Thursday, April 15, 2010

WASHINGTON THEATRE LANDMARK! - INTERIOR TOUR HELD!

APARTMENTS SECOND FLOOR LANDING

APARTMENTS GROUND FLOOR LOBBY


INTERIOR WITH 900 SEATS


AUDITORIUM DECORATIVE TAPESTRY PANEL WITH ORIGINAL LIGHTING SCONCES




FROM THE STAGE LOOKING TO THE REAR OF THE AUDITORIUM


AUDITORIUM SEAT DETAILS


THEATRE LOBBY WITH CONCESSION STAND


TERAZZO ENTRANCE FOYER WITH TICKET BOOTH


DECORATIVE ORGAN SPEAKER GRILLE WITH EXIT ARCH BELOW


PROSCENIUM MASK ABOVE SCREEN



As of Monday night, April 12, 2010, the Washington Theatre, located in Lake Washington Village, is now an official Pasadena landmark, having been designated such by the Pasadena City Council, and this has been a long time coming. Here are photos of the interior from a long ago tour by the City assessing the remains of the archaeology of the once proud entertainment venue.
Here from Altadena historian Michele Zack, her letter to the Editor of the Pasadena Star News:
How about a "Walk-To" cinema?
In reading of the hopes the Washington Theater complex's renovation and possible landmark status are inspiring, I must question the premise that reviving its use as a theater is all but impossible. My goodness, we did have cars way back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a regular attendee and the theater was flourishing.
What has changed so very much since then? Well, let's see. . . besides becoming fatter and losing much neighborhood commercial vibrancy, we seem to have developed fear of walking as a transportation mode. I don't know if this condition is related to hardening of the zoning arteries — but I do see a possible cure.
If city planners could become more nimble in responding to community needs, instead relying so much on thousands of pages that tell us what we CANNOT possibly do, they could creatively encourage many beneficial outcomes. Things like increased walkability and sense of place, and the renewal of vibrant commercial nodes outside the center to reduce car tripsThere are literally thousands of people living within a 10-minute stroll of Washington Theater!
People who would welcome the chance to avoid the parking basement horror of the Plaza Pasadena when all they want is to see a movie. And what about the thousands more who could hop a bus up or down Lake Avenue?
As a child, I regularly walked to the Washington Theater from Holliston Avenue to see matinees, and my family had two cars. At night my parents joined me and our pedestrian commute was closer to 20-25 minutes (they were kind of slow.)
We have Bungalow Heaven, Historic Highlands, and all the other people living to the west, north and south who could be encouraged to take in a movie and perhaps patronise a local restaurant or other business.
Actively encouraging the use the Washington Theater as a cultural anchor would lure people out of their armchairs, make our neighborhoods more people-friendly and vibrant — as well as spur economic development and fuel conservation.Pasadena Planners don't have far to look for examples (including some within their own city).
Eagle Rock Boulevard became cool when that city thought out-of-the- box in terms of parking. Other areas within Los Angeles have applied "creative zoning" to reach specific results.
If we want to transform neigborhoods and achieve agreed-upon benefits, we must stop parking from being the perrenial obstacle before which we throw up our arms and admit defeat.
Michele Zack


And here from PSN Editor Larry Wilson's column:

Larry Wilson: We insist on parking beneath the marquee
Posted: 04/08/2010 05:06:20 PM PDT

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Few people who recall when north-central Pasadena's Washington Theater was a silent-flick venue featuring vaudeville-style variety are still around.
But lots of us who enjoyed the literally cheap thrills of the renamed Cinema 21 in the 1960s and `70s still are.

By the time I started going there with my crowd from Eliot Junior High School, it was a second-run house offering the best deal in town: 50 cents for a double feature. Teens packed the place, not overly stringent about checking IDs, every Friday night for years for great ones like "The Wild Bunch" just a few months after they played at the expensive spreads down on Colorado Boulevard.

There were nights when there was not an adult in the place. The smoke from countless Marlboro reds filled the auditorium. Fun was had.

