesets
Pin Rail Stage Right at Stage level
General Information
Balcony Capacity 1,144 (fixed original seating)
Orchestra Capacity 2,300 standing; 1,850 seated
Stage Dimensions
Proscenium Width Approx 54ft
Stage Depth 40ft
Historic Photos & Documents

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

 Photos of The Wiltern

Auditorium

Backstage

Exterior and Public Areas

Historic Fire Curtain

The Wiltern’s original fire curtain, dating from 1931, is still in situ and fully operable. Whereas its major component is asbestos it is fully encapsulated and so safe to use. The beautiful Art Deco design is likely a design by Anthony Heinsbergen’s decoration company.




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