Stage of the Paramount Theatre Los Angeles.
Cruising The Past examines social history and looks at one of the great movie palaces. The largest ever built in Los Angeles. Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan.
Left: As the Metropolitan Theatre, Right: As the Paramount Theatre.
Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre in downtown Los Angeles opened in 1923. Grauman, the theatre impresario, had already built the Million Dollar theatre a few blocks away.
Artisans are painting murals.
The Metropolitan would be the largest movie theatre ever built in Los Angeles. Grauman spent many more millions to create his new theatre.
Orchestra and balcony.
The huge auditorium had a seating capacity of over 3,387 seats. It was the largest movie theatre in Southern California, followed by the RKO Hillstreet with 2,890 in downtown Los Angeles. The Hillstreet theatre met the same fate as the Paramount and was torn down. The third largest movie theatre to be built in Southern California was the Fox Theatre in San Diego with 2,883. It is still operating as a concert hall. The fourth largest was the Pantages in Hollywood. Its capacity as a movie theatre was 2,812 seats. As a legit house, the Pantages capacity is smaller. The largest theatre to be built in the West was the Fox Theater in San Francisco. Torn down in the early 60s, this spectacular movie palace had 4,651 seats.
Interior views of the theatre.
Grauman spared no expense in constructing the ornate movie palace.
Lobby area and modernized stage in the 1950s.
(Left Fats Waller, Glenn Miller, Spike Jones) Located at 6th and Hill Streets, the Metropolitan was one block west of Broadway, where most of the city’s major theaters were then located. After the Metropolitan opened, Grauman decided to build an entrance on Broadway, and constructed a building with a grand stairway up to a long hall which entered the theatre on the mezzanine level, crossing a bridge over an alley to reach it.
Grauman is best remembered today for his two Hollywood movie palaces, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre.
With the advent of “talkies” – the Paramount-Publix theatre chain was interested in purchasing the Metropolitan to be used as their flagship theatre. The deal was made in 1929 and the Metropolitan was renamed the Paramount Theatre.
From the 1930s until the 1950s, the Metropolitan was a first run house, mainly featuring Paramount movies. The theatre also had stage shows featuring major vaudeville acts, bands and singers.
In 1941, Fats Waller, Rochester and Kitty Murray were all on the bill together. The theater became famous as the birthplace of “All That Meat and No Potatoes” – a Waller onstage wisecrack about the “brick house” physique of singer-dancer Murray. Such acts as big bands, major stars and comic acts like Spike Jones And His City Slickers played the Paramount.
Spike Jones – Cocktail For Two – This is a short film but indicates what would happen on stage at the Paramount. This includes band members in drag.
The building had been designed by architect William Woolett, and the massive six floor commercial and office block in which it was encased was a major landmark across from Pershing Square for several decades.
A famous gay bar occupied the basement of the building.
Artists conception of the 1950s marque.
In the mid 50’s the exterior was remodeled to the modern style of the day.
Theatre is demolished in 1962
The Paramount was demolished in 1962. Common to most of Los Angeles, regarding any building over fifty years old that were torn down – they were replaced with a parking lot.
Today the International Jewelry Center building occupies the site.