Mayan Theatre

 
(n.d.)* – Sketch showing the Mayan Theatre located at 1044 S. Hill Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Drawing by Ian Espinoza  

 

Historical Notes

The Mayan Theatre opened August 15, 1927 as a legit theatre focusing on musical comedies. The opening attraction was the musical "Oh, Kay!" with Elsie Janis. The Revival-style theatre was designed by the architectural firm of Morgan, Walls and Clements.
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1926)* - Four artisans at work on one of the decorative terra cotta panels before installation at the Mayan Theatre.  

 

Historical Notes

The façade of the Mayan Theater includes stylized pre-Columbian patterns and figures designed by sculptor Francisco Cornejo. This was his major work.^
 

 

 

 

 
(1927)* – View showing the front of the ornate Revival-style Mayan Theatre as see from across Hill Street.  

 

Historical Notes

By 1927, Los Angeles had an Egyptian Theatre and a Chinese Theatre, so what came next? A Mayan Theater of course, because when you think theaters, you naturally think the Mayan aesthetic. Or at least, that’s what oil magnate Edward Doheny thought when built his Mayan Theater.
 

 

 

 

 
(1927)* – Mayan Theatre shortly after opening with the Gershwin musical “Oh, Kay!” starring Elsie Janis. The Belasco Theatre is seen just to the right of the Mayan.  

 

Historical Notes

The Belasco Theatre was developed by Edward Doheny (who also developed the Mayan).  He hoped to develop a new legitimate theatre district to replace the older theatres on North Main Street, in downtown Los Angeles. The Belasco was the first of the two theaters to be completed. It was built as a legitimate playhouse and was operated by the Los Angeles based producer Edward Belasco, brother of New York based David Belasco. The Belasco Theatre opened on November 11, 1926 with the stage production of Anita Loos comedy "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". It is interesting to note that until around 2006, when the exterior of the building was repainted, the original (by then faded) painted sign on the side-wall of the stage house could still be seen with the words; ‘Belasco Theatre’ "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".^
 

 

 

 

 
(1927)* - The very ornately-carved exterior facade of the Mayan Theater as viewed from across the street, framed by tree branches. Location: 1044 South Hill St.  

 

Historical Notes

Leon Hefflin Sr. rented out the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles to produce the Sweet N' Hot, "Greatest Negro All Star Musical to Hit Coast." His business partner was Curtis Mosby, and the featured performer was Dorothy Dandridge. The show had a run of eleven weeks and was reported as going to New York. It closed to rave reviews and was covered by 20 different newspapers all over the country.^
 

 

 

 

 
(1927)* - A view of the auditorium ceiling details as seen from the balcony of the Mayan Theater, in Mayan Revival style.  

 

Historical Notes

The Mayan is a prototypical example of the many excessively ornate exotic revival-style theaters of the late 1920s, Mayan Revival in this case. The well-preserved lobby is called "The Hall of Feathered Serpents," the auditorium includes a chandelier based on the Aztec calendar stone, and the original fire curtain included images of Mayan jungles and temples.^
 

Historical Notes

Leon Hefflin Sr. rented out the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles to produce the Sweet N' Hot, "Greatest Negro All Star Musical to Hit Coast." His business partner was Curtis Mosby, and the featured performer was Dorothy Dandridge. The show had a run of eleven weeks and was reported as going to New York. It closed to rave reviews and was covered by 20 different newspapers all over the country.^
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1965)* - Workmen can be seen repainting the walls to the left of the marquee. "101 Acts of Love" is having a world premiere there at the Mayan Revival-style theater designed by architects Morgan, Walls and Clements.  

 

Historical Notes

The Mayan is a prototypical example of the many excessively ornate exotic revival-style theaters of the late 1920s, Mayan Revival in this case. The well-preserved lobby is called "The Hall of Feathered Serpents," the auditorium includes a chandelier based on the Aztec calendar stone, and the original fire curtain included images of Mayan jungles and temples.^
 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1980s)***# - View of a 1985 Chevrolet Impala parked in front of the Mayan Theater on South Hill Street.  

 

 

Historical Notes

In 1989 the Mayan Theater was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 460 (Click HERE to see complete listing).
 

 

 

 

 
(2012)* - Detail view of the facade on the Mayan Theater in the Mayan Revival style.  

 

Historical Notes

Francisco Comeja designed the cast concrete sculptural facade which was originally grey, but has been colorfully painted in recent years.The Mayan Revival is a modern architectural movement, primarily of the 1920s and 30s, that drew inspiration from the architecture and iconography of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures.^
 

 

 

 

 
(2020)^ – Mayan Theatre (now Mayan Nightclub) as it appears today. Photo by Paul Wright  

 

Historical Notes

In 1990, the Mayan Theater, with most of its lavish ornament intact, became a nightclub and music venue.
 

 

 

 

 
(2012)* - Detail view in color of the facade on the Mayan Theater (now Mayan Nightclub) in the Mayan Revival style. Location:1044 South Hill Street. Photo by Downtowngal  

 

Historical Notes

The theater has been a location in many films, including Sally of the Scandals, The Bodyguard, Save the Tiger, Unlawful Entry, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and A Night at the Roxbury.
 

 

 

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Historical Early Views

 

 

Newest Additions

 

 

Early LA Buildings and City Views

 

 

History of Water and Electricity in Los Angeles

 

 

 

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