Sunday, February 2, 2014

Photo Essay: Inside United Artists Theatre at Ace Hotel



The United Artists Theatre may have opened in 1927 as a cathedral to film, but it was actually operating as a church for about 20 years until it closed for good in 2010.



When the Ace Hotel group bought the property to open their first LA outpost, they committed to preserving the theater and reopening it as a performance venue.



And now, the original seats are in place and restored...



...the house has a brand new paint job, with a color scheme hand-picked by the Ace.



New LED lighting has been installed...



...illuminating the Spanish Gothic details that surround the house, including the ceiling dome.



Plaster "stalactites" hang above the stage from the proscenium, as they do in the UA's two sister theaters in Detroit and Chicago. The fire curtain still reads, "The Picture's the Thing."



The lit organ grilles no longer hold pipes from the Wurlitzer that was removed in 1955.



Underneath the balcony, the soffit features a pattern of art glass.



Although Mary Pickford (one of the founding United Artists) never wanted a stage in her theater - further evidence to it being a cathedral to film and not live theater or vaudeville - the studio insisted on having one (as well as an orchestra pit).



The Ace is currently replacing the original fly system backstage (and already replaced the electrical workings, which were original to the building)...



...but yellow drapes still cover up the side areas where proscenium sections were removed for the installation of a large format screen, thanks to (the unfortunately short-lived) Todd-AO film projection technology in 1955. This same renovation was responsible for removing a level of seats between the balcony and orchestra sections, the mezzanine level.



Only three rows for exclusive VIPs, the mezzanine was removed entirely in the 1950s, partially to accommodate the new projection booth built in the back of the house, and partially to eliminate any seats with bad sight lines for the new, bigger screen.



The renovation also reorganized the seats in the orchestra, creating the current floor plan, with better leg room.



Up in the balcony...



...some work is still being done.



Up there, you get a great view of the murals painted on each side...



...making this level more self-consciously pretty than down below.



You also get a really close-up look at the LED-lit plasterwork.



Restored seats are still covered in plastic.



Outside in the back alley...



...you can see the artist egress / fire escape...



...and the stage door...



...but more interestingly, above looms the remaining "JESUS SAVES" sign, the last one (of two) from the theater's time as an actual functioning church (not just cathedral-inspired).

The newly christened Theatre at Ace officially opens in less than two weeks, for the first time in decades welcoming audiences broadly, many of whom have probably never walked through those doors before.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: The Ace Hotel & Its Rehabilitation of Its Historic United Artists Theatre