Years ago, I mentioned in this space a night when at least one adult was in the house. The feature was Zefferelli's "Romeo and Juliet," starring the comely Olivia Hussey. Because we had to pretend we didn't find Shakespeare's tragic love story affecting, kids were tittering at the loud sobs coming from one girl sitting up front. Apparently, her father had accompanied her. He stood up, turned around to face us, and called out in the dark, "Have you no feelings?"

The business and the neighborhood changed. For a time the theater became the Cinema Veinte y Uno, showing only Spanish-language flicks, before it closed entirely. It last hit our news pages when Rolls Royce-driving former owners from San Diego didn't take much care of the apartments above, drawing the ire of city inspectors.

I agree with Pasadena Heritage - the 1925 building should get landmark protection, which will help with taxes and restoration. I understand the pickle the new owners are in - movie-going habits have changed in a Netflix age. Restoring the theater part of the building would be a big gamble.

But I really hear the words of Altadena and Sierra Madre historian Michele Zack, who grew up just east of the theater and used to walk there, with friends and family, all the time. Like me, she cringed when reading assertions that the place "needs" its own dedicated parking.

"My goodness, we did have cars way back in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a regular attendee, and the theater was flourishing," Zack writes. "What has changed so very much since then? Well, let's see. . . besides becoming fatter and losing much neighborhood commercial vibrancy, we seem to have developed fear of walking as a transportation mode. . . . If city planners could become more nimble in responding to community needs, instead of relying so much on thousands of pages that tell us what we CANNOT possibly do, they could creatively encourage many beneficial outcomes. Things like increased walkability and sense of place, and the renewal of vibrant commercial nodes outside the center to reduce car trips. There are literally thousands of people living within a 10-minute stroll of the Washington Theater!"
So we hope and pray the Washington Theatre will be saved and restored. It's the most important historical, cultural and entertainment venue on Avenue to the Sky and Lake Washington Village. Please focus your best will and intentions on this location and support the owners' and community's efforts to bring back this much loved attraction to Avenue to the Sky!
See you at opening night! Black tie formal dress required! Look for the marquee announcement and the revolving searchlights in front lighting up the Lake Washington Village sky.
What movie should be booked for opening night? Let's hear some suggestions!





9 comments:

  1. Cool shots! I wonder what it looks like inside now. I'd love to get a glimpse.

    And brava, Michele Zack! I'm one of those people who lives within a ten minute walk of the Washington Theater and would love a neighborhood movie house. I have only once seen a movie at the Paseo. There's a reason I rarely go to that shopping center. Believe it or not it's because I dislike the parking so much!

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  2. We're in Bungalow Heaven and and thus, a very short walk to the theater. We sometimes walk or train to Paseo or Old Pasadena for a movie, but it would be so much more fun to have a theater that was not such a hike to get to.

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  3. When did the theater close exactly? My whole life, it was abandoned. I think at some point it was used to manufacture angel dust, but that might have been a neighboring building.

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  4. Petrea and Gina, let's hope the theater can live again.

    Robert, the Cinema 21, the last iteration, closed about 1986. The auditorium was used as a rehearsal hall for about four more years until the roof started to leak so much that it was abandoned from use and the adjoining apartments suffered water damage and toxic mold. Finally about 2003, the City of Pasadena came in with Code Enforcement, forced the owner to relocate the tenants and pressured the owner to sell, and now we have a stalemate with the new owners wanting more out of the City financially in an Owner Participation Agreement than the City is willing to give.

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  5. Restored site may reopen as theater
    Pasadena Star - News, Mar 15, 2005 | by Gene Maddaus
    PASADENA -- The Washington Theater, a 1925 apartment building that was condemned two years ago because of toxic mold, is scheduled to reopen next year as a fully restored moviehouse.

    Gary and Jacqueline Buickians bought the building last year from landlord Norm Furman.

