July 15, 2012

Photo Essay: Downtown LA's Palace Theater, Restored (But Not Completely)

Last updated 4/30/18 8:52 PM PT

The Palace Theater, in the Broadway Historic District of Downtown LA, was recently restored, but not all the way.

circa 2018

It's not abandoned, but it's not exactly open to the public or fully operational, either.

circa 2018

This weekend's tour revealed both sides of the historic theater, which has undergone a number of renovations over its 101 years in operation.

Restoration efforts returned the Palace (formerly an Orpheum vaudeville theater, and subsequently the Palace Newsreel Theater and then a cinema specializing in Spanish-language film) back to various historical states, depending on the layers of paint peeled back, and the documentation available.


stairwell (recovered from severe water damage)

lighting fixtures in the house

etched glass panels, cleaned


stage lights


fly gallery

backstage fire door

fly paper

ubiquitous red paint, peeling

dressing room

upstairs rooms

radiator in the upstairs room facing the front of the building, just above the marquee

white fire door

projection booth

balcony lighting fixture

hallway leading to upper gallery (segregated seating) bathrooms

upper gallery, not yet restored

nosebleed seats, with only benches (no railings) - right up against the ceiling

Most of the restoration completed was cosmetic and not structural, though some major roof fixes were necessary to arrest the water leakage that had caused the vast majority of the damage to the theater. Curtains were cleaned and mended. Seats were stripped down to their original wood backing. Paint was removed from wainscoting in the men's lounge, and moldings were reproduced with new plaster casts. Original wall and ceiling stencils were documented and buried under new coats of paint, matched as accurately to the period (which period?) as possible.

And now that the bulk of the public areas of the Palace Theater are ready for their close-up - a major accomplishment - who will find a way to open it up to the public? (And make some more money so budgets will allow for a more thorough restoration...?)

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  1. These are some really cool and artzy photos, thank you for taking and posting them.

  2. Nice pictures accompanied by a snooty review of the enormous and passionate work already done. Compliments should showered on these craftsmen and women for bringing the Palace back this far. People will come and see her as she returns to her glory. Be the very least.

    1. Snooty? No offense intended. The work is not done. That's the truth. There was a lot that couldn't be done because of limited budgets. That's the truth. There is work that is possible for the future but had to be saved for someone who might come along with the money. That may never happen. That's the truth. What has been done with the Palace is a major accomplishment and I said that. Now let's bring some people in to enjoy it.

      Although you don't identify yourself I'm guessing you were involved in the restoration. As you know, there are tons of challenges associated with historic preservation - including budgets - and often the approach and the results are controversial. You can't deny that. But because I saw the "before" shots, I know how remarkable the recovery of areas like the stairwells are, but I don't have those "before" photos to share that with my reaers. Feel free to provide them or post a link to them in the comments.