Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Photo Essay: Highland Theatre's Hidden History

It's one thing to visit one of our local historic movie theaters that's only open on occasion, for special occasions...



...but it's another to have the chance to lurk around the historic recesses of a fully-operational cinema...



...that's still a neighborhood gem...



...though its stage entrances and fire escapes are now barbed...



...and its 1920s Spanish-style exterior...



...has been modernized with some street art murals...



...be they sanctioned or guerrilla, I don't know.



The Highland Theatre, in Northeast LA's Highland Park neighborhood, is still showing movies—and even was during our tour.



Weekend morning movie-goers grabbing their tickets and popcorn for the latest bargain screening looked on with curious gazes...



...because they didn't know the treasures that are lurking...



...behind dropped ceilings...



...and red curtains.



They probably haven't noticed that the Highland Theatre used to be just one theater, with one stage, one screen, and a balcony.



It's been split into three screens now, in the typical fashion of multiplexing...



...but if you know which staircase to climb, you can find yourself in the old balcony lobby...



...and climb up some more stairs (with original carpeting) to the actual balcony, where many seats have been removed...



...but much of the ornamentation remains.



Between the balcony and the backstage...



...with the old rigging...



...and discarded equipment...



...the Highland is like an abandoned movie theatre within a movie theatre.



I bet audiences have no idea what treasures lie within...



...under the stage...



...through creepy doors...



...and down spooky hallways.

It's the last remaining historic theatre in Highland Park, and has been more or less continually in operation for the last 90 years or so. It's certainly gone through some changes—from vaudeville to vintage with a little porn stint in between—but a lot of the original theatre is still there.

After snooping around a bit in those hidden corners, it's hard not to think that the Highland could be returned to its former glory, with the right inspiration and investment.

In the meantime, it seems like they've got a nice little business. As trendy as Highland Park has become, it's still kind of its own community. It's technically part of Los Angeles, but it still feels...separate, somehow.

And this stretch of Figueroa Street isn't exactly what it used to be (that is, Route 66). But it is lively and vibrant.

And thankfully, people still go to the movies—and they don't always want to drive as far as Downtown or Hollywood.


Related Post:
Photo Essay: Upon the Revitalization of the Red-Tagged Rialto Theatre