Earl Carroll Theatre

  • Earl Carroll Theatre
    Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, Essex Development Trust's Bob Linder, with Members of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, Hollywood Heritage, LA Conservancy and the Art Deco Society of LA.
  • Earl Carroll Theatre
    The original 1938 "Goddess of Neon" at the entrance of the lobby - Photo by Wendell Benedetti
  • Earl Carroll Theatre
    The grand staircase leading to the Men's and Women's lounges. Photo by Wendell Benedetti
  • Earl Carroll Theatre
    Looking down into the Earl Carroll Lobby. - Photo by Wendell Benedetti
  • KTLA's Gayle Anderson interviewing Escott O. Norton of LAHTF inside the Earl Carroll Theatre. Click the photo to see the clips
  • A rendering of the new apartent complex to be build next to the Earl Carroll Theatre, shown here with the neon that will be restored. Click the photo to see the live segments with Gayle Anderson interviewing Escott O. Norton of LAHTF and representatives of Hollywood Heritage and the Art Deco Society of LA.

Latest News – 18th September 2020

At today's Cultural Heritage Commission meeting, developer Essex Property Trust delivered a presentation outlining plans for the façade restoration of the theatre. You can view an archived copy of the presentation here.

Below is LAHTF's statement on the presentation made at the meeting:

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation’s (LAHTF) mission is to preserve, protect, restore and sustain the historic theatres of Los Angeles County. In reviewing the presentation submitted for today’s meeting by Essex Property Trust it is obvious that they have worked hard to honor the commitments made when this project was first approved. Overall, the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is happy to see the effort put into these labors. There are a few areas, however, where we would like additional clarification.

The first involves the timing of the actual work. During the earlier presentation made as part of the project’s approval Essex committed to “ECT Façade Restoration – Prior to Occupancy”. As the building nears completion, we have noticed that physical work has yet to commence. We are concerned that any effort to complete construction and begin occupancy would be a fundamental change from those promises and we would expect that any alteration of those earlier guarantees would include a reciprocal arrangement - such as money to complete the work be placed into an escrow account and physical work to have at least commenced prior to any issuance of an occupancy permit - to ensure completion of all elements just reviewed.

We would also like further clarification of exactly how many layers of paint were found on the structure and what is being done to ensure that any new level will not be subject to the age and degradation taking place with earlier layers underneath. How many layers have been discovered on the facade? Will Essex be removing the layers to start fresh? If the layers are being kept intact, how will they be protected and the new layer of paint subject to everything to lies to beneath.

Aside from the request for additional clarification on ensuring the project timing and the paint layers, LAHTF is supportive of the progress being made and execution of the commitments originally agreed upon by Essex to restore the facade of the Earl Carroll Theatre.



Update – 25th September 2019

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation (LAHTF) is thrilled to see a new tenant announced for the historic Earl Carroll Theatre.

After working with the property owners behind the scenes for the last 18 months to secure a new tenant for the legendary venue, we couldn’t be more excited to see the tradition of entertainment continuing upon completion of the planned restoration. With Thaddeus Smith and Brian Levian at the helm, we know the much-loved Earl Carroll Theatre has a bright future ahead in the Hollywood community and as another beacon of light for Sunset Boulevard. In the coming weeks, we look forward to hearing more and seeing a broader scope of plans for the restoration work being laid out by their team.

Since April 2015, LAHTF has been part of a preservation coalition including the Hollywood Heritage, Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Conservancy, collectively working with Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s office and property owner, Essex Property Trust, to ensure the protection and future of the historic Earl Carroll Theatre.  The four year journey has seen the theatre designated as an Historic-Cultural Monument, an agreement to restore the neon to the exterior of the theatre, and a better incorporation of the theatre in to the new mixed-use development being built by Essex Property Trust.  Now with a new theatre tenant in place, we look forward to continuing this coalition and collaborating with Thaddeus and Brian as they bring their vision to life.


"Creator of Music Box Theatre@FONDA and partner team up to bring legendary Earl Carroll Theatre back as a 38,000 sq ft entertainment complex"

Thaddeus Hunter Smith, the entrepreneur behind the highly successful Music Box Theatre @ Fonda, and his business partner, real estate investor and billboard entrepreneur Brian Levian, have signed a lease to take over and revitalize the world-famous Earl Carroll Theater on Sunset Blvd. (most recently the Nickelodeon studio) into an exciting new 38,000 sq. ft. entertainment complex in the heart of Hollywood.

The new project will celebrate Earl Carroll and his long-term affair with partner Beryl Wallace, capturing the spirit of love that enveloped the original theatre. The 1930s/40s-era supper club-theatre, designed by architect Gordon B. Kaufmann, originally presented shows on a massive stage with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling. The revues, which rivalled the Ziegfield Follies in scope and opulence, featured a chorus of 60 girls singing and dancing while patrons dined in style.

The theatre also featured 6200 feet of blue and gold neon tubing and 30-foot columns of light flanking the stage, much of which is still extant today. Most exciting, the original 20-foot-high neon head portrait of Beryl’s face which graced its entrance will be re-created and the theatre’s original motto, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world” will once again welcome guests.

“We are looking to bring glamour and sensational entertainment back to Hollywood,” said Smith. “We’re thrilled to be revitalizing the theatre, returning it to its original Streamline Moderne design, and bringing all kinds of wonderful entertainment experiences to locals and visitors alike. Not only will this project restore one of Hollywood’s crown jewels, but we believe it will spur the revitalization of the entire area which, ultimately, is our dream.”

