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Alex Theatre, Glendale

Alex Theatre, Glendale

Architects: Lindley and Selkirk (original building), S. Charles Lee (1940 additions)

First Opened: 4th September 1925 (95 years ago)

Reopened: 31st December 1993

Former Names: Alexander Theatre, Fox Alexander Theatre

Website: www.alextheatre.org Open website in new window

Telephone: (818) 243-2611 Call (818) 243-2611

Address: 216 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91203 Show address in Google Maps (new window)


The Alex Theatre opened in September 1925 as a movie theatre and vaudeville house called the Alexander Theatre. It was built by theatre magnate Claude L. Langley who named the theatre for his son Claude Alexander. Following various modernizations over its life, in 1993 the Alex was restored back to its 1925 glory.

Featured Photos

Detailed Information

The Alexander Theatre Auditorium
The Alexander Theatre Auditorium

Langley built the Alex, in his own words, to “provide a good place of entertainment to keep Glendalians from going to Los Angeles and Hollywood”. Langley brought in Los Angeles architects Arthur G. Lindley and Charles R. Selkirk to design the theatre. Langley was interested in Greek art history which is likely why the theatre is predominantly designed with a Greek theme (some Roman and Egyptian characteristics are also present).

The auditorium is of an “atmospheric” style, whereby the ceiling is shaped, painted, and lit to give patrons the impression of being seated outside under the sky at twilight. Exterior “garden” walls at the sides are painted with Greek garden landscape murals. Tiny lights in the ceiling represented stars, and hidden cove lighting would change the mood of the auditorium, for example suggesting a sunset or sunrise. Commonly, cool blues were used in the hot summer and warm reds in the colder winter. The interior decoration was carried-out by Robert E. Power Studios.

Theatre Forecourt
Theatre Forecourt

Similar to other Southern California theatres of the time, the Alex featured an open forecourt. Being located on Glendale’s main street, the forecourt was designed as a kind of open-ended lobby, to attract the attention of passers-by who would see patrons mingling and perhaps be intrigued to come in and buy a ticket. Other examples of courtyard lobbies from the same period are the Geffen Playhouse (completed 1929 as a masonic lodge), the Fox Fullerton (1925), the Pasadena Playhouse (1925), the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara (1931), and the Egyptian (1922) and Chinese (1927) theatres in Hollywood.

Doric columns flank the proscenium with an Egyptian solar disc above
Doric columns flank the proscenium with an Egyptian solar disc above

The auditorium is dominated by two pairs of fluted Doric columns on either side of the proscenium. Organ chambers were located between the columns. The chambers have not housed an organ for many years and are used for storage. Above the center of the proscenium is an Egyptian solar disc, flanked by griffins and with solar rays emanating upwards to the ceiling. The sun rays form a plasterwork grille which was probably designed to be a third overhead organ chamber but never housed any parts of the organ.

The organ was a 2-manual, 10-rank Wurlitzer Style 215 organ (Opus 1014). The organ was removed in 1959 as part of a wholesale deal with Fox West Coast Theatres to remove redundant organs from their theatres. Parts of the organ went to the Mission Theatre - later Monterey Theatre - in Monterey Park (demolished around 1980). The organ console remains at the Saint Finbar Church in Burbank.

Fanchon and Marco prologues – musical productions featuring elaborate sets and costumes – were performed by a chorus of “Sunkist Beauties” at the theatre between 1927 and 1931. The Alex was used as one of the theatres where Fanchon and Marco shows would first be tried-out before being put onto the road.

In the 1930s Walt Disney often previewed his animated shorts at the theatre, given it was just a few miles away from his Hyperion studio. Animators were often keen to see how their films played on the big screen and to see how other animation studios were developing their ideas and techniques.

The theatre’s new marquee, designed by S. Charles Lee and added in 1940
The theatre’s new marquee, designed by S. Charles Lee and added in 1940

During the 1930s the theatre became commonly known as the Alex Theatre. Then in 1940, architect S. Charles Lee was brought in to make the theatre more noticeable from the street. Lee designed a new marquee, a 100ft tall illuminated tower – a neon spire with star-capped sphere (a “spiky ball” about 8ft in diameter), and canopy structure to cover the forecourt. The forecourt received decorative terrazzo flooring and a ticket booth in the center, facing the street. The new marquee featured the name “Alex” and the theatre became officially called the Alex Theatre.

The neon spire and ball was based upon the design for the Tower Theatre in Fresno which Lee designed in 1939, which was in turn inspired by the Star Pylon at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, demonstrating the capabilities of electricity.

