AKA: Music Hall Theatre, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Newsreel Theatre, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Campbell, R.E., Building Contractor (firm); Heinsbergen Decorating Company, Interior Designers (firm); Lee, S. Charles Architect (firm); Smith, L.A., Architect (firm); R. E. Campbell (building contractor); Antoon B. Heinsbergen (interior designer/muralist); Simeon Charles Lee (architect); Lewis Arthur Smith (architect)

Dates: constructed 1925-1927

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802 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014-3202

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Southeast corner of South Broadway and West 8th Street;


Designed by architect S. Charles Lee (1899-1990), who would go on to become a leading specialist in movie palace design, the Tower Theatre stood on the southeast corner of Broadway and 8th Street, part of Los Angeles's bustling central business district. On either side of the Tower Theatre, stood several other movie theatres of the 1910s and 1920s, including the Morosco, Pantages, Quinn's Rialto, and many others.

Seating 906 people, the Tower Theatre opened 10/12/1927, an early work in the career of S. Charles Lee, a noted architect of movie theatres. Herman Louis Gumbiner (02/26/1879-03/12/1952), head of Gumbiner Theatrical Enterprises, owned the Tower and the later Los Angeles Theatre (1931) in Downtown Los Angeles. According to Gumbiner, the Tower was one of the earliest theatres in the U.S. to use an overhead air-conditioning system, following the example made by the Palmer Theatre in New York, NY. The Dutch-born, Southern California artist, Anthony (Antoon) B. Heinsbergen, executed murals for the interior of the Tower Theatre, Los Angeles, CA. R.E. Campbell served as the original building contractor for the Tower; his contract stipulated that he finish the building within a six-month time-span. The Tower showed its last movie in 1988; this venue has been used periodically since 1988 as a set for motion pictures.

Building Notes

Erected on the site of the demolished Garrick Theatre, the Tower Theatre was known as the Music Hall in the mid-1940s and the Newsreel in the 1950s, up until 10/1965. As the name suggested, the Newsreel Theatre showed newsreels.


A Vitaphone speaker system was installed in 1927. The top of portion of the 100-foot, terra cotta tower (just above the clock) was removed due to structural problems, following the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake; the marquee also has been replaced several times as the theatre's name has changed.

Mrs. Villis G. Randall, daughter of the original owner, H.L. Gumbiner, oversaw a renovation of the Tower Theatre that occurred in 1965; it re-opened as the Tower theatre 10/1965, with improvements to the air-conditioning system, the addition of a coffee lounge, new drapes, carpetting, and exterior. At some point after 1988, all theatre seating was removed from the Tower.

PCAD id: 937