United Artists Theatre

Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

This gorgeous Spanish Gothic theater, with ornate stonework and stained glass, and grand, yet intricate murals by renowned theater interior designer Anthony Heinsbergen, was built in 1927. The place was bankrolled by bygone heavyweights Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, DW Griffith and Charlie Chaplin who, tired of the studio stronghold on filmmaking and distribution (back then studios owned the movie houses, too), joined forces as United Artists.

Once the second-tallest building in the city behind City Hall, some thought it was too far south on Broadway, and too separate from the rest of the theater district to thrive, and it has lived a checkered life. Only moderately successful as a movie theater, it turned to vaudeville through the Depression then went back to the movies until it closed in the 1950s, opening only for the odd rock-and-roll show. From 1962 to 1989 it played Spanish-language films and catered to LA's immigrant community until the old cable preacher Dr Gene Scott bought it and televangelized from the pulpit of Chaplin and Christ. The Scott family earned praise from architecture buffs when they refused to sell it after Dr Gene passed, until they found the Ace Hotel, which restored it with passionate attention to detail and now uses it to host modern dance shows and rock concerts.

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