Monday, September 17, 2012

Wiltern Theatre, 3790 Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA



Capacity 2344

Once the site of Germain Pellissier's sheep farm.
An April 12, 1926 view of the corner of Wilshire and Western
unearthed by Mr. Bariscale from the Los Angeles
 Public Library collection. The Office on the left corner
is Henry de Roulet's real estate office. It sits on
the site of the Wiltern. It's an Los Angeles Public Library photo.

In 1929, Henry de Roulet decided to build an office building and theatre at the corner of Wilshire and Western. Begun at the start of the Great Depression, the Pellissier Building/Wiltern Theatre was constructed as an act of faith in the future of the city. De Roulet hired Stiles O. Clements, a partner in Morgan, Wall & Clements, to design the office building. Clements was an architect of great talent and versatility who was adept at many styles.
With designs for the Pellissier Building progressing, de Roulet engaged the services of Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts-traines architect G. Albert Lansburgh, a premier American theatre designer, to develop the plan for the interior of the theatre. What resulted from the creative energies of Clements and Lansburgh is one of the nation's finest Art Deco buildings. Clements designed a 12-story steel-reinforced concrete office tower sited dramatically on a diagonal to the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The theatre marquee and entrance face the corner, and the tower entrace is located on Wilshire Boulvard. Flanking the central tower and theatre are two, two-story wings designed to house retail shops. The exterior is clad in blue-green terra-cotta tile, created by the Gladding Mc Bean company. Gladding Mc Bean developed the unusual color at de Roulet's request and it became known as Pellissier green. The most dramatic element of the design is the sunburst on the ceiling of the auditorium, with each ray its own Art Deco skyscraper — G. Albert Lansburgh's vision of the future of Wilshire Boulevard.

Warner Brothers leased the theatre, which was known as the Western Theatre.
1931, no Wiltern sign, known as Western Theater.

The tower, which rose to the city-imposed height limit of the day, seemed taller than it was because of the bands of small vertical windows that pierced the facade and swept the eye upward. During that time you only could build a building as high as the Los Angeles city hall.
The theatre entrance was marked by a sheet metal and neon marquee, richly decorated on the underside with a plaster relief sunburst. The movie-goer approached the ticket booth on colorful terrazzo paving and entered the lobby foyer through carved, mahogany doors. inside the theatre, Lansburgh developed a complex design using sweeping curves and large open spaces. As a counterpoint to the large flowing space, he used intricate, richly textured decorative surfaces to catch the eye and fire the imagination. Adorning the interior were metallic leaf designs, decorative plaster and tile work and colorful murals.
The murals were designed by Anthony B. Heinsbergen and were executed under his supervision by Heinsbergens Decorating Company staff.
In addition to the extravagant interior design and movie screen, the theatre housed a working stage and the largest theatre pipe organ ever built by the Kimball Company. (Moved over from their Forum Theatre nearby). The Wiltern's organ was by W.W. Kimball, opus 6644. It had a four manual console and 37 ranks of pipes. Nine of these ranks were for the "echo" organ in the rear of the house. The organ was indeed removed and pretty much sold for parts. The 32-foot Diaphone rank lives on in the new LDS Convention Hall organ in Salt Lake City. The Wiltern's is another famous organ that had an infamous ending.

On October 7th, 1931 the Western Theatre opened for the premiere of "Alexander Hamilton".
Grand Opening 1931

Because the city would not close Wilshire Boulvard for the opening Warner Bros. built a bridge across Wilshire Blvd. and called it the "Bridge of Stars" for the night.
Although the office tower flourished, the theatre closed within a year of opening. The theatre's initial failure may have been caused by a neighborhood population that was thought to be insufficient to support its 2,344 seats.
1931
The theatre reopened in the mid 1930's and was operated by 20th Century Fox and independent exhibitors as the Wil-Tern Theatre This new name was a congregate of the street names that crossed at the intersection in front of the theatre. In time Wil-Tern became Wiltern.
1938
During the late 30's Warner Bros. would return as management of the theatre till the mid 60's when Pacific Theatres would pickup most of Warner's Southern California Theatres.
1940's
In 1956, the Pellissier-de Roulet family sold the building and theatre to the Franklin Life Insurance Company of Springfield, Illinois.
Rumor has it that Jayne Mansfield worked in the concession stand before she became big!
Franklin Life Building-In escrow

