The Vista Theatre in Los Feliz, Los Angeles is one of my favorite places to see a movie.
This restored neighborhood treasure is one of the few freestanding, single-screen, movie houses in Los Angeles.
When the theatre opened its doors on October 16, 1923 it was known as Lou Bard Playhouse and operated as a vaudeville type theatre. The first movie to air was “Tips” staring Baby Peggy and the 838-seat auditorium was filled to capacity.
While enjoying initial success the years that followed were challenging. The venue suffered from a series of accusations about being communist sympathizers, threats from the city to revoke its operating license for airing soft-core, hard-core, and gay pornography, and multiple owners who failed to successfully revive the movie house to its original glory.
Alas, by the early 90s the venue fell into disrepair.
And then along came Lance Alspaugh, now owner, partner, and director of Vintage Cinemas (they also run Los Feliz 3 on Vermont.)
Alspaugh acquired the space in 1993.
While Alspaugh envisioned a complete gut, designer Ronald Wright persuaded him to restore the venue’s historic architecture instead.
Over the next several years the Egyptian inspired décor of the interior was painstakingly restored to its former glory. Every other row of seating was removed to provide more leg room for movie goers. A 50-foot screen and Dolby speakers were installed. While a new projection system was installed the 35mm film projector was kept intact. And a box office was created for the exterior.
Today, the Vista is praised for being one of “… the last great original theaters in the L.A. area.”
It is one of the few movie houses with a 35mm projector and because of this it is given first dibs on airing blockbuster hits like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
In fact, Nolan is so impressed with the Vista he said, “I went to the Vista a couple of weeks ago, with my kids to see the new Star Wars,” Nolan says, referring to the vintage theater in Los Feliz. “J.J. Abrams insisted they have a 35mm print at the Vista and it looked absolutely stunning. It was thrilling. It took me back to watching the original. And—by the way—the place was packed.”
I definitely agree with Nolan.
To read more about architecture in Los Angeles browse the chart below.