Tagged: Los Angeles Conservancy

Save Me One of Those Last Remaining Seats

The Los Angeles Conservancy has just announced the lineup for this year’s Last Remaining Seats film series. This annual festival takes place in June with movie screenings at historically significant movie theaters throughout Los Angeles, mostly in downtown Los Angeles. This year, the entire festival will be downtown.

I’m a dues-paying member but have only attended once because, you know, I live 2,500 miles away. You can probably see these films on video at home, but that would be missing the whole point of seeing a film in a movie palace or midcentury music hall. Sure, you can rent these and watch your big TV at home, but I’ll bet you that their screens are bigger. And you’ll miss out and having a bunch of strangers laugh and cry with you.

The Lady Eve (1941)

Wednesday, June 11, 8 PM
Los Angeles Theatre (1931).

Although I’ve never seen this film, reading the description seems like it’s one of those 1940s films noir where some helpless schmuck (Henry Fonda) gets taken by a cunning and relentless femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck). Poor guy!

The Lady Eve has her clutches of Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The Lady Eve has her clutches on Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The front-of-house card depicts a leggy Stanwyck clutching and practically choking Fonda against a background of an apple with a bite taken from it. An apple? A bite? A lady named “Eve?” Oh, I get it.

Of all the venues in the series, the Los Angeles Theater is probably the hardest one to get into. Go!

West Side Story (1961)

Saturday, June 14, 8 PM
The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964)

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an icon of modern architecture and revitalization in downtown Los Angeles, is turning fifty this year. It will also host the Robert Wise-and-Jerome Robbins–directed version of the venerable stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (yikes!). The film features a young Natalie Wood and launched the career of Rita Moreno, one of the few Latina actresses to play complex (i.e., non-maid) roles in Hollywood.

Footlight Parade (1933)

Wednesday, June 18, 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

This musical (yes, another one) is emblematic of the Warner Brothers musicals choreographed by some guy named Busby Berkeley. Along with 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933, it is part of the trilogy of film musicals about stage musicals.


Footlight Parade (1933). WARNER BROS/The Kobal Collection.

By the way, those films were all released in 1933 and feature dazzling dance numbers that boggle the mind in their uniform execution. It made for a great distraction during the depths of the Great Depression.

Back to the Future (1985)

Saturday June 21, 2 PM & 8 PM
The Theatre at Ace Hotel (former United Artists Theatre, 1927)

This theater has just been renovated as part of the new Ace Hotel. They will host the first film from this triology (yes, another one) about time travel and saving yourself family from being “erased from existence.” One could argue that the Ace Hotel saved the United Artist theater from the same fate facing the McFlys in this treasured film from my childhood.

El Gran Calavera (The Great Madcap) (1949)

Wednesday, June 25, 8 PM
Palace Theatre (1911), Co-presented with the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles

This movie I haven’t seen (yes, another one) was Luis Buñuels first dramatic film since L’Age d’Or in 1930, a film that was banned for, among other things, comparing Jesus Christ to the Marquis de Sade. Buñuel came to Mexico at an opportune time as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema was underway. Buñuel thrived there for the next three decades, making over a dozen films, before returning to Europe in the late 1960s.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Saturday, June 28 2 PM & 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

The second greatest film ever made closes out the series at the Orpheum Theater. With the newly renovated Ace Hotel theater getting all the buzz, I’m going to call The Orpheum the second cleanest picture palace on Broadway. Kudos to the curators for pairing the two!

If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is this the second greatest film ever? I didn’t get it either because I thought the ending was unsatisfying. After a few viewings, though, you realize that the whole point of the film isn’t the great reveal of “Rosebud,” but the way you see a man’s life from the perspective of various people. Whenever one of us leaves this mortal coil, how do others speak of us? What would they say? Would that be who each of us really is? Get to know Charles Foster Kane those who loved and hated him, those who knew him best.

If you don’t appreciate that, then you won’t appreciate this: it’s a sled!

Citizen Kane Rosebud

Rosebud from Citizen Kane (1941). RKO/The Kobal Collection.

What Happened to… ?

