The Million Dollar Theater is one of the earliest and most exuberant movie palaces in the United States and a treasure trove of cinema and architectural history. Built in 1918 by the prolific entrepreneur Sid Grauman, this grand edifice is located in the bustling heart of downtown Los Angeles, precisely at 307 S. Broadway. As the city’s first major venue of its kind, it helped set the stage for Los Angeles to become the world-renowned center of film and entertainment that it is today.
Designed by architects Albert C. Martin and William Lee Woollett, the theater is a magnificent embodiment of Spanish Baroque Revival and Churrigueresque architectural styles. Its awe-inspiring facade features an assembly of statues, ornamental reliefs, and complex patterns, depicting an array of mythological and historical figures — a testament to the profound artistry and craftsmanship of its time.
The building's architectural grandeur extends to its interiors as well. It houses a splendid auditorium that accommodates over 2,000 people, fitted with ornate embellishments, decorative ceilings, and luxurious furnishing. While the theater was initially conceived for silent films, with the advent of "talkies" and the evolution of the film industry, it has become a venue for a broad spectrum of cinema and live performances.
Yet, the Million Dollar Theater isn't just a time capsule. Over its more than a century-long existence, it has remained an active player in LA's cultural scene. Despite renovations and changes, it has successfully retained its original character and ambiance, offering visitors an authentic experience of early 20th-century Hollywood glamor.
Why should you go?
Architectural marvel. The Million Dollar Theater stands as a dazzling example of early 20th-century design and craftsmanship and offers a feast for the eyes with its intricate facade and opulent interiors. Whether you're an architecture enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates beauty, the theater's rich details and meticulous workmanship are sure to leave you spellbound.
Historical significance. This theater is not just a building but a living chronicle of Los Angeles' rise as the entertainment capital of the world. From silent films to talkies, from classic cinema to modern blockbusters, the Million Dollar Theater has been a part of the city's cinematic journey. A visit here offers a deeper understanding of the city's cultural history and its close ties with the evolution of cinema.
Immersive cinematic experience. The Million Dollar Theater continues to hold screenings and live performances, promising a unique and immersive cinematic experience. The venue's vintage charm, combined with modern projection and sound technologies, makes for a truly special entertainment experience. The theater's vibrant event calendar features a variety of film festivals, special screenings, and live events, maintaining its role as a vibrant hub for creativity and cultural activity.
Strategic location. The theater is part of the Los Angeles Broadway Theater District, which is buzzing with culture, food, and shopping. Whether you want to explore other iconic theaters, dine at eclectic eateries, or shop at local boutiques, you'll find plenty to do before or after your theater visit.
Star power. Throughout its long history, the Million Dollar Theater has seen numerous celebrities and notable figures walk through its doors. Part of the theater's charm comes from the stories and legends surrounding these stars. Hear about the premieres that took place here, the famous personalities who graced the auditorium, and the cinematic milestones celebrated within these walls. These tales add an extra layer of glamor and allure to your visit.
Instagram-worthy moments. From its stunning façade to its luxurious interior, the theater is a perfect place to capture some impressive photos. Whether you're an avid social media user or a casual photographer, the Million Dollar Theater offers countless picturesque spots for that perfect shot.
Best places to visit near the Million Dollar Theater
Grand Central Market. This bustling food market, located right next to the theater, offers a wide variety of culinary options, from gourmet sandwiches to Asian street food and much more.
Bradbury Building. One of the most architecturally significant buildings in Los Angeles, it's just steps from the theater. You may recognize its unique interior from the movie 'Blade Runner'.
Los Angeles City Hall. About a 10-minute walk away, City Hall offers a free observation deck on the 27th floor with panoramic views of the city.
The Broad. Located approximately half a mile from the Million Dollar Theater, this art museum has a wide range of artwork on display, with a focus on postwar and contemporary art.
Walt Disney Concert Hall. This iconic building, designed by Frank Gehry, is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It's within walking distance of the theater.
The Last Bookstore. A 5-minute walk from the theater, this unique bookstore is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. It features a labyrinth of books, unique book art installations, and a good selection of vinyl records.
MOCA Grand Avenue. A branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, it is located less than a mile from the Million Dollar Theater.
Little Tokyo. This vibrant neighborhood, packed with restaurants, shops, and cultural sites, including the Japanese American National Museum, is about a 15-minute walk from the theater.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. Less than a mile from the theater, this historic district is the birthplace of Los Angeles.
What are the most interesting and unique facts about the Million Dollar Theater?
True to its name, the theater reportedly cost a million dollars to build. At that time, this was a huge amount of money, and it was intended to show that no expense had been spared in creating this luxury entertainment venue.
Over its long history, the theater has been used for many different purposes. Besides showing films, it has hosted live performances and even served as the home of a Spanish-language church.