“We can’t wait to bring this landmark back to life,” concluded Levian. “We look forward to working with preservationists and Hollywood historians to return the theatre back to its original look and usage. We also can’t wait to celebrate the life and love of its creator, Earl Carroll, and his paramour. The project is a labor of love for us all and we’re thrilled to embark upon this amazing journey.”

In addition to being an entertainment center, the revitalized theatre will also be available to the public for neighborhood meetings once work has been completed.

Update – February 2018

On February 24, 2018,  LAHTF held the first ever ALL ABOUT behind-the-scenes tour of the Earl Carroll Theatre. Attended by over 200 enthusiastic members and followers, we were given complete access to the interior spaces of the theatre. Our coalition partners (Hollywood Heritage, L.A. Conservancy, and Art Deco Society of LA were invited as our guests and recognized for their efforts, and Essex Property Trust, the owner/developer with whom we negotiated for over 2 years, graciously allowed us the access for the tour. Click here for photos from the event.

CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES ON ADJOINING DEVELOPMENT  Excavation of the site is almost complete. A huge pit now sits where the parking lot once was. The porte-cochere is protected by construction fencing, and the sides of the pit are shored up to protect the theatre.

(photo by Mike Hume)

GROUND-BREAKING:  On Monday Oct 17th, the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation joined Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell and our preservation coalition partners: Hollywood Heritage, the LA Conservancy and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles to celebrate the "ground-breaking" of a new apartment complex by Essex Properties. Our coalition spent two years working directly with the development team to find ways to preserve and protect the Earl Carroll Theatre. Because of our efforts, the developer filed the application and the Earl Carroll Theatre is now a LA City Historic Cultural Monument. The developer has also pledged to restore the original neon on the exterior, and will be working with LAHTF as we try to find the right tenant to reactivate this space as a performance venue once again. This is a preservation success story, one that came about because of the willingness of this developer to work with our preservation organizations. We hope this can set an example for the future.

Earl Carroll Theatre History    Earl Carroll built his second famous theater at 6230 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It opened on December 26, 1938. As he had done at the New York theater, over the entrance Carroll emblazoned the words "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world". An "entertainment palace", the glamorous supper club-theater offered shows on a massive stage that featured a 60' turntable with separately operated inner and outer sections. There was also a water curtain, an orchestra pit lift, a small circular lift downstage center for a soloist and a revolving tower of four pianos stage right.

The building's façade was adorned by what at the time was one of Hollywood's most famous landmarks: a 20-foot-high (6.1 m) neon head portrait of entertainer Beryl Wallace, one of Earl Carroll's "most beautiful girls in the world", who became his devoted companion. The sign survived several changes of ownership and venue name but was completely removed during major decorative overhauling in 1968. A re-creation made from photos is today on display at Universal CityWalk, at Universal City, as part of the collection of historic neon signs from the Museum of Neon Art. Another prominent exterior feature was the "Wall of Fame", on which were mounted more than a hundred individual concrete blocks autographed by Hollywood celebrities, including some of the biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s.

Later achieving various degrees of fame in films and on television, Jean Spangler, Mara Corday, Yvonne De Carlo, Phyllis Coates, Maila Nurmi, Gloria Pall, and Mamie Van Doren were some of the showgirls who performed there. The facility was a popular night spot for many of Hollywood's most glamorous stars and powerful film industry moguls such as Darryl Zanuck and Walter Wanger, who sat on the Earl Carroll Theatre's board of governors.

The theater was sold following the 1948 deaths of Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace in the crash of United Airlines Flight 624. It continued to operate but by the early 1950s it was falling on hard times.

Other names:

Moulin Rouge - In 1953, Las Vegas showman Frank Sennes reopened the theater as a nightclub under the name "Moulin Rouge". The popular TV contest show Queen for a Day was broadcast from the Moulin Rouge during part of the show's 1956–1964 run.

Hullabaloo - In late 1965 it became the "Hullabaloo", a minors-welcome rock and roll club, capitalizing on the popularity of the television variety show Hullabaloo.

Kaleidoscope - For several months in 1968 it was the "Kaleidoscope" and featured many top West Coast rock acts, with an emphasis on local bands such as The Doors.

Aquarius Theater - Later in 1968, the venue was redecorated in the psychedelic art style, renamed the "Aquarius Theater", and rededicated as the home of a long-running Los Angeles production of the Broadway musical Hair. It was still sometimes used for rock concerts on Mondays, when the Hair company had its day off, and as a result the Aquarius is famous as the place where The Doors performed on July 21, 1969, making live recordings that were later issued commercially.

In 1977 it was briefly known as the Longhorn Theatre. It was also called the Sunset Blvd. Theatre, the Star Search Theatre and (in 1993) the Chevy Chase Theatre. The talk show was a disaster and was cancelled after five weeks; the theater reverted to its previous name soon after. Other uses have included being a venue for Jerry Lewis Telethons and Filmex.

Nickelodeon on Sunset - In the late 1990s, the name of the theater was changed to "Nickelodeon on Sunset" and it became the headquarters for Nickelodeon's West Coast live-action television production after the theater was acquired by the cable television channel Nickelodeon. Some of the shows filmed there for Nickelodeon include the ten-season run of All That, The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and more recently iCarly and Victorious.

(Special thanks to Bill Counter)

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