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The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theater




Just the basics

The Wiltern Theatre and adjacent twelve-story Pellissier Building are an Art Deco landmark located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, California (the entire complex is commonly referred to as simply the Wiltern). Clad in a blue-green terra-cotta tile and situated on a diagonal to the street corner, the complex is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States. In addition to the building's architectural significance, the construction of the Wiltern marked the beginning of the change in Wilshire Boulevard from a sleepy residential street to a busy commercial one and of Los Angeles from a city with a central core to one of many "centers".

... Originally built in 1931, the Wiltern was designed by architect Stiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements, the city's oldest architectural firm. The Wiltern Theatre was originally designed as a vaudeville theater and initially opened as the Warner Brothers Western Theater, the flagship for the theater chain. Quickly closing a year later, the theater reopened in the mid 1930s and was renamed the Wiltern Theatre for the major intersection which it faces (Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue).

In 1956, the building and theater were sold to the Franklin Life Insurance Company of Springfield, Illinois. However, the company ignored the landmark building and by the late 1970s the Wiltern had fallen into complete disarray. Only the intervention of a group of local preservationists saved the complex from being demolished on two occasions in the late 1970s when the owners filed for demolition permits (the preservation of the Wiltern was one of the Los Angeles Conservancy's first victories in its fight to preserve the architectural heritage of the City).

In 1981, the Wiltern was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked with architect Brenda Levin to restore both the theater and the office building to their former glory. The renovation of the office building was complete by 1983, but the Wiltern Theatre presented a much more difficult problem and took another two years to complete. The theater had been poorly maintained - many of the murals and plasterwork were damaged, many of the fixtures had been sold off or pillaged, and portions of the ceiling had crashed onto the ground floor seats. To restore the theater to its original state required some expert craftsmanship to repair what was there (including A.T. Heinsbergen, the son of the original painter) and some creativity to replace what had been lost (including salvaging vintage Art Deco seats from the soon to be demolished Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon). Further, while originally a movie theater, Ratkovich wanted to convert the Wiltern into a performing arts center that could host live concerts and Broadway level stage performances which entailed extending the rear wall of the theater back thirteen feet. After a four year renovation the Wiltern Theatre finally opened again to the public on May 1, 1985.

Currently, the Wiltern Theatre is one of the largest in Los Angeles and at one time seated 2,344 (subsequent modifications removed 1,200 seats on the ground floor to allow for a variety of configurations from a standing room only crowd to a more intimate arrangement). Since its renovation, the Wiltern Theatre has hosted a diverse range of performing artists including the Los Angeles Orchestra, the American Ballet Theatre, magician David Copperfield, and popular music icons Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Paul Simon, David Bowie, The Pixies and the Rolling Stones."

Photos from Monday, May 1 and May 4, 2006, mid-afternoon.

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

The Wiltern Theatre and Pellissier Building

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There is a copyright notice at the bottom of this page, of course.

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - lens AF-5 Nikor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED or AF Nikor 70-300 mm telephoto.

They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0
The original large-format raw files are available upon request.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

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