Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Wiltern Theatre: A Glam Experience, Even From The Last Row

The Famous Sign!
Before I (Lara) was bitten by the Art Deco bug almost five years ago, I thought that the Wiltern Theatre was aesthetically pretty and an ideal place to see a show, but it was not until recently when I truly saw it for the stunning Art Deco masterpiece and historical venue it truly is.
Let me take you back a few years to my experience at the Wiltern. Instead of gazing at the luxe entrance (Terrazzo flooring!) in wonder, I could be found pounding on the locked front doors as I stood outside with twenty winners from my radio station’s contest. My goal was simple, but it was oh-so-profound: to enable my station's contest winners to enjoy an acoustic performance at the Wiltern with the band Train.
Of course, someone eventually heard all the commotion out front and let us in, and we enjoyed some lovely renditions of “Meet Virginia” and “Drops of Jupiter” and even engaged in light banter with the band.
Now, a few years later and even more in love with Art Deco, I approach those same front doors with a sense of reverence and awe, almost as if I am entering a church. Can I get an Amen?
The Glorious Entrance! Look at the ceiling!
The Wiltern is located in the big, blue-green Pellissier Building in Koreatown at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. A poster located at the entrance gives you a Reader’s Digest version of the theatre’s history: The Wiltern opened its doors in 1931 with the premiere of the film Alexander Hamilton, starring George Arliss.

Design on the side of the building!
The theatre showed movies for over 50 years, and it was almost torn down in the 1970s until an awesome group of Angelenos (with help from the equally awesome Los Angeles Conservancy) saved it. In the book Theatres in Los Angeles (p.43), Anthony B. Heinsbergen, whose company created much of the Wiltern’s artwork, writes (when told about the plan to tear the Wiltern down) that what really killed all the grand movie palaces was the fact that there was no parking.
In fact, folks started going to films in suburban areas simply because they had room to park. Thankfully, there is now ample parking in the form of street parking, lots, and structures, and since the 1980s the Wiltern has flourished as a venue for live music.
The best way to see the Wiltern is to attend a show. Cori and I stopped in recently to see A Fine Frenzy and Joshua Radin in concert, and even though our seats were in the very LAST row, it was still a great view. (And no, our noses didn’t bleed…much.) And the seats are comfy! And even if they weren’t, you would notice for long because you would be blissfully drowning in the acoustic sounds. Seriously, the theater’s acoustics are almost heavenly.
The auditorium part of the Wiltern is reminiscent of the Egyptian or Pantages, with a sunburst and gold (so much GOLD) everywhere, and an overall feel of luxury. You might want to get a pic of yourselves (as we did) in the lovely rotunda, which is all about waves and sun and leaves and nature. We asked a nice gentleman who worked at the Wiltern to snap our pic, which he did, while also secretly turning Cori’s iPhone camera around and photographing his charming mug. (We sooo want to publish it!)  

Beautiful terrazzo flooring out front!
Contact Info:
The Wiltern Theatre
3790 Wilshire Boulevard  Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 388-1400

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