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Broadway Theater Comes Alive on Halloween and Day of the Dead

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, October 30, 2008, at 02:24PM
IMGP3059 Ed Fuentes

The Million Dollar Theater hosts the Million Dollar Spooktacular October 31 and November 1.

Tomorrow the Million Dollar Spooktacular comes to Broadway, bringing a performance Friday night, Saturday matinees, and a Saturday evening showing. It's a double culture dip for classic horror films as "Night of the Living Dead" is screened Friday and "The Reanimator" on Saturday night. In between, matinee times offer kids a Day of the Dead themed costume contest and family show.

It's an ambitious event, but one that Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation head Hillsman Wright pulled together in an impressively short time. We checked in with Wright to ask about the event and his love for Broadway's theatres.

ED FUENTES: We first met when this event was at the early planning stages. Has the community support been as you expected and hoped, or was there a surprise?

HILLSMAN WRIGHT: At the institutional level Bringing Back Broadway, L.A. Conservancy, DCBID, Arte Calidad have been there for the LA Historic Theatre Foundation and supportive from the start. The surprises were the organizers of the Jules Verne Festival and local businesses, especially Clifton's Cafeteria.

Clifton's management approached us and is now distributing flyers and selling tickets and we look forward to finding more ways to collaborate with them. In its way, Clifton's is as much a part of the legacy of Broadway as the theatres.

EF: How did this one theater inspire the idea of the show?

HW: Who wouldn't leap at the chance to put Million Dollar in the title of an event? Beyond that, it has an interior that combines a Greek temple, Spanish cathedral, Tragedy Triumphant over the proscenium and grotesques and gargoyles everywhere; it's an ideal setting. There's also friendly management, a huge screen, big stage, 90-years of history and a bona fide ghost backstage––not to mention the spirit of Sid Grauman.

EF: Using Grand Central Market is a great addition. How did that come to be, and was there any red tape?

HW: The LAHTF saw Grand Central Market as a key element of the Spooktacular from the start. Many families will be coming to Broadway for the first time to attend the matinees and Grand Central Market (GCM) will enrich the experience immeasurably. We simply kept the management and the Yellin Company in the loop from our earliest planning. When we were far enough along, the GCM team shared their experience and expertise in producing family events, assisted with publicity and promotion and have been very generous in lending their support. So, it is really a team effort on the part of GCM. There's a natural tie-in for family events at the Million Dollar and the Market. We hope to produce more.

EF: To say the least, the acts for the live show are eclectic. Who helped book them, and was there any act that may have been a little too much?

HW: Jon Olivan, who produced the Orpheum Spook-A-Thon for many years, had some great ideas for us. The Spooktacular stage manager, Bud Coffey, used to cast Halloween shows at the Renaissance Fair. Using their contacts we found George the Giant, our star attraction.

Since blogdowntown is a family friendly blog and all, I can't describe some of the more exotic, and some might say gross, expressions of the human experience that are currently performing on L.A. stages and who contacted us to be a part of the show. Who knows? Maybe we'll do a midnight show next year and probe those depths. Fun comes in many different forms and is generally defined through the eyes of the beholder. Who are we to judge what might be too much?

EF: What's the future for this event. How big can it become?

HW: Right now, we're just focused on making this year a success. However, over its eight year run the Orpheum Spook-A-Thon expanded to three weekends. Part of why the LAHTF is producing monthly events in Broadway theatres is to help build a critical mass and audience for all the theatres. The more events that happen in these theatres, the larger the audiences will become and people will begin to look to the Broadway theatres as a regular entertainment option.

EF: If you were able to invite five ghosts from L.A.'s historic past for dinner, who would you invite?

HW: Tough question for a history nut, but here goes. Since I've been in a totally immersed with Broadway's theatres the past year, I'd like to spend an evening with some of the showmen and visionaries who left us this incredible legacy; Sid Grauman, Sherrill Corwin, S. Charles Lee, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.

EF: Would you take them to a new Downtown restaurant, or would you make a reservation at a ghost restaurant, a place that no longer exists?

HW: We wouldn't need a reservation for dinner. We’d just walk to west side of Olive just below Sixth and go under the waterfall facade and dine among the 20 foot neon-lined aluminum palm trees at Clifton's Pacific Seas Cafeteria.

The Million Dollar Spooktacular comes to the Million Dollar Theatre on Friday night and runs through Saturday evening. Tickets and more information are available on the event website.

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