Update – September 2019
LAHTF recently engaged the local community by participating in two free concerts at the Levitt Pavilion across the street in MacArthur Park. This was a great chance to interact with people from the area, the people who potentially would use a restored and reopened Westlake theatre.
LAHTF is monitoring the Westlake which has been officially for lease for more than a year, with no takers. The potential is there to bring the theatre back, so we continue to try to find the right parties or organizations to do it.
Update – 1st July 2019
The Westlake has been for lease since the new owner took it over in early 2018. At this point there have been no takers. We’ve communicated with the real estate agents repping the theatre and they are assessing what steps to take. Meanwhile, LAHTF is starting an effort in July 2019 to reach into the community to find out what they want to see happen with the Westlake Theatre.
Update – January 2018
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.
About the Westlake Theatre
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