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One Last Look Inside Tower Theater Before Its Big Makeover

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Photos by Wendell Benedetti

The Delijani family, which owns four historic Broadway theaters, is getting ready to rehab the 1920s-era Tower at Broadway and Eighth street--it'll become "a concert venue with an indoor-outdoor bar and coffee house along 8th Street and a plush basement nightclub-style bar on the Broadway side," according to the LA Times. The Tower has mostly been used for filming in the last couple decades. The theater was designed by prolific theater architect S. Charles Lee; he was hired in the mid-1920s by owner HL Gumbiner (the Tower replaced an older theater called the Hyman and later the Garrick): "Lee, then 26 years old, drew up the plans for the distinctive, seven-story tower that anchors the theater and gives it its name."

Lee gave the Tower a "small but opulent lobby, said to resemble a Paris opera house with its giant crystal chandelier, marble columns and a huge stained-glass window." The theater also has (as of now, anyway) late-1920s seats "still equipped with wire racks on the bottom for moviegoers to stash their hats," a projection booth with its own toilet, and basement tunnels. It once was also home to a huge Wurlitzer pipe organ on a hydraulic lift and a "pioneering Vitaphone sound system." According to its website, it was "the first movie palace in downtown wired for sound films, and was the sneak preview location for the Warner Brothers classic, The Jazz Singer (1927)."

The Tower has changed hands again and again over the decades and closed in 1987. In 1988, its seats were stripped out in anticipation of an indoor swap meet that never materialized and eventually its floor "was evened out with plywood terraces to create a set with a ballroom dance floor for the 1992 Warner Bros. movie 'The Mambo Kings.'"

Wendell Benedetti took these photos of the Tower during a recent tour led by the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation--enjoy a last look. The Delijanis' remodel will take about a year and a half. They also have eventual plans for the Palace, State, and Los Angeles Theatres.
· Before historic L.A. movie house is remade, it offers a last peek [LAT]
· Four Historic Broadway Theaters Being Brought Back to Life [Curbed LA]