Monday, January 13, 2014

Photo Essay: The Globe Theatre (formerly Morosco), Under Construction

Upon its 101st birthday, I got the chance to explore one of Broadway's oldest historic theaters in Downtown LA, the Globe.



It originally opened in 1913 as a playhouse called the Morosco (named after the producer who opened it, Oliver Morosco), and it held the distinction of being a small house with comfortable seats (including larger chairs for larger patrons), but also becoming the first newsreel theater in LA.



Like many theaters, the Morosco changed ownership several times, changing its name back and forth between the President and the Newsreel, eventually installing a projection booth and screening feature films under the ownership of Fox West Coast, then Metropolitan Theatres, then back to Fox West Coast in 1949, operating as the Globe under Metropolitan until it closed in 1986.



In 1987, the sloping floor was leveled for use as a swap meet that never happened. Retailers only ever occupied the front lobby.



For years, the lobby was split between two different retailers...



...it original tile floor covered...



...but possibly able to be recovered.



The auditorium section of the Globe was used for a series of nightclubs from the 1980s until 2011...



...walled off from the retailers up front, necessitating entry from the rear alley. A series of renovations destroyed the ornamental wall behind the balcony overhang above the marble staircases, but at least the marble was preserved under some carpeting, which has since been removed.



The Globe is again under new ownership, and it's getting a $5 million makeover by its new owner, Erik Chol, who plans multiple uses of the space. The lobby retailers left last year, and the original lobby will be restored, the marquee relit sometime this year.



The venue is currently an active construction site, where years upon years of changes are both visible and hidden.



Up to the lower balcony...



...you can see where the last nightclub, the 740 Club, housed its VIP lounge...



...upon a false floor, built on top of the sloped original balcony floor, whose bottom stair is still visible beyond the new railing.



The former side entry door is not only dwarfed, but basically cut in half and rendered in accessible, while the overhang of the upper balcony above is unusually low.



Like the downstairs auditorium, which has reportedly gone through an entire spectrum of colors over the years...



...the upstairs appears to have been painted over repeatedly.



The second balcony above it, however, has been closed since the 1930s.



With a separate entrance via its own stairwell leading up from the alley...



...cheap ticket holders could get to their seats without mingling with the more affluent crowds below.



The paint job on the way up there is derelict...



...and, in a way, exciting because it's been untouched for so long.



Some wood seats remain all the way up there, dusty and in horrible condition, though many have been removed.



Lighting fixtures - not original to the Morosco's opening, but dating back to one of its past iterations as the President or Newsreel or Globe - remain on the red-painted walls.



Elsewhere in the theater, creepy portals persist.



The side dressing rooms have been stripped of their vanities.



The stage floor has been covered and raised, bringing you closer to the fly system and fire curtain...



...and catwalks easily viewed from the elevated DJ booth built onto the stage.



The paint bridge still runs along the back wall, with access to it from either fly floor.



From the multiple levels of dressing rooms (accounting for large casts of legit theatrical productions)...



...you can encounter a variety of tetanus-inducing perils, winches, insulated doors, boarded-up windows...



...and a fuse box.



Back downstairs...



...past the railings...



...under the proscenium boxes...



...you start to really comprehend how low the original auditorium floor was built.



As you descend into the basement...




...under the auditorium...



...into what was once used as a separate club lounge space...



...now used for storage of relics both old and newish...



...you can find the original 1913 marble-backed electrical panel...

`

...as well as an old furnace.



Up a few steps, you can find yourself in the old orchestra pit, under the current concrete-filled steel frame of the new auditorium floor...

`

...staring at the edge of the stage apron.



Fortunately, many of the changes that were made over the years inside the Globe are reversible - even the raised auditorium floor - with enough money and interest to do so. For now, its new owner, a French nightlife impresario, plans to reopen the space again as a nightclub, this time under the name The Globe Theatre, and this time hopefully without the "nuisances" (noise, violence, rowdy crowds) of its past nightlife operations.

In the meantime, they've got a lot of cleaning up to do.

To see what the Globe looked like as a nightclub in 2011, you get a pretty good view of the balcony and proscenium boxes in this Jennifer Lopez music video, shot at the then-Club 740:



Related Posts:
Looking Up from the Streets of Downtown LA
Photo Essay: Last Chance Look at the Tower Theatre (Lobby, House & Balcony)
Photo Essay: Last Chance Look at the Tower Theatre Part 2 (Backstage, Projection Booth, Basement)
Photo Essay: The Million Dollar, Sid Grauman's First Movie House