Art Theatre

551 S. Main Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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rivest266 on September 7, 2019 at 4:36 pm

LA Times listings started in 1925 in the West Coast theatres listings.

scottfavareille on February 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

Gary Graver (who passed away in 2009) was a director/cinematographer. He did film/direct a number of XXX films in the 1970s & 1980s under the name Robert McCallum.

kencmcintyre on May 12, 2009 at 1:14 am

This Gary Graver photo shows some of the theater detail:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 11, 2009 at 11:56 pm

At extreme right in the 1939 USC photo, is that the Burbank Theatre’s vertical sign that says “Mexico” on it? Though the marquee is hard to read, it looks like it says “Peliculas” on the first line.

I checked the city directories for 1938 and 1939, and the Burbank is listed in both (under the “Theatres” section rather than “Motion Picture Theatres” and there is no Mexico Theatre listed for either year. The Burbank is listed under Motion Picture Theatres in the 1942 directory.

Unfortunately the L.A. Library doesn’t have a 1940 directory online, or I’d check that. If the Burbank was a Spanish-language movie house called the Mexico, it must have been for a very brief time.

kencmcintyre on March 1, 2009 at 12:46 pm

The Cumberland MD Evening Times had the same story but also included a quote from Marty:

Wiseman quoted the former grid great, now a salesman for a wholesale drug company, “Why don’t you guys give me a break? I’m a married man with three kids. I haven’t done anything like this since I was a kid. I don’t know why I grabbed hold of you tonight. I’m Marty Brill, the famous football player.”

kencmcintyre on March 1, 2009 at 10:51 am

I guess he had a wide stance.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 1, 2009 at 12:36 am

Now Marty’s peccadillo will be exposed among Google results when his name is searched. The guy was pretty well known. Here he is hanging out with actor Pat O'Brien, about 1940.

Such “jostlings” were doubtlessly common at the Art and other Main Street grind houses through much of their history, and probably only a small percentage of them ended with an arrest. There’s a whole secret history of these theaters that’s little discussed.

kencmcintyre on February 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm

This is a March 1950 story in the Dixon Evening Telegraph:

Los Angeles, March 15â€"(AP)â€"Marty Brill, 44, Notre Dame football star of 20 years ago and former Loyola at Los Angeles coach, was charged today with misdemeanor, vagrancy and lewd conduct in a theatre. Officer A. G. Wiseman of the police vice squad accused Brill, married and the father of three children, of making an improper advance. Brill told a reporter he had several drinks and vaguely recalled being jostled by someone in the theater. He is at liberty on $500 bail, pending a court appearance later today. A complaint was issued by the city attorney’s office on the basis of Wiseman’s statement.. The latter and two other vice squad officers, H. E. Dorrall and G. H Yorham, made the arrest at the Art Theater on South Main street.

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm

OK, thanks. I had a hunch that was a different Rio.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 4, 2008 at 8:54 pm

The Rio in that video wasn’t the Rio on Manchester, which was a large, modern, freestanding building. I did notice many L.A. area neighborhood theatres in the video, though, including the Clinton, Kim Sing, Eagle, Imperial, Beverly, Vagabond, Pasadena’s State, Tosca, Unique, Vista, Ebony Showcase, and a nice shot of the Garfield in Alhambra about three and a half minutes in.

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2008 at 5:51 pm

There was a shot of a Rio Theater in the video above, but I could not confirm if that was the one on Manchester. The film’s creator also included theaters from Colorado, besides LA.

kencmcintyre on May 3, 2008 at 9:47 pm

There are some nice shots of the Art on this youtube mini-documentary:

kencmcintyre on August 14, 2007 at 8:16 pm

I found it interesting that in 1914 there seemed to be an extension of the theater district on 5th Street going east of Main. That’s skid row today, at least for a while longer. The 1914 city directory listed the following theaters:

Bell 314 E. Fifth

El Rodeo 807 E. Fifth

Another listing at 204 E. Fifth, but it looks like a name, FH Wiswell. It’s not clear if there was actually a theater at that address.

kencmcintyre on January 15, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Here is the approximate location of the Art on Main Street:

seymourcox on November 29, 2006 at 3:10 pm

In 1983 the Art had become quite run down. The lobby was barely big enough to hold a boxoffice and compact concession stand. One center isle seperated a long, narrow auditorium. Back rows held over stuffed loge chairs. Rest rooms were nestled behind the screen. Floors, walls, and ceiling were painted black throughout the interior.

kencmcintyre on June 4, 2006 at 8:47 pm

The Art was visible in a 1981 episode of Hill Street Blues that I watched last night. It looked like your typical adult theater, although perhaps not as seedy as the Optic a few doors north. The episode I watched also featured the Regent and Main theaters.

dennis906 on April 6, 2006 at 11:33 am

I began my projectionist career at this theatre in December 1973. The day shift was offered to me and I took the job. My hours were from 10 a.m. (opening) to 6 p.m. To get to the booth I had to climb up a ladder, swing open a trap doow then once I hoisted myself into the booth close the trap door so I don’t fall through the floor. That New Year’s eve the relief projectionist didn’t show up and the union couldn’t get anyone to work the shift so I ended up working the graveyard shift. That was nearly 18 hours in a small and hot booth without intermissions with noisy generators that ran the arc lamps. The only relief from all that was running the quiet 16MM film projector on a large reel. Walnut Properties which operated the Pussycat porno chain also ran the Art. I remember taking catnaps during the night only to be awakened by the sounds of Happy New Year and car horns at midnight.

kencmcintyre on January 29, 2006 at 12:01 pm

Here is a map, circa 1950, which shows the Art, Optic, Star and Gayety theaters on Main between Fifth and Sixth:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 6, 2005 at 3:14 pm

ken mc: The Art was south of the Optic, which was itself south of the Omar. The Art was only a few doors north of 6th Street, and its site doesn’t show in the USC Archive picture.

kencmcintyre on November 10, 2005 at 6:31 pm

A photo by William Reagh:

View link

kencmcintyre on October 8, 2005 at 4:30 pm

From the USC Digital Archive, a picture of Main between 5th and 6th in 1917. I assume that the Art Theater building was erected after the buildings in the same location in this photo. I haven’t seen any listing for the Omar Theater on Main Street, possibly because it was a burlesque house and not an actual movie theater.

View link

kencmcintyre on October 1, 2005 at 8:54 pm

Another photo of the Art, courtesy of the LA Library:

Svenoli on December 5, 2004 at 8:22 pm

I visit Los Angeles one time very nice place I maybe visit again

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 5, 2004 at 6:57 pm

The Art Theatre opened in June 1918. Art and foreign films were screen and large leather loge seats were located in the last six rows of the narrow auditorium. Western and actions films were presented in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s with an admission price of 15c. From 1984 adult porno films were screened almost ‘non-stop’, the theatre only closing for two hours a day for cleaning.

William on November 12, 2003 at 5:18 pm

The Art Theatre was located at 551 S. Main Street.