The theatre was used as a sneak preview house for major Hollywood films. Bing Crosby reportedly nervously paced the lobby carpet during a preview screening of Going My Way in 1944 as he worried whether the movie-going public would accept him as a movie priest. Other stars who visited the Alex included Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, and Barbara Stanwyck.

During World War II, stars appeared at monthly war bond rallies. The $1,000,000 in bonds sold in Glendale, mostly at the Alex, qualified the City to have a frigate built in its name, the USS Glendale. Local events included benefits, children’s shows, fashion shows by Glendale merchants, car giveaways, and amateur nights.

The fire curtain, replaced or repaired after the 1948 fire
The fire curtain, replaced or repaired after the 1948 fire

In 1948, on 23rd August, a fire on the stage destroyed the stagehouse and dressing rooms. Thanks to the fire curtain, the auditorium only suffered smoke and heat damage. Then operators Fox West Coast seized the opportunity to redecorate the auditorium and Front-of-House areas, saying that their improvements “dealt with the out of style décor”. The theatre reopened just three weeks later on 16th September 1948.

Over the years Fox West Coast’s successor companies National General and Mann Theatres operated the Alex. In September 1991, Mann Theatres ceased operations at the Alex with a final screening of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, advertising their new multiplex just around the corner as patrons made their way out of the soon-to-be-shuttered theatre.

After much community outcry the Glendale Redevelopment Agency purchased the theatre to become the centerpiece of a revitalized Brand Boulevard. A $6.5 million renovation project got underway under the direction of architect Richard McCann, and on 31st December 1993 the Alex reopened as a performing arts and entertainment center. In 1993 funds were not available to cover the installation of an Orchestra Pit Lift. Money was raised, in part thanks to a grant from The Ahmanson Foundation, and a lift was installed by Gala Systems in March 1999.

Entrance and Forecourt
Entrance and Forecourt

In 2013 a nine month project (with a five month closure of the theatre) broke ground to improve backstage facilities at the theatre, with a 6,600 square foot expansion and vastly improved stage loading access. A backstage elevator was added along with additional dressing rooms, new restrooms, a production team shop and storage space. A Signature Wall was also added which is regularly signed by high profile performers and guests.

The Alex is now under the management of Glendale Arts Link opens in new window, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate the arts into the identity, growth, and economic vitality of the City of Glendale by presenting programming and creating partnerships that benefit youth, patrons, artists, organizations, and businesses in the community and at the Alex Theatre.

Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

Television

Music Videos

Award Shows

Listed/Landmark Building Status

How do I visit the Alex Theatre?

As of mid-2018, the Alex occasionally runs tours but not to a regular schedule. Recently the theatre’s doors have been thrown open for free, self-guided tours during their birthday event - around 4th September each year.

For more information and details of upcoming tour opportunities, check the Alex Theatre’s website page on Backstage Tours Link opens in new window, call 818-243-2611 Link opens in new window x15, or email tour@alextheatre.org Link opens in new window.

Further Reading

Online

Books

Technical Information

Flying System
System Type
Counterweight system with lock rail located Stage Right at stage level
Fly Floors
None
Grand Drape
May be operated as a guillotine from lock rail (Stage Right), or as a traveller from Downstage Right
Grid Height
57ft 6in (17.5m)
House Pipes
52ft (15.8m) long, low trim 5ft, high trim 55ft (1.5m / 16.8m)
Linesets
42 sets (0-6 are Double Purchase, 7-42 are Single Purchase) at 8in (0.2m) spacings with 5 lift lines per set
General Information
Seating Capacity
1,413 (Orchestra: 768; Terrace: 181; Balcony: 464)
Lighting
Control
ETC ION
Dimmers
EDI Mark VII Dimmer bank with 324 @ 2.4kW dimmers
Followspots
2 @ Lycian 1290 XLT (2kW Xenon)
Followspot Throw
110ft (33.5m) to curtain line
Movie Projection
Film Projection
2 @ 35mm Simplex XL projectors; 4kW Xenon lamphouses
Film Lens Formats
1.33, 1.37, 1.66, 1.85, 2.5 (Cinemascope)
Digital Projection
Barco 4K DP4K-32B Projector with high contrast lens
Processing
Dolby 650 Digital Processor
Screen Dimensions
46ft by 21ft 6in (14m by 6.6m)
Orchestra Pit
Capacity
20 musicians
Front Section
Adjustable height from Stage level to 7ft (2.1m) below Stage level
Rear Section
4ft 4in (1.3m) deep, 8ft (2.4m) below Stage level
Stage Dimensions
Apron Depth
5ft 6in (1.7m)
Center Line to Stage Left
36ft (11m) clear, 47ft (14.3m) to wall
Center Line to Stage Right
31ft
Proscenium Height
27ft (9.4m)
Proscenium Width
46ft (14m)
Stage Depth
28ft 9in (8.8m)
Historic Photos & Documents

Files displayed in this section may be subject to copyright; refer to our Copyright Fair Use Statement regarding our use of copyrighted media.

