Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ace Hotel and United Artists Theatre--and Schultheis

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times described new tax benefits to owners who restore buildings that are on either the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historic Places. The benefits are mostly for businesses, but some residential buildings could earn their owners tax breaks as well.

It's all very interesting but what really drew me to the piece was this incredibly lovely picture of the 1927  United Artists Theatre, which ran with the editorial. This refurbishment shows how well the new law will work (though it's not in effect yet) because the 1600-seat theater is part of the Ace Hotel complex in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Ace Hotel IS the United Artists Building and Tower. It opened earlier this year (Valentine's Day) at 929 S. Broadway, (or is it 933? I think that's the original address) and preserved all the outward beauty of the building while creating minimalist, functional hotel rooms of varying sizes on the inside, as well as a few meeting venues.

Here's the Ace's theatre website with pictures, info, and a calendar.

Percy Walker and Albert Eisen were the architects of the 1927 building, and they got around some local height restriction ordinances by creating the 50-foot "dummy" tower that still sits atop it.

At the end of this post are some "then and now" photos, the oldest from the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection.

From the beginning, most of the offices in the building were leased out to oil companies. First it was California Petroleum Co., then later the building became known as  the Texaco Building. In the 1990s, it was the home of Dr. Gene Scott's University Cathedral.

But this post is focused on the movie theater, not the entire building. Isn't it gorgeous? Divine decadence is the phrase that comes to mind.

The vaulted ceiling--to me, it looks like a dome but the site refers to it as a vaulted ceiling--has thousands of tiny mirrors, and the palace includes a huge (2300 sq ft), ornate lobby.

The new lighting and sound systems are state-of-the-art so that concerts and private presentations can be staged here.

When the interior of the theater was designed by C. Howard Crane, the decor deliberately imitated the 16th century Catholic Cathedral of Segovia, Spain.  You can really see that in the image below left, which accompanied LAWeekly's review of the grand re-opening.

As for the original opening in 1927--the theater's first feature was My Best Girl starring--of course--Mary Pickford, one of the founders of United Artists (along with her husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin).

The picture above, btw, came from a 2012 article in the Nomad Lab. There I learned that the 12-story UA building was the city's tallest privately-owned property until 1956.

The 1937 picture below left, with the car in the foreground was taken by Herman J. Schultheis, a gentleman who immigrated to the US from Aachen, German. He came to LA in 1936 after marrying (he was 36--the same age as the century, which makes it easy).  His collection of photographs of his new hometown made in 1937 is now held by our library.

And he lived quite a life.

Schultheis was a PhD'd engineer, but he worked for Walt Disney, in films, He's best know for Snow White, BambiPinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia.

About Fantasia: There's a short documentary about the special effects in that film based on Schultheis' detailed notebooks, and that short is one of the extras on some Fantasia DVDs. The notebook itself is at the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and you can read about it here.

Before Disney, he's worked for all sorts of companies back east as an engineer. After Disney, he went to 20th Century Fox for awhile, the Cal Tech, then to a firm called Librascope (which was eventually folded into Lockheed Martin). At every place, he worked on something different--tweaked some old idea to make it better, or introduced new design concepts. Photography, sound engineering, miniature models, cameras, electronics, printing--he had a broad range of interests.

As an amateur photographer, he went all over the world--and he disappeared in Guatemala on his fourth trip thwew in 1955. He had a plane take him to the ruins at Tikal, but didn't show up at the designated spot for his return trip just a few hours away. His remains were found 18 months later.

1 comment:

wilberfan said...

An amazing place. Was fortunate enough to tour the theater with the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundtion a few months ago. Absolutely stunning inside!