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Historic Los Feliz Theater “The Vista”

November 27, 2008
Egyptian style in Los Feliz

Egyptian style in Los Feliz

“THE VIEW ROM THE VISTA” – The Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive

One of the few remaining single screen theaters in Hollywood, the Vista Theater, as it is now known, originally started life as “Lou Bard’s East Hollywood Playhouse.” It was renamed “Vista” in 1927. The first film shown here was “Tips” starring child actress Baby Peggy in 1923. The “B” for Bard’s is still visible in the facade decoration right above the decorated central window, however a “V” is also visible in the cartouche at the very top.
Designed by L.A. Smith (a.k.a Lewis Smith) who may be best remembered as designing the Beverly Theater on Beverly Drive at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. The Beverly Theater was very recently demolished to make way for a Montage Hotel project now under construction. The Beverly Theater most closely resembled the Taj Mahal complete with central onion dome, all in white and originally with graceful palm trees in front. Smith designed more than 20 theaters of which only a handful remain intact and open including the Rialto Theater in south Pasadena.
The Spanish Mission Revival style was one of the popular architectural styles of the 1920s inspired by the Spanish Missions of the 1700s. Characterized by the flat facade with arches and decoration on the trim. But why is the entrance, lobby and interior of the theater in the distinct Egyptian style? The Egyptian influence started in the Western world as far back as the 19th century catapulted by popular books of that theme, however the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 was directly influential in the designs of the early 20th century. Everything from jewelry, fashion, furniture and architectural design may have had an Egyptian influence, which actually related to the very popular angular Art Deco style of the 1920s.
On this location was where the original Babylon set for D.W. Griffith’s 1916 silent film “Intolerance”was erected. After the filming was finished the set remained up and became a tourist attraction. It has now been replicated at the Hollywood & Highland shopping center in the form of a large grey and white Assyrian arch and enormous white elephants sitting atop decorated columns.
Egyptian hierogylphics, images of pyramids, papyrus and desert scenes were painted on the interior lobby walls and bathrooms when the restoration was completed after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The restoration and remodeling was carried out by designer Ronald Wright in 1995 and that’s when the vibrant decorative painting was added. Originally it was not painted. Pyramid block shaped pilasters topped with gold painted busts of shieks, a la Tutankamen style, in the auditorium tucked into alcoves with uplighting were also painted during the restoration. The original design of the exterior was different than how it currently stands. The central arch of the facade was added in the mid-90s restoration and some of the decoration was removed. The theater was purchased by Lance and 5-Star Theaters in 1992 and is currently in pristine condition. AND imagine (or just experience) this…every other row of seats has been removed providing ample (unbelievable!) luxurious leg room. Removing seats rather than adding more!! What a concept!

Los Feliz Ledger July 07

Karen Numme Masters of Architecture Keller Williams Realty http://www.myhomesla.com

Laura Massino Smith http://www.architecturetoursla.com

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2 comments

  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.


  2. well the vista name became so popular.



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