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Touring South Park's (Fake-Haunted) 1924 Variety Arts Theatre

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Photos by Elizabeth Daniels

Ah, fall, when the evenings start to chill and historic Downtown theaters get all haunted. The Blumhouse of Horrors (warning: auto-music) opens tonight in the 1924 Variety Arts Theatre on Figueroa--it's brought to you by Jason Blumhouse, the guy who produced the ridiculously successful Paranormal Activity movies. The haunted house runs with the theater theme, with a story of an evil magician and a mysteriously vanishing assistant, blah blah blah, really it's just an excuse for creepy elevator operators and murderous actors, right? (Blumhouse recommends you not bring kids under 12, which sounds about right; it's spooky and a little startling, but not scary-scary.) Blumhouse haunts the whole building, including the alleys, a small theater, dressing rooms, a parlor, and the 1,100-seat main theater (known as The Playhouse when it first opened, according to Historic Los Angeles Theatres).

Architects Allison & Allison designed the Variety Arts building as a clubhouse for the Friday Morning Club, "founded by suffragist and abolitionist Caroline Severance," according to Cinema Treasures. The club's motto--"In Essentials Unity – In Nonessentials Liberty – and In All Things Charity"--is carved over the doors. Historic LA Theatres says it's rumored that Clark Gable launched his career here, appearing in Romeo and Juliet in 1925. Over the years, Variety Arts has been owned by the guy behind the Magic Castle (who gave it the VA name), LA Live owners AEG, and developer David Houk. It's also appeared in Scream 2, so it knows a little about being spooky.
· Blumhouse of Horrors (warning: auto-music) [Official Site]
· ?Variety Arts Theatre? [Historic Los Angeles Theatres]