Tower Theatre (802 S. Broadway)

(1927)* – View looking east on 8th Street toward Broadway where the newly constructed Tower Theatre stands tall on the southeast corner.  Now playing:  “What Price Glory?” with Victor McLaglen and Delores Del Rio. The May Co. Building is seen on the right (S/W corner).  


Historical Notes

The Tower Theatre, at 802 S. Broadway, opened in 1927. It was commissioned by H.L. Gumbiner, who would later also build the Los Angeles Theatre in 1931. The Tower was the first theater designed by architect S. Charles Lee.*




(1927)* - Exterior view of the Tower Theatre, at S. Broadway and W. 8th Street, featuring "The Gingham Girl", starring George K. Arthur and Lois Wilson. The Southern California Music Company building can be seen just south of the theatre.  


Historical Notes

Seating 900 on a tiny site, it was designed in powerful Baroque style with innovative French, Spanish, Moorish, and Italian elements all executed in terra-cotta.  Its interior was modeled after the Paris Opera House.  Its exterior features a prominent clock tower, the very top of which was removed after an earthquake. It opened in 1927 with the silent film The Gingham Girl starring Lois Wilson and George K. Arthur.*

The Tower Theatre was built on th site of the old Garrick Theatre.




(1927)* - Exterior corner view of the Tower Theater, located 802 S. Broadway. On the two sides of the marquee: Vitaphone program; Vita phone Vincent Lopez; Rudolph Schildkraut The Country Doctor; Vitaphone Howard Bros.  


Historical Notes

The Tower Theater was the first film house in Los Angeles to be wired for talking pictures, and it was the location of the sneak preview and Los Angeles premiere of Warner Bros.' revolutionary part-talking The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson. It was also the first theater in Los Angeles to be air conditioned.*




(ca. 1928)* - Detail close-up view showing the 8th Street side of the Tower Theatre designed by architect S. Charles Lee, his first theatrer design. It was designed in powerful Baroque style with innovative French, Spanish, Moorish, and Italian elements all executed in terra-cotta.  





(ca. 1928)* - Detail view showing the ornate terra-cotta design features on the Tower Theatre.  





(1928)* - Looking southeast across the intersection of Broadway and 8th Street towards the Tower Theatre. The marquee is in 4 sections and advertising: May McAvoy; The Little Snow ; Vitaphone Orchestra; Five Big Attractions. The building behind shows the name Southern California Music Company and has a sign on top of the building for Baldwin pianos.  





(1928)* – Close-up detail view of clock tower on the corner of the Theatre.  





(1928)^^ – Street view looking south on Broadway at 8th Street showing the Tower Theatre at the end of the street to the left (S/E corner), its clock tower reading approximately thirty-nine minutes after two o'clock, behind which the Southern California Music Company building, Wurlitzer Building, Platt Music Company building and the New Orpheum can be seen, respectively. Automobiles, pedestrians and a cable-car navigate the street to the right.  





(ca. 1931)* - View looking south on Broadway from 8th Street, showing (left to right):  The Tower Theater, Southern California Music Company, Wurlitzer Building, Rialto Theater, Platt Music Company, and the Orpheum Theater.  A very large and prominent Baldwin Pianos sign sits on top of the Southern California Music Co. Building.  





(1931)^^ - View looking toward the Tower Theater at 8th and Broadway. Traffic is stopped as people cross the intersection in all directions. Photo by Dick Whittington  





(1931)^^ - View looking toward the Tower Theater at 8th and Broadway. Traffic is stopped as people cross the intersection in all directions. Photo by Dick Whittington; Image enhancement and colorization by Richard Holoff  





(ca. 1937)* – Looking west on 8th Street toward Broadway showing the Tower Theatre on the left (SE Corner). Across the street (SW Corner) stands the May Company Building. Photo by Herman Schultheis  





(1951)^^ - View of the Newsreel Theater (aka The Tower Theater) on the corner of Broadway and 8th Street.  


Historical Notes

In 1950, the theatre began a successful period of running only newsreels, aptly taking on the name, Newsreel Theatre. That signage can still be faintly seen on the north and east sides of the building. It also served as a general-run theatre under the name Music Hall Downtown.

In 1965, the theatre was renamed the Tower Theatre.




(1979)* – Tower Theatre with slightly shorter tower due to '71 earthquake damage.  


Historical Notes

During the 1990s, the Tower became a popular location for film production, including the Warner Bros. film, Mambo Kings.* 

In 1989, the Tower Theater was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 450 (Click HERE to see complete listing).




(2017)^ – A vacant Tower Theatre  


Historical Notes

On August 2, 2018, Apple officially announced plans to adaptively reuse The Tower Theatre as a retail operation, including  additional community programming, classes, and events.*




(2020)* – Rendering of the restored Tower Theatre – new home to the Apple Store.  


Historical Notes

The Cupertino-based tech company is transforming the historic movie palace at 8th Street and Broadway into a unique retail store which will incorporate space for programs, classes, and potentially live events.  

Foster + Partners, in coordination with Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates, is designing the project, which includes a full seismic and structural retrofit of the 93-year-old Tower Theatre.  Plans call for restoring the historic building to its original appearance, removing a series of mid 20th century alterations and recreating a portion of its clock tower which was lost to earthquake damage in the 1970s.*




(2021)* - View from the balcony inside the Tower Theatre on Broadway — now an Apple store courtesy of a renovation by Foster + Partners. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)  



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