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The Roxie Theatre (1931)

Architect: J.M. Cooper

Rising on the site of the former Quinn's Superba theatre (1910), the Roxie, designed by J.M. Cooper Co., was the last theatre built on Broadway before Hollywood usurped the position of Los Angeles's principal theatre district. Like its predecessor, the Roxie was equipped for live stage performances (including a pipe organ), but its long, narrow auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1,600, was intended primarily for motion picture display. The Roxie's Art Deco styling represents a significant departure from Broadway's earlier theatre designs. The unbridled extravagance of the Orpheum or the Los Angeles Theatre is here replaced by an elegant economy, efficiently reducing ornament without sacrificing the excitement associated with movie-going.

Characteristics of the Art Deco, or Zigzag Moderne, include the stepped roofline of the theater's exterior elevation, angular grillwork and chevron ornament on the facade, and a spectacular terrazzo sunburst in the sidewalk. Inside, a poured-concrete balcony in the auditorium forms a stair step, or zigzag, configuration that adds visual interest to the mezzanine ceiling by using structural form for decorative effect. Applied ornament in the auditorium is concentrated on structural members, and consists of flat, abstracted botanical forms combining the romance of nature with the energy of the machine age. Characteristics of the later Streamline Moderne style were once evident at the theatre's entrance, in the form of a sleek maroon-and-grey ticket booth flanked by serpentine walls. These features were removed when the foyer and lobby were converted to retail use. (Reprinted with the kind permission of the Los Angeles Conservancy, from their Downtown Historic Theatre District Walking Tour publication.)

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