AKA: Grauman's Metropolitan Theater, Los Angeles, CA; Paramount DowntownTheatre, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Bergstrom, George Edwin, Architect (firm); Pereira, William L. and Associates Planning and Architecture (firm); Winter Construction Company (firm); Woollett, William Lee, Architect (firm); George Edwin Bergstrom (architect); Hal Pereira (architect); William Leonard Pereira (architect); Winter (building contractor); William Lee Woollett (architect)

Dates: constructed 1921-1923, demolished 1962

6 stories

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323 West 6th Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90014-1703

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Sixth Street and Hill Street

Overview

Architect George Edwin Bergstrom designed the office building surrounding Sid Grauman's huge Metropolitan Theatre on Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. Bergstrom collaborated with the theatre designer, William Lee Woollett, on the design of the Metropolitan's interior. The Metropolitan Theatre and Office Building had an unusual structural design in which no structural steel was used outside of reinforcing bars within the concrete.

The Southwest Builder and Contractor wrote of the building's structural system in 1922: "Grauman's Metropolitan theatre and office building at Sixth and Hill Sts., Los Angeles, is a monumental piece of reinforced concrete construction. Other structures may be greater in point of cubic feet of contents or in the number of cubic yards of concrete used, but from a standpoint of achievement in engineering and exacting construction it has no equal. The average reinforced concrete building of structure is made up of a large number of typical units. Engineering and construction are merely a repetition in these units. The Grauman building is a composite of extraordinary structural design as varied as the component parts of a theatre building could make it, all on a stupendoous scale. The entire building is monolithic concrete; there are no parts or section in which structural steel was used. Even the big marquise over the main entrance is reinforced concrete." (See "Great Balcony in New Grauman Theater Shows Slight Deflection under Test," Southwest Builder and Contractor, no. 1527, 06/30/1922, p. 14.)

Building History

The Hill Street Fireproof Building Company financed the erection of the twelve-story office and retail building in which Grauman's Metropolitan was located, construction beginning c. 03/1921. This screen of this theatre was topped by a sculpture of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In an article published in the Southwest Builder and Contractor(04/22/1921, p. 16, col 3) it was noted that the architect for the building was Edwin Bergstrom (1876-1955); the masonry contract was awarded to the Winter Construction Company. Architect William Lee Woollett (1874-1955) designed the interiors of Grauman's Metropolitan.

Shortly after opening this theatre on 01/26/1923, noted exhibitor Sidney Patrick Grauman (1879-1950) sold his financial interests in the Metropolitan, Rialto, and Million-Dollar Theatres to the Paramount Theatre Corporation, in order to raise cash to build two new theatres (the Egyptian and Chinese) in the then-booming Hollywood section of Los Angeles. It was reported in the Southwest Builder and Contractorin 07/1923: "Sid Grauman has announced that he will dispose of his interest in the Million Dollar, Rialto and Metropolitan Theatres to the Paramount Pictures Corporation. Mr. Grauman plans the erection of two class A theaters at Hollywood. The Paramount Corporation plans to erect additional stories to the Metropolitan building at 6th and Hill Streets." (See "Theaters," Southwest Builder and Contractor, 07/20/1923, p. 40.)

the Paramount-Publix theatre chain renamed the "Metropolitan" the "Paramount" on 01/24/1929; (The movie palace historian, David Naylor, indicated that the name changed to the "Paramount" in 1925.) To help distinguish it from other Paramount theaters in LA, the theatre was also known as the "Paramount Downtown."

Building Notes

The Southwest Builder and Contractor described the stairway leading to the theatre's mezzanine: "Architect William Lee Woollett...is preparing plans for an entrance at 551 S. Broadway to Grauman's Metropolitan Theatre. It will be a stairway 40 feet wide and 174 deep leading to the mezzanine of the theater; reinforced concrete...." (See "Theatre Entrance," Southwest Builder and Contractor, 02/09/1923, p. 39.)

The Metropolitan was one of the largest movie theatres in Los Angeles when it was built, seating 3,600, and remained so for many years; Not only did it have one of the largest balconies ever built, its projector had the longest projection throw in the city. In 1922, the Metropolitan was one of the first theatres in the U.S. (and probably the first on the West Coast) to receive air-conditioning; the Carbondale Machine Company of Carbondale, PA, produced its early air-conditioning system.

Today, if one stands in front of the Arcade Theatre and look southwest towards the corner of Broadway and 6th Street, near the second or third building from the corner, you will see a faded, vertical Paramount marquee advertising the vanished movie palace, its last visible trace.

Photographs of Woollett's theatre design were displayed at the 1925 International Exposition of Architecture and Allied Arts in New York, NY, at the Grand Central Palace. The American Architectstated of the building: "The Metropolitan Theatre, Los Angeles, W.L. Woollett, architect, is most unusual in its design and treatment. It suggests perhaps the old Indian and although somewhat crude to our modern eyes, as an architectural significance that is worth noting." (See "Interior Architecture," American Architect, vol. CXXVII, no. 2471, 05/06/1925, p. 426.)

Plates of the theatre's interior were featured inAmerican Architecture of the Twentieth Century: A Series of Photographs and Measured Drawings of Modern, Civic, Commercial and Industrial Buildings, Oliver Reagan, editor, (New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., Incorporated, 1927, part III, p. 9.)

Alteration

In 1922, Grauman's Metropolitan Theatre installed one of the first (if not the first) modern air-conditioning units on the West Coast. Entrance added at 551 South Broadway c. 1923; remodeled in c. 1941 by Hal Pereira of the William Pereira Office, Los Angeles, CA;

Demolition

In 1962, the Paramount was torn down to make way for a parking lot. In the early 1980's, a bank was built on this same lot.

PCAD id: 814