This past June, the marquee of the 101-year-old Globe Theatre on Broadway was relit for the first time since the 1980s, a major milestone not only for the building itself (closed for business since 2011), but also for the dramatically transforming boulevard on which it sits. But the relighting was only a piece of the big changes going on at the Globe. The theater has been undergoing a $5-million renovation into an enormous dance club and inching closer to what the owners hope will be a 2015 opening. The plan is to "keep most everything the way it was—just kind of cleaning it up," says Beth Holden of New Theme, the firm overseeing the interior architecture and general contracting on the renovation.
So, Holden says, the existing space will mostly stay "raw," the way it is now; the original Beaux-Arts details will be touched up, but otherwise changes will be minimal. The next steps are to redo the bathrooms (see below), and create the stage and a big dance floor for what's envisioned as a Euro-style, "DJ-driven" dance club and events venue. Holden says that the changes to the space will likely come in phases, with later rounds of upgrades turning the balconies and some space in the wings behind the stage into VIP seating. She emphasizes that the proprietor, Erik Chol, is eager to avoid the mistakes of the troubled 740 Club that occupied the Globe last, and is being careful to only make changes to the historic theater that are in step with city and preservation requirements.
Architecturally and structurally, time seems compressed at the Globe. It's like all 101 years of its existence have been smashed together in often graceless, but completely fascinating ways. The interior of the theater was the work of Alfred F. Rosenheim, the prominent Los-Angeles-based architect who designed the Broadway Trade Center, across the street from the Globe, and the Hellman Building. When the theater opened in 1913 under the name the Morosco, it was used for live dramatic productions (none of that Vaudeville trash); it later showed films ranging from newsreels to Spanish-language movies. In 1987, it suffered what the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation calls "a brutal conversion to retail space" and the sloped theater floor was leveled out via a concrete slab spanning the ground floor. That renovation was done in a way that didn't quite consider aesthetics or utility, and chopped many doorways in half in the process.
Those two stubby doors underneath the balcony were once actual doors; now they're barely as tall as the the curvaceous white bar being built next to them.
Thankfully, that flat floor hovers above the original one and over part of the original stage. Because of that, it's possible to go down into the basement, up a short flight of stairs, and through an odd little stunted door, and suddenly be standing in the century-old orchestra pit, looking at the elaborate golden edge of the original platform. That same little den has a hole in the wall that looks out into the darkness between the 1913 floor and the present one. The space between them smells like the Matterhorn at Disneyland: dusty, ancient, and damp.
Weird doors in the walls leading to tiny rooms that go nowhere are a theme in the Globe, reminders of how many roles this space has had to play in order to survive. The details that have remained intact, though, are incredible. The stage is adorned with a golden border, topped by a frieze of chubby cherubs holding floral garlands and framed by grand columns that almost graze the approximately 60-foot-high ceiling. A section of the ceiling features stunning silvery coffers and points from which chandeliers once dangled. The walls are dotted with dusty old sconces and lighting fixtures, which Holden says are believed to be original. One of the grandest elements of the new club will be the impressive, mirrored entrance from Broadway. Entrants to the old 740 Club had to enter from the alley behind the theater; the new street entrance is a point of pride for Holden, an auspice that things at the new Globe will be different. The renewed theater is set to reopen in mid-2015.