The Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles’ famous art deco landmark, ranks as one of the most our city’s famous live performance theatres. Although for years my wife and I attended many concerts and plays in and around LA, we recently for the first time ever, got tickets for a live concert at the Wiltern. We were both excited about the upcoming concert (Stevie Wonder) and very interested to see the famous art deco style. That blue-green colored building teased our imagination.
The twelve-story Pellissier Building with the embedded Wiltern theatre was built in 1931. The theatre originally designed for vaudeville acts offered popular live entertainment to LA. Vaudeville consisted of live variety shows such as plays, or a mix of acrobatics, singing, dancing, and comedy. Vaudeville acts, usually troupes and companies of performers, traveled from town to town providing entertainment. There were other groups such as medicine shows that offered entertainment and sold medicines and wild-west shows that offered action packed entertainment based on a highly fictional version of the old west.
The heyday of vaudeville ranged from the 1880’s on. The invention of cinema in the early 1900’s signaled changes in American preference. By the depression era of the 1930’s most vaudeville theatres switched to movie houses. Unfortunately, caught up in the changes of the time, the theatre that existed at that time. By the mid 1930’s, it reopened under the name of the Wiltern Theatre. The name came from the two streets of the intersection it faced: Wilshire Blvd and Western Ave.
In 1951 the Pellissier building with the Wiltern theatre was sold to an insurance company. In the early 1970’s the Los Angeles Conservancy stepped in and fought to save the building from demolition. In 1973 the Pellissier Building and Wiltern Theatre was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. The description cited in the designation: “A 12 story steel-reinforced concrete office d tower; on a two story pedestal that contains ground floor retail and the Wiltern Theatre entrance; blue-green terra cotta-covered; French Zig-Zag Moderne styling”.
Years later (in 1981), developer Wayne Ratkovich purchased the building and after four years of renovations with architect Brenda Levin, the entire Pellissier Building along with the theatre was restored to its original beauty.
As a venue, the Wiltern had a unique configuration. The loge and mezzanine of the theatre had fixed seating while the ground floor could be either standing room only for about 2,300 persons (a style very popular with young concert goers) or seating for about 1,850 persons.
Now, if you plan to attend a concert or some other production you’ll be interested to know there’s a metro stop across the street, the Wilshire/Western stop on the purple line. This famous art deco landmark located at 3790 Wilshire (facing the intersection with Western Ave) happens to be a short distance east of the famed Wilshire Blvd “Miracle Mile” in Hollywood. See the map below.
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Los Angeles has many theaters and musical venues. Read these previous posts for information on a selection of very popular spots:
Spotlight on Performing Arts in Los Angeles -This post lists a number of venues throughout the Los Angeles Area