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Historic Tower Theater offers 'insider's tour' before renovations begin

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012, at 10:57AM
via L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation

The tour will include everything from the projection booth to the basement.

Downtown's Tower Theater has served multiple functions since its construction in 1927; from screening films to serving as a movie set and even a church. Now, the L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation (LAHTF) is hosting an "insider's tour" of the space before the structure is renovated and reopened as a venue for live performances.

The tour will include a slideshow of the theater's history narrated by historian Ed Kelsey, followed by an exploration of the building spanning from the projection room to the basement. Hillsman Wright of the LAHTF says they're expecting anywhere from 150 to 300 people, but won't turn anyone away.

He added that Saturday's tour may be the public's last chance to see the space before construction begins.

The Los Angeles Times reports that plans for the theater include turning it into a concert venue with a coffee house, indoor-outdoor bar and basement bar. Shahram Delijani, whose family owns the space, told the paper that the renovation will cost several million dollars and take about a year and half.

Delijani said the live performance venue will hold up to 1,000 people with a combination of seating and standing room.

"Broadway's beginning to come back," said Wright, citing the Orpheum's busy calendar of events and the Palace theater's renovation, as signs of success.

He added that reviving Broadway's theaters could have wide-spread effects on the city's economy and tourism.

"It can be a transformational thing not only for Downtown but for Los Angeles as a whole," said Wright.

The Tower opened in 1927 with 900-seats and cost $500,000 to build. Its claims to fame include that it was the first DTLA movie palace to be wired for sound and was also the original location for the sneak preview of "The Jazz Singer." In 1988 the theater was closed because of "waning downtown movie audiences" and was unused until 1991 when films, commercials and music videos begin renting out the space for use.

In recent years, the Tower has been open to the public only for film screenings hosted by the L.A. Conservancy and occasional architecture tours."

Saturday's tour begins at 11 a.m. and costs $10 for general admission, $1 for LAHTF members. To purchase tickets go to LAHTF's website.


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