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Saturday: Learn All About the Tower, Rialto and Olympic

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, April 09, 2009, at 10:04PM
Tower Theater Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The Tower Theatre, at 802 S. Broadway.

Another month, another chance to learn about some of Downtown's coolest historic buildings. The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation offers a three-for-the-price-of-one All About event on Saturday, April 18, taking the curious on tours of the Tower, Rialto and Olympic theatres.

As always, the All About event is free to attend. Doors at the Tower Theatre (802 S. Broadway) open at 10am. The program begins at 10:30. Theatre historian Ed Kelsey will offer a history of the three venues before the tours begin.

Tower: Opening in 1927, the Tower Theater was the first theater designed by renowned architect S. Charles Lee as well as the first movie palace in downtown wired for sound films. The Tower was designed in the French Renaissance motif with Spanish, Romanesque and Moorish influences. The theater has had an illustrious history for a smaller scale theater that mainly showed movies; it was the original sneak preview location for the famed Warner Brothers movie The Jazz Singer (1927).

Rialto: Quinn's Rialto Theater was built in 1917 by F.P. Fay for J.A.Quinn, leasing it to him under a ten-year contract. However, two years later it was sold to Sid Grauman, who had only a couple years earlier opened the Million Dollar Theatre at the other end of Broadway. The two-story Rialto, designed for film by architect Oliver P. Dennis, had a seating capacity of close to 900. In addition to a pipe organ, there was an elevator-type orchestra pit that could hold 25 musicians and a balcony on each side of the stage for singers. The auditorium was built stadium style-long, narrow, with a sharply raked floor extending to the mezzanine level. The only entrances were through tunnels from the lobby to the main floor.

Olympic (Bard's Eighth Street): "Lou Bard, Los Angeles showman announces the opening on Saturday of Bard's Eighth Street Theater, located on the north side of Eighth between Broadway and Hill streets opposite the May Company. This new picture theater has a distinctly oriental atmosphere totally different from anything else in the city, and, while not the largest of the downtown cinema palaces, has the quality of uniqueness. The opening attraction is the premier showing of Universal's farce comedy, "Oh, Baby," starring Madge Kenneday with Creighton Hale in the leading male role." (April 1, 1927)

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