This project investigates audiences’ experience in Tower Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre in downtown LA. Both theaters, located in Historic Core, were originally owned by entrepreneur H. L. Gumbiner (1879-1952) and designed by architect S. Charles Lee (1899-1990) in 1927 and 1931, respectively. These two theaters demonstrated a multiplicity of innovations and represented a peak of Los Angeles movie palaces in the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s.

With the decline of downtown LA and the increased competition of chain movie theaters, both Tower Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre were unable to survive through the end of the twentieth century. Tower Theatre changed its name to Newsreel Theatre and permanently closed in 1988. In 2021, Apple renovated the building and rebranded it as Apple Tower Theatre, reviving the landmark architecture and transforming the old movie palace into an Apple store. Los Angeles Theatre, once considered the best movie theatre in the world, stopped selling movie tickets in 1994. Currently, it serves as a film shoot location.

By looking at various archival collections––newspaper articles, images, and the architect’s hand-drawn blueprints––and taking advantage of the concept of digital storytelling and the technology of 3D modeling, our project aims to reconstruct audiences’ movie theater experiences and highlight the breakthrough innovations of Tower Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre.

Tower Theatre: 802 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Los Angeles Theatre: 615 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Tower Theatre, Los Angeles, Exterior (1926–1927), Courtesy of UCLA Library Special Collections
The Los Angeles Times. 1930. “Innovations Mark Newest Theater: New Los Angeles Playhouse Luxurious Beyond Compare,” December 4, 1930.

Blueprints annotation

Follow architect S. Charles Lee to visit Tower Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre and experience breakthrough innovations of these movie palaces.

LA Theater blueprints

3D modeling

Haven’t been to Tower Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre? Let’s explore them online via 3D technology.

About us

We are two UCLA PhD Students who are interested in theaters, storytelling, and Digital Humanities. Click button below to see what technology we used and how we conceptualized our project.

UCLA Royce Hall