In early 2018 the successor agency for LA’s now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) unanimously approved the sale of the theatre to 634 Alvarado LLP, for $2 million. LAHTF has been reaching out to Jamison Services, a major real estate investor and developer located in Koreatown, and also controller of 634 Alvarado LLP, to discuss the future of the Westlake Theatre and to advocate for its use as a live entertainment venue with preservation of its historic features.
The Westlake was designed by Richard M. Bates, Jr, in a Spanish Colonial/Mission style. It opened in 1926 presenting both vaudeville and movies to an audience of nearly 2,000. The auditorium and lobby feature murals by Anthony Heisenbergen, a renowned American muralist who also decorated the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, multiple Pantages theatres, the United Artists theatre (now the Theatre at Ace Hotel), and Los Angeles’ City Hall. The centerpiece of the auditorium is Heisenbergen’s large mural located above the proscenium.
The Westlake was originally equipped with a 2 manual, 10 rank Wurlitzer organ which was later removed and eventually destroyed.
Under Fox West Coast’s management renowned theatre architect S. Charles Lee was employed to modernize the theatre in 1935, less than ten years after its opening. Lee oversaw exuberant additions to the theatre such as its modernized marquee, box office, and lobby.
Fox West Coast initially operated the Westlake as a first-run theatre however as the years passed-by it became and second-run and later third-run theatre. Fox ultimately sold the Westlake to Metropolitan in the 1960s who programmed the theatre with Spanish or Spanish-subtitled movies. In 1991 Metropolitan sold the Westlake and the theatre was converted into a swap meet, complete with level concrete floor at Orchestra level. LAHTF co-founder John E. Miller applied for the L.A. City Historical-Cultural listing that same year.
In 2008 LA’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) purchased the building with the intention of rehabilitating the theatre as a live entertainment venue, and in 2009 the Westlake Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Redevelopment plans never came together and in 2012 the CRA was officially dissolved.
In 2016 the theatre was listed for sale along with adjoining city owned properties. Following a lack of bids, the Westlake was listed alone in 2017, and ultimately was sold to 634 Alvarado, LLP, controlled by Jamison Services, who are major property owners and developers based in Koreatown, for $2 million in March 2018.
Photo by Wendell Benedetti