The Million Dollar Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles is one of the first movie palaces built in the United States. It was the first movie house built by the famous entrepreneur Sid Grauman as the first grand cinema palace in LA. It opened in 1917 with the premiere of William S. Hart’s The Silent Man. While the signage just said “Grauman’s,” it was referred to in early ads as Grauman’s Million Dollar Theatre. It had evidently cost something more than that sum for the land, the office building, the theatre, and the furnishings. The name “Million Dollar Theatre” had even appeared on the construction fence. As well, the name may have been a bit of a joke. The lobby floor covering at downtown’s poshest hotel, the Alexandria, was referred to as the “Million Dollar Rug” due to the caliber of the clientele hanging out there and the size of the deals transacted.
Originally the seating was 2,345 with 1,400 on the main floor and 945 in the balcony. Currently it’s 2,024 with 1,216 on the main floor and 808 in the balcony. A 1979 LA. Times article about Metropolitan Theatres listed the capacity as 2,001. The proscenium is 39′ 11″ with a height at center of 47′. The stage depth is 32′ 1″ from the smoke pocket to face of backwall columns.
The Million Dollar was the first real movie palace on Broadway. And the Million Dollar also gets the prize as the first real Los Angeles movie palace built for that purpose. Although the Auditorium Theatre at 5th & Olive, when running as Clune’s Auditorium, was operated in luxurious movie palace fashion it was originally built as a church. The Million Dollar was also noteworthy as the first theatre built as part of a “height limit” building and also had the first clear-span balcony in town in a major theatre – largely cast concrete.
Built in 1917, the theatre was designed in an exquisite Californian Churrigueresque style by noted Los Angeles architect Albert C. Martin. It was the first movie palace built by famed Hollywood entrepreneur Sid Grauman, who also founded Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre.In the 50’s, the theatre became an epicenter of Spanish language entertainment in the country. Today it is one of the last surviving grand movie palaces from the turn of the century.
They don’t build buildings this way anymore! Any day you can view the theater from the Bradbury Building. Look across the street and view the detailing on the outside of the building. Beautiful, unique, flamboyant are some of the superlatives that can be bantered about. On special occasions, such as the Los Angeles Historic Preservation groups film series the theater is open to the public for exploring, gawking, and even viewing a classic film.The interior is even better than the exterior. Beautiful, classic and shows why over a million dollars, in old dollars, was spent building the theater.