Sunday, August 4, 2013

Photo Essay: Warner Grand, San Pedro, Behind Closed Doors



When I got to the Warner Grand for the first time, the lobby doors were wide open.

When I walked in, the doors to the house were wide open. I had free rein over the public areas of the landmark movie palace, which is being slowly restored over time while it remains open to the public.

But what I soon realized was that I also had free rein over the areas of the Warner Grand that are normally behind the scenes.

Backstage...



...amongst the work lights and strange hidden doors, a grand piano, and the newly-improved stage rigging...



...there's an Exit door whose signage is in German...



...various pieces of lighting and equipment...



...and stairs leading to the basement.



In the basement, there is a heavy sliding steel door that leads to a small space under the stage...



...next to modernized dressing rooms. In fact, the basement doesn't get really creepy until you go farther back...



...through another red-painted steel fire door...



...where things really start to get dusty.



Frayed wires...



...dangling plugs...



...and moaning machinery characterize the deepest bowels of the Warner Grand, where no one else dared to venture.



Upstairs two levels, off either side aisle of the balcony, doors open out to separate entrances (and fire escapes)...



...one of which leads directly back down into the dressing rooms.



You can spot some modern modifications on the service entrance to the east of the Warner Grand's front lobby...



...and while you're up there...



...you can spot some of the nice Art Deco details on the theater's concrete exterior (including some parapet cresting and stylized floral patterns).



You can also get a good look at the theater's vertical blade sign, which hangs above the neon marquee.



Some doors are locked...



...but back inside on the balcony, from the loge level, I was able to slip into the former pipe organ rooms...



...concealed by decorative grillework that casts intricate light patterns on the walls inside.



From inside, you can see through the organ screens out into house, with its ceiling detailing and original  fabric tapestries that still hang on the walls...



...and the other organ room across the way.



At the top of the upstairs seating, two doors whose signs claim "No Exit" lead to the projection booth and work office...



...with switches galore...



...and equipment clearly cut out for handling film.



A few reels are cast aside...



...but the Warner Grand is trying to upgrade its technology, since many films are now only available to them on DVD and not reels. To show those films now, they only have a small conference room projector, which just isn't sufficient for projecting in a theater as big as the Warner Grand.

The Warner Grand continues to serve as a neighborhood theater for the San Pedro community, just as it did when it originally opened in 1931, when the burgeoning city was becoming a popular tourist destination for Los Angeles beach-goers, and the Los Angeles Harbor was undergoing major development.

It is in remarkably good condition considering the decline it has faced over the last few decades. And although the "Bros" has been removed from both the theater name and its marquee (now replaced with "Grand"), it remains a significant part of LA moviegoing history, which started Downtown, moved to Hollywood, and then spread widely out to the suburbs - as did LA itself.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Warner Grand, San Pedro, Open to the Public
Photo Essay: San Pedro's Sunken City