The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that the L.A. City Council designate the vaudevillian Granada Theater in South Los Angeles as an Historic-Cultural Monument.
The 1,000-seat theater, located at 632 N. Avalon Blvd. in Wilmington, was opened in 1926 to host vaudeville performers as part of the West Coast Theaters chain. It switched operators several times since and has been used as a performance arts center, filming location, movie house, Spanish cinema theater, church and special event venue, according to the Wilmington Granada Friends organization.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the Wilmington neighborhood, has sought since 2014 to designate the building as a Historic-Cultural Monument for its cultural value as “an excellent and rare example of a neighborhood theater with Renaissance Revival architectural influences in Wilmington,” according to the application.
Defining characteristics that have been retained over the years include terrazzo floors, balcony seating and an ornate proscenium.
The building also has an intact pull-down advertising curtain that still displays ads for small businesses in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Wilmington Creamery, Dr. P.H. Lisman, Wilmington Variety Shop and Hotel Neptune. A representative from the L.A. Historic Theater Foundation called into the commission meeting to voice the foundation’s support for the designation and mention that the advertising curtain is the “last remaining example we know of across the whole city.”
The commission’s president, Commissioner Richard Barron, said he visited the theater before the vote and was in support of the designation, calling the theater’s condition “rough” but noting that it had potential to be brought back to life.
The Wilmington Granada Friends organization has been working to raise money and reopen the theater as an independent movie house and performance center.
“Reopening the Wilmington Granada theater will not only create jobs but will stimulate the economy by offering performances and films,” the organization states on its website.
“Wilmington Granada Friends is currently searching for local vendors and community programs interested in becoming part of our mission. We look forward to working closely with Wilmington’s residents and commerce.”
The theater was under consideration to be listed as a Historic-Cultural Monument but the time for consideration expired. The City Council approved a motion, introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino, on Jan. 13 to reactivate consideration.
“We have an incredible opportunity to historically designate a vital part of Wilmington’s history,” Buscaino told City News Service after that vote. “Every Wilmington native will share stories of their childhood memories of this theater. The Granada Theater has the potential to help revitalize the downtown corridor, so we’re moving today on a motion to designate it as a historically protected monument.”
He said in his 2014 motion, “It is imperative that the city’s historic-cultural treasures be celebrated, and foremost, that its historic architecture be preserved for future generations. The Granada Theater located on Wilmington’s Avalon Boulevard is an architectural treasure and integral to the development of this South Bay community.”