1965
Under the new ownership the building remained virtually intact. However, the original "Pellissier Building" sign was replace with the words "Franklin Life Building", and the nearly original sheet metal and neon marquee was replaced. However, the company ignored the landmark building and by the late 1970s the Wiltern had fallen into complete disarray. Only the intervention of a group of local preservationists saved the complex from being demolished on two occasions in the late 1970s when the owners filed for demolition permits (the preservation of the Wiltern was one of the Los Angeles Conservancy's first victories in its fight to preserve the architectural heritage of the City). Pacific Theatres would operate it until late 1979, when the theatre closed.

The last chain to operate the Wiltern was Pacific Theatres. Just before this was to close, Pacific removed the organ and placed it in storage (as of the mid 80's).

The theater had been poorly maintained — many of the murals and plasterwork were damaged, many of the fixtures had been sold off or pillaged, and portions of the ceiling had crashed onto the ground floor seats. It had also been used as the primary location for the film Get Crazy, which caused further damage.[1] To restore the theater to its original state required some expert craftsmanship to repair what was there (including A.T. Heinsbergen, the son of the original painter) and some creativity to replace what had been lost (including salvaging vintage Art Deco seats from the soon to be renovated Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon). Further, while originally a movie theater, Ratkovich wanted to convert the Wiltern into a performing arts center that could host live concerts and Broadway-level stage performances which entailed extending the rear wall of the theater back thirteen feet.

In 1981, the Wiltern was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked with architect Brenda Levin to restore the theater. It was saved and restored to its original beauty in 1982.
After a four-year renovation the Wiltern Theatre finally opened again to the public on May 1, 1985.
The building reopened in 1985 (under the management of Bill Graham Presents) with a UCLA sponsored engagement of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.(1)
1985
Tom Petty's first live album was performed here in November, 1985.

The main floor was reseated in 1985 but seats were removed in the last remodel and the floor leveled into 5 terraces. The balcony seats remain intact from the '85 remodel. 
In 1985, Bill Graham wanted the house mix position in the balcony so some seats were removed for that installation. In the 2007 remodel the position was relocated to the rear of the main floor and the balcony seating area was filled in.

Prince performed here on May 30, 1986.
Santana performed here on October 2, 1986.


Jerry performed here on
5/24/86
Jerry Garcia Band
I: They Love Each Other, I'll Take A Melody, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Like A Road, Run For The Roses
II: Cats Under The Stars, Mission In The Rain, Think, Rubin And Cherise, Gomorrah, Midnight Moonlight
Promoter Lowenbrau Concerts.

3/13/87 Jerry Garcia Band
I: How Sweet It Is, Forever Young, Stop That Train, Evangeline, And It Stoned Me, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
II: The Harder They Come, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Think, I Shall Be Released, Dear Prudence, That Lucky Old Sun, Tangled Up In Blue
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.

3/14/87 Jerry Garcia Band
I: Cats Under The Stars, Mission In The Rain, They Love Each Other, Simple Twist Of Fate, Think, Like A Road, Deal
II: Get Out Of My Life Woman, Run For The Roses, Gomorrah, Crazy Love, That Lucky Old Sun, Midnight Moonlight
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.