Three things strike me as I look over the list:

  1. The Million Dollar Theater? This storied movie palace, which has served as the site for many Spanish-language films and Mexican vaudeville shows, is not participating in this year’s festival. In the past, it has hosted a Spanish-language film during past Last Remaining Seats. However, the programmers did schedule a Spanish film, El Gran Calavera at the Palace Theater.
  2. The Saban Theater? The recently renovated theater in Beverly Hills is also missing from the list. My parents saw The Wizard of Oz a couple of years ago as part of this series. Do the Beverly Hills types not appreciate the unwashed DTLA masses?
  3. Silent films? All of the films are talkies. Not too long ago, there was at least one silent film screened at Last Remaining Seats with live musical accompaniment.

Putting on a festival like this can be a lot of work, especially for a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that has a lot on its plate. The logistical challenges of continuing to use the Million Dollar or scheduling a silent film with live accompaniment must have been difficult to overcome. But it looks like another worthwhile series. Hopefully, I can make it out there for a screening or two.

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The Palace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles

A brief tour of Flickr today revealed that the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation took a tour of the recently renovated Palace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Palace opened up just over 101 years ago as a part of the Orpheum vaudeville chain. In fact, that was its name until they opened a newer and larger theater at 842 S. Broadway, in 1926, where a newly remodeled Orpheum stands today. At the current Palace Theater, you can still find signs of the Orpheum affiliation. For example, in the painted sign indicating its part of the Opheum family in this photo from Flickr user “jericl”.

downtown Los Angeles

You can also see it in my photo from June 2011.

Palace Theater Centennial Show

Sarah and I visited the Palace last June, for the theater’s centennial. To commemorate the occasion, there was a screening of Sunset Boulevard that was part of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s “Last Remaining Seats” series.

Palace Theater Centennial Show

I’m thrilled to see that organizations dedicated to historic preservation, such as the Historic Theater Foundation and the Conservancy, have been breathing new life into this particular theater. There are not many theaters—that I know of—in the downtown Los Angeles area of this age. Most have been torn down by now or converted beyond recognition.

The Egyptian Theater and Why So Few Seats “Remain” in Downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Conservancy kicked off its twenty-sixth annual Last Remaining Seats film festival this past week. Sarah and I went last year to watch Sunset Boulevard at the Palace Theater as that Broadway movie house turned 100. and my parents are going to three screenings this month. The festival celebrates the legacy of the picture palaces in downtown Los Angeles. LA’s Broadway was an important hub of movie exhibition, hosting many premieres, as the movie business was developing into a vertically integrated industry, where studios would control the production and the first-run exhibition of their films.


The Broadway theater district would fall on hard times over the years, as just about everything moved out of downtown. One of the first movie theaters to draw audiences outside of downtown was the Egyptian theater. It was the first movie palace in Hollywood.

Larry Harnisch, who publishes the always fascinating The Daily Mirror blog, chronicles the opening of the Egyptian. One of the curious aspects of the new theater was the reserved-seating policy and how they ticketed theater patrons nearly a hundred years ago.

Grauman inaugurated new policies before opening the theatre. He announced on October 7 that the Egyptian would be the first theatre on the West Coast to reserve seats for every performance. Patrons could buy tickets downtown at Barker Brothers’ music department two weeks in advance, or by calling the theatre at Hollywood 2131, 2132 or 2133. Two complete shows ran daily, a matinée at 2:15 pm and an evening screening at 8:15 pm. Afternoon prices ranged from 50 cents to $1, and evening shows cost 75 cents to $1.50.

While the theater’s design and construction are certainly remarkable, I find these mundane details to reveal a great deal about the role of the Egyptian in the history of movie exhibition.

If you wanted to see a show at the Egyptian, you could visit a furniture store, ten miles away from the theater, and buy tickets up to two weeks in advance. Or you could call the theater to order tickets. (I’ve seen ads where patrons could order tickets over the mail as late as the 1950s.) Undoubtedly, the Egyptian was marketed as part of special occasion. It was not a casual movie-going experience, as the case during the Nickelodeon era, 1905–1912, that the picture palaces had essentially killed in the mid 1910s. To draw movie audiences out of downtown, the Egyptian needed to act as a new flagship theater of the American film industry.

As the LA Conservancy celebrates the downtown movie theaters, it’s also important to remember the theater that helped end the golden age of the Broadway movie palace.