Million Dollar Theater
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Million Dollar Theatre
The exterior is in Spanish Baroque Revival style
|Location||307 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, California
|Architectural style||Early Commercial, Spanish Colonial Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||78000687|
|Added to NRHP||July 20, 1978|
The Million Dollar Theatre at 307 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles is one of the first movie palaces built in the United States. It opened in February 1918. It is the northernmost of the collection of historical movie palaces in the Broadway Theater District and stands directly across from the landmark Bradbury Building.
The Million Dollar was the first movie house built by entrepreneur Sid Grauman. Grauman was later responsible for Grauman's Egyptian Theatre and Grauman's Chinese Theatre, both on Hollywood Boulevard, and was partly responsible for the entertainment district shifting from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood in the mid-1920s. Sculptor Joseph Mora did the elaborate and surprising exterior Spanish Colonial Revival ornament, including bursts of lavish Churrigueresque decoration, multiple statues, longhorn skulls and other odd features. The auditorium architect was William L. Woollett, and the designer of the twelve-story tower was Los Angeles architect Albert C. Martin, Sr.. For many years the office building housed the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
In the 1940s the theater was the second run house of the famous Orpheum Circuit. Acts such as the Nat King Cole Trio, and Joe Liggins and The Honey Drippers performed on its stage. In 1949 the Million Dollar was taken over by Frank Fouce, a local Spanish language theater owner and film distributor. The Million Dollar Theater became the mecca of Spanish language, in particular Mexican, entertainment in the United States. Dolores del Río, Cantinflas, María Félix, Agustín Lara, José Alfredo Jiménez, José Feliciano, Juan Gabriel, Vicente Fernández, and Celia Cruz are but a few of the artists that worked for Empresa Fouce (Fouce Enterprise). It was also the first venue where the late Mexican film star Antonio Aguilar worked with his rodeo horses on stage. This is where it is said he conceived the idea for his large arena rodeo productions.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the theater's owner, Frank Fouce, went on to found Spanish International Communications Corp., named after his Spanish International Theater Company (which included the Million Dollar Theatre and the Mayan Theater, also located in Downtown Los Angeles). This company comprised the first group of Spanish language and UHF television stations in the United States; KMEX Channel 34 in Los Angeles (and, indirectly, the Univision television network) can trace its roots to the Million Dollar Theatre. The Million Dollar Theatre and the Fouce Family were pioneers in the then unheard of Spanish entertainment industry.
For their efforts, Frank Fouce was awarded El Aguila Azteca (Order of the Aztec Eagle), Mexico's highest civilian award, by President Miguel Alemán Valdés. The theater and Frank Fouce were also honored by the Mexican actors union ANDA for their contributions to the Mexican film, recording, and entertainment industry. In addition to its very successful stage productions, the theater was also the most prominent Spanish language cinema in the United States. Every major Mexican motion picture premiered at the Million Dollar, which was the most well known Spanish motion picture theater. The Million Dollar Theatre featured Mariachi Music at its best, Mariachi Vargas, Mariachi Chapala de Leopoldo Sosa y Esteban Hernandez, Mariachi Los Gallos de Crescencio Hernandez, Mariachi Los Galleros de Pedro Rey (Hernandez), Mariachi los Camperos (led by Nati Cano), Mariachi Mexico de Pepe Villa.
Gonzalo L. Checa, President of the Spanish division of the Metropolitan Theater Corporation, was responsible for the upsurge of attendance at the Million Dollar Theatre in the 1970s and 1980s due to his great expertise and keen insight of the entertainment needs of the Hispanic community. He was the one who oversaw, contracted and scheduled the fantastic showcase stage shows and the international movie premieres of notable Mexican and Latin film stars, such as Mario Moreno (Cantinflas) and the popular Spanish singer/actress Sarita Montiel and the Argentine "Elvis" Sandro de América. During this golden heyday the large lines of people waiting to attend the Million Dollar would wrap around the block and cause the Los Angeles Poice Department to close down Broadway to traffic. He is a well known expert, consultant and authority of the Mexican and Spanish Cinema as well as a legendary and well respected member of the Spanish motion picture business world, who became a low profile power broker and behind the scenes player, who helped launch the U.S. invasion of such stars as Vicente Fernández, José José, Nelson Ned, Juan Gabriel, Julio Alemán, María Elena Velasco ("La India Maria"), Enrique Cuenca Marquez and Eduardo Manzano ("Los Polivoces"), Raúl Ramírez, Jorge Rivero, Rodolfo de Anda, Eulalio Gonzalez ("El Piporo"), Joan Sebastian, Antonio Aguilar and his wife Flor Silvestre, Gaspar Henaine ("Capulina"), and the famous silver masked wrestler Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta ("El Santo") as well as countless other Spanish entertainment heavyweights and greats.
After serving as the home of a Spanish-speaking church for some years, as of 2006 the Million Dollar Theatre was empty, although the office building had been recently renovated and converted to residential space. In February 2008, the theater re-opened, once again showing live Spanish theatre. It continues to draw large crowds, and there are plans to begin screening major motion picture premieres.
In popular culture
- The exterior of the theater appeared prominently in the science fiction film Blade Runner.
- The interior of the theater appeared prominently in the film The Artist.
- The exterior of the theater appeared in Johnny Gill's music video "Fairweather Friend"
- The theatre was featured in the videogame Grand Theft Auto V as the Ten Cent Theatre.
- The theater was featured in Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch Novel "The Overlook" as the site of a secret FBI unit, and the site of a climactic shootout.
- Broadway (Los Angeles)
- Broadway Theater and Commercial District
- Orpheum Theatre (Los Angeles)
- Los Angeles Theatre
- Tower Theatre (Los Angeles)
- Staff (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Million Dollar Theatre - Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour". USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
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