12/3/87 Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and Jerry Garcia Band
Acoustic I: Bright Morning Stars, Blue Yodel #9, Ballad Of Casey Jones, Trouble In Mind, Wind and Rain, Long Long Way, Diamond Joe, Ripple, Turtle Dove
Electric II: How Sweet It Is, Forever Young, Stop That Train, Run For The Roses, Think, My Sisters And Brothers, That Lucky Old Sun, Tangled Up In Blue
Encore: Evangeline
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.
Jerry plays a Takamine acoustic guitar. "Takamine, ca. 1985. "6-string acoustic guitar, Serial Number 84111605, Rosewood back and sides, spruce top. The spruce top on the guitar exhibits some extremely light color within the grain running from back to front above and below the sound hole making it easily identifiable. With chrome hardware, red nylon and black leather guitar strap with a black leather musical note patch affixed to the strap, a few nicks and scrapes to body and head. With original black case with usual clasps and plastic handle, lined in nubby, orange polyester; case with splotches of red and pink paint, generally very worn. Includes case, Jerry's guitar strap and pick."[2]

"According to Carolyn Adams Garcia: "This instrument was a favorite one of Jerry's 'playing' guitars. He played it extensively, and it traveled with him for years. It appears with him on album covers and in photographs of shows from the mid 1980's to early 1990.
It has a very distinctive pattern in the spruce wood top that stands out in videos and photos from that time. The sides and back are rosewood. The red fabric strap with the black notes has been part of it throughout. The guitar has the marks of use and travel.
He used it for recordings, shows and while practicing at home and at the studio. He played this guitar at his Wiltern Theater appearances and during his Broadway run.
He played this guitar for many of his acoustic sets on stage in the late 1980s. It is also the guitar he most often brought home to practice on between gigs, preferring this acoustic to his electric guitars for working at home.
Jerry loved this guitar and latched onto it as a solid replacement for his old acoustic Martin Dreadnaught, which he said was too fragile to travel.
He liked the sharp twang of this Takamine's voice. Other band members and the crew actually have commented on its sharp distinctive tone. Likely this was an aspect of the built in pickup. Jerry liked that and the easy fingering of the narrow neck and the cutaway. It has sturdy construction that held up well on the road, and the original built in electronic elements that he used are there too.
There is plenty of life in this well-made guitar. It has occasionally been played, and often enjoyed and admired by our family and friends over the years since Jerry's passing, and is a treasured old friend come around for the music.
Takamine still makes this model, a testimonial to durability and desirability.
We have kept it since 1990 when Jerry stopped using it for shows and kept it at home. Just having it has helped us deal with his absence over time."[2]

12/4/87 Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and Jerry Garcia Band
I: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Deep Elem Blues, Spike Driver Blues, I've Been All Around This World, I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail, Wind and Rain, Bright Morning Stars, Gone Home, If I Lose, Ragged But Right
II: Cats Under The Stars, I Shall Be Released, Mission In The Rain, Like A Road, The Harder They Come, And It Stoned Me, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
E: Evangeline
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.
Leroy Mack sits in with the acoustic band, playing Gone Home, If I Lose, Ragged But Right.
Jerry plays a Takamine acoustic guitar. "Takamine, ca. 1985. "6-string acoustic guitar, Serial Number 84111605, Rosewood back and sides, spruce top and the electric guitar Tiger.

12/5/87 Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and Jerry Garcia Band
I: Deep Elem Blues, Blue Yodel #9, Ballad Of Casey Jones, Turtle Dove, Wind and Rain, The Girl At The Crossroads Bar, Drifting Too Far From The Shore, Rosalie McFall, Goodnight Irene
II: How Sweet It Is, I'll Take A Melody, Mississippi Moon, Run For The Roses, Gomorrah, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
Encore: And It Stoned Me
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.
Jerry plays a Takamine acoustic guitar. "Takamine, ca. 1985. "6-string acoustic guitar, Serial Number 84111605, Rosewood back and sides, spruce top and the electric guitar Tiger..

