Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Union Theater

What a history this place has!

Today, it is The Velaslavasay Panorama on 24th between Vermont and Hoover. What is a Velaslavasay Panorama?  According to their website, "an exhibition hall, theatre and garden dedicated to the production and presentation of unusual visual experiences, including those of the 360-degree variety."

More description:  the exhibition space "encircles the spectator within a fully enveloping atmosphere; the vast painting, of a continuous surrounding landscape, accompanied by sound stimulation and three-dimensional elements, affords the viewer an opportunity to experience a complete sensory phenomenon."

It's also an event and screening venue. Huell Howser has visited and filmed there. Gardens and a gazebo sit in back of the theater building. But basically, it's a huge, round theater.

Panoramas/cycloramas have been around since the 1800s...wonder if a young Walt Disney was inspired by them? They're all over the world, and I've visited the one in Gettysburg.

This building existed before 1920, and was a 400-seat movie theater for awhile, then a silent screen vamp turned it into a live theater.

Deb Pawlak--author of Bringing Up Oscar--first clued me in on the building by linking it with silent movie actress Louise Glaum, who installed a live theater and acting school here in 1935. Pawlak's Facebook page, Tales From Tinseltown, gave a quick capsule view of Glaum's career: 100 films between 1912 and 1925--and that after a live-theater career.

Wikipedia has a good article about Glaum and her theaters, including this one.  The author clearly went through the Los Angeles Times archives to list the productions and reviews of Glaum's theater, which seems to have been a abig part of the Los Angeles theater scene for awhile.

The Louise Glaum Little Theatre of Union Square closed in 1939, and the building became a movie theater until the 1950s.

Here's more from theVelaslavasay Panorama website: "For a time in the 1970's, while serving as the headquarters for the Tile Layers, a student from nearby USC operated an after hours weekly film series, showing cult and underground films and Saturday cartoon matinees for the neighborhood children."

The building stood empty through most of  the 1990s, served as a storefront church intermittently, and was bought by the Velaslavasay Panorama in 2005--an outfit which had previously been in Hollywood. This picture was on the Google map page.

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