Photos of the Alex Theatre

Jump to Photo Section:

  1. Auditorium: Orchestra
  2. Auditorium: Balcony
  3. Auditorium: Closeups
  4. Historic Fire Curtain
  5. Lobby: Orchestra
  6. Lobby: Balcony
  7. Lobby: Closeups
  8. Courtyard Lobby
  9. Courtyard Lobby Closeups
  10. Exterior: Glendale Blvd
  11. Marquee Closeups
  12. Stage
  13. Basement
  14. Orchestra Pit
  15. Grid
  16. Organ Chambers
  17. Projection Booth
  18. Attic
  19. Exterior: Back of House Areas
Auditorium: Orchestra

The orchestra level currently seats 768, with provision for 16 handicap seats and 28 partially obstructed view seats.

Auditorium: Balcony

The balcony currently seats 645, split between 181 seats in the “Alexander Terrace” forward of the balcony cross-aisle, and 464 in the balcony proper.

The Projection Booth is located at the rear of the balcony. A sound booth has been created at the rear right side of the Alexander Terrace.

Auditorium: Closeups
Historic Fire Curtain

The fire curtain was repaired or replaced after the 1948 fire by R.L. Grosh & Sons who are still trading, as Grosh Backdrops and Drapery Link opens in new window, on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood.

Lobby: Orchestra
Lobby: Balcony
Lobby: Closeups
Courtyard Lobby

Similar to some other Southern California theatres of the time, the Alex featured an open forecourt. Being located on Glendale’s main street, the open forecourt was designed to attract the attention of passers-by who would see patrons mingling and perhaps be intrigued to come in and buy a ticket. Other examples of courtyard lobbies from the same period are the Geffen Playhouse (completed 1929 as a masonic lodge), the Fox Fullerton (1925), the Pasadena Playhouse (1925), the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara (1931), and the Egyptian (1922) and Chinese (1927) theatres in Hollywood.

Courtyard Lobby Closeups
Exterior: Glendale Blvd

The present theatre marquee was added in 1940 and designed by renowned theatre architect S. Charles Lee, with a remit to make the theatre more noticeable from the street. The neon spire is approximately 100ft (30m) tall and is topped by a neon “spiky ball”. The theatre’s name was officially changed to the Alex Theatre when the new marquee went up.

Marquee Closeups

The present theatre marquee was added in 1940 and designed by renowned theatre architect S. Charles Lee, with a remit to make the theatre more noticeable from the street. The neon spire is approximately 100ft (30m) tall and is topped by a neon “spiky ball”.

Stage

The stage is 83ft (25.3m) wide and 28ft 9in (8.8m) deep, with a proscenium 46ft (14m) wide by 27ft (8.2) high.

Basement

The Green Room is what would have originally been the theatre’s Trap Room. Dressing Rooms now occupy the entire understage area, and more dressing rooms (plus storage) were added in the 2013 expansion project.

Orchestra Pit

The Orchestra Pit lift was installed in 1999 by Gala Systems Inc.

Grid

Grid height is 57ft 6in (17.5m) and there are 42 counterweight linesets, the first six of which are double purchase.

There counterweight lock rail is at stage level on Stage Right. There are no intermediate fly floors or pin rails. Access to the Loading Gallery, located Stage Right, is by ladder to the Grid at Upstage Left and then crossing the Grid to Stage Right.

Organ Chambers

It is unknown when the organ was removed. The organ chambers are currently used for storage.

Projection Booth

The Projection Booth, 110ft throw to the curtain line, contains two Lycian 2kW xenon followspots, two 4kW xenon 35mm film projectors, and was recently upgraded to include digital projection in the form of a Barco 4K DP4K-32B Projector.

Attic

Attic areas include the space above the auditorium, which features a ceiling slot hiding lighting instruments, and the area above the theatre’s lobby which is called the “Pyramid Room”.

Exterior: Back of House Areas

In 2013 an 11-month project broke ground to improve backstage facilities at the theatre, with a 6,600 square foot expansion and vastly improved stage loading access. A backstage elevator was added along with additional dressing rooms, new restrooms, and production team shop and storage space.

The theatre’s original Load-In Door was modeled on the north portico doorway of the Erechtheion (Old Temple of Athena) in Greece.



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