12/6/87 Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and Jerry Garcia Band
I: Christmas Time Is Coming, Trouble In Mind, Never Seen Nobody Like You, Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie, Gone Home, Diamond Joe, If I Lose, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Ripple
II: How Sweet It Is, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Think, Dear Prudence, When I Paint My Masterpiece, My Sisters And Brothers, That Lucky Old Sun, Midnight Moonlight
Encore: And It Stoned Me
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.
Jerry plays a Takamine acoustic guitar. "Takamine, ca. 1985. "6-string acoustic guitar, Serial Number 84111605, Rosewood back and sides, spruce top and the electric guitar Tiger.

11/25/88 Jerry Garcia Band
I: I'll Take A Melody, Get Out Of My Life Woman, Stop That Train, Simple Twist Of Fate, Run For The Roses, Like A Road, Deal
II: The Harder They Come, I Shall Be Released, Mission In The Rain, Think, My Sisters And Brothers, Midnight Moonlight
Bob Weir/Rob Wasserman opened.
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.

11/26/88 Jerry Garcia Band
I: Cats Under The Stars, Forever Young, Someday Baby, Mississippi Moon, Dear Prudence, And It Stoned Me, How Sweet It Is
II: The Harder They Come, Waiting For A Miracle, Evangeline, Don't Let Go, My Sisters And Brothers, That Lucky Old Sun, Tangled Up In Blue
Bob Weir/Rob Wasserman opened.
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.

11/27/88 Jerry Garcia Band
I: How Sweet It Is, Stop That Train, Get Out Of My Life Woman, Run For The Roses, And It Stoned Me, Deal
II: Mission In The Rain, Waiting For A Miracle, Russian Lullaby, Evangeline, My Sisters And Brothers, Midnight Moonlight
Bob Weir/Rob Wasserman opened.
Promoter Bill Graham Presents.

11/11/90 Jerry Garcia Band
I: How Sweet It Is, Stop That Train, Get Out Of My Life Woman, Simple Twist Of Fate, Run For The Roses, Like A Road, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
II: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Mission In The Rain, Think, Waiting For A Miracle, Evangeline, That Lucky Old Sun, Midnight Moonlight

11/12/90 Jerry Garcia Band
I: Cats Under The Stars, And It Stoned Me, That's What Love Will Make You Do, Forever Young, Tough Mama, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
II: Second That Emotion, Dear Prudence, Mississippi Moon, Russian Lullaby, Think, Rubin and Cherise, Tangled Up In Blue

11/13/90 Jerry Garcia Band
I: I'll Take A Melody, I Shall Be Released, They Love Each Other, Tore Up Over You, Tears Of Rage, My Sisters And Brothers, Let's Spend The Night Together
II: The Harder They Come, Waiting For A Miracle, Gomorrah, Run For The Roses, Señor, Don't Let Go, Midnight Moonlight

11/15/90 Jerry Garcia Band
I: How Sweet It Is, Stop That Train, Let It Rock, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Someday Baby, Run For The Roses, My Sisters And Brothers, Deal
II: The Way You Do The Things You Do, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, And It Stoned Me, Rubin and Cherise, Evangeline, That Lucky Old Sun, Midnight Moonlight

11/16/90 Jerry Garcia Band
I: Cats Under The Stars, Mission In The Rain, Like A Road, Run For The Roses, Simple Twist Of Fate, My Sisters And Brothers, Let's Spend The Night Together
II: Second That Emotion, And It Stoned Me, Tore Up Over You, Señor, Waiting For A Miracle, How Sweet It Is, Don't Let Go





Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
1.)^The Wilshire Theaters Tour, Movie Palaces along Wilshire Boulevard, http://sites.google.com/site/wilshiremoviepalaces/
2.)^Bonham's, http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20158/lot/3021/?page_anchor=MR1_results_per_page%3D500%26MR1_module_instance_reference%3D1
3.)^http://wherela.com/blog/2015/01/21/top-20-venues-for-live-music-in-los-angeles/

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