    The San Marino couple who run JBA International, an information technology consulting firm on South Lake Avenue are making their first foray into building restoration.

    They have submitted plans to renovate the building, creating a two-screen theater complex, plus a Ben & Jerry's and a Starbucks, in addition to offices and 30 rehabilitated apartments.


    Gary Buickians has said he would like to make all of the apartments available to low- and moderate-income tenants, though the details have yet to be worked out and the city may be called upon to assist with the financing.

    "We couldn't ask for a better package,' said Councilman Victor Gordo, who represents the area. "We save the theater, we bring affordable housing to low- and moderate-income people, and we redevelop an area that desperately needs investment.'

    The theater, most recently known as Cinema 21, closed for business in 1992. Aside from a few groups that used it as rehearsal space, the theater sat vacant while the one-bedroom and studio apartments that surround it deteriorated.

    After a long string of complaints, the city evacuated 34 families in 2003, when the roof began to leak and inspectors judged that mold made it unsafe for them to stay.

    The city threatened to prosecute Furman under the slumlord ordinance, and ended up settling for a portion of what the city spent finding new homes for the families.



    Since then, the building has been empty except for the occasional vagrant and a flock of pigeons.

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  6. Buickians said he and his wife had been looking for a project in the Northwest for four years when the Washington Theater came on the market.

    "We're trying to preserve it and bring it back to life,' he said. "It can be a beautiful place.'

    The building, on the north side of Washington Boulevard just west of North Lake Avenue, opened in 1925 with one 900-seat movie theater.

    The Buickians' plan to break the space down into two smaller theaters, one with about 500 seats, the other with about 65. The change will make the theater more compatible with the current first- run movie market, Buickians said.

    "We don't want to put French R-rated movies in there,' said Buickians, who has long been involved with the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena. "We want positive, first-run shows, like 'Robots,' with a family theme.'

    About 10 offices that had been illegally converted to apartments in the mid-1990s will be transformed back into office spaces.

    Buickians said he is in discussions with Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's and hopes also to bring a bookstore to the retail frontage.

    The complex would bring jobs to the Northwest, Gordo said. It would also give people a place to see a movie north of the 210 Freeway.

    "It's 2.7 miles from the Paseo Colorado,' Buickians said. "People who live in the community can walk to there rather than drive to the Paseo.'

    Gordo said he expected the apartments could rent for $500 to $700 per month, and said he would support investing city funds to make the project fully affordable.

    "We should embrace this project and applaud the Buickians for taking this bold step that few have been willing to take,' Gordo said.

    Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, said the Buickians' plan would protect the historic character of the theater far better than several earlier plans she had seen from other developers.

    "Bringing that building back should be a boon for the neighborhood,' Mossman said. "I think it's a cause for celebration.'

    Buickians said he hopes the theater can open for business by late summer 2006.

    Gene Maddaus can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444, or by e- mail at gene.maddaus@sgvn.com .

    Copyright c 2005 Los Angeles Newspaper Group. All Rights Reserved.
    Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

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  7. Lots of information about the Washington Theatre and other Pasadena theaters here at CinemaTreasures.org
    http://cinematreasures.org/theater/2048/

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  8. Hey there, this is a small hijack of your comments, to make a small plea for help. I'm bugging you to ask you to look at my blog today-- another great vintage sign in Pasadena has been covered up, and I'm really saddened by this: it's such a great sign and an awesome landmark

    Today it's covered by a big, plastic Public Storage sign.

    Sky is Big Pasadena and Pasadena Daily Photo are both going to also try to spread the word. It would be great to find out the status of this sign, and if necessary try to save it.

    --Kat, Pasadena 91105 and Beyond

    www.klikkonthis.wordpress.com

    I'm hoping to alert people who might be interested in this, and who would possibly pass this information around, or who have more information about what the permanent status might be.

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  9. The Washington Theatre memorialized in oil, located in San Francisco:
    http://www.insidesocal.com/publiceye/2010/06/cinema_21_in_san_francisco.html

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