Carthay Circle Theatre
Carthay Circle Theatre was one of the most famous movie palaces of
Hollywood's Golden Age. It opened at 6316
San Vicente Boulevard
San Vicente Boulevard in
1926 and was considered developer J. Harvey McCarthy's most
successful monument, a stroke of shrewd thinking that made a famous
name of the newly developed Carthay residential district in the
Mid-City West district of Los Angeles, California.
The Carthay Circle Theater provided the "circle" for which Carthay
Circle has come to be named. The auditorium itself was shaped in
the form of a perfect circle, extended vertically into a cylinder, set
inside a square that fleshed out the remainder of the building.
McCarthy's development was called Carthay—an anglicized version of
his last name. The theater was called the Circle Theater for its
unique floorplan. Initially developed by Fox, it was called the Fox
Carthay Circle Theater. The theater became better known than the
development in which it was located, and this has led to confusion in
the name of the area. The theater's name meant "the Circle Theater, by
Fox, located in Carthay", but became incorrectly interpreted as "The
Fox Theater, located in Carthay Circle." The misinterpretation has
stuck, and now the region is more or less officially known as Carthay
Circle, even as its theater namesake has been gone for half a century.
4 Later replicas
6 External links
The exterior design was in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with
whitewashed concrete trimmed in blue, with a high bell tower and neon
sign that could be seen for miles. The architects were Carleton
Winslow and Dwight Gibbs. The iconic octagonal tower was placed in
the front corner spandrel space left between the circle and the
square. The auditorium's cylinder-shaped wall was raised up above the
roof line, to create a parapet visible from the outside that resembled
a circus tent. "Simple, massive and dignified, the building stands out
for its intrinsic beauty," raved The Architect and Engineer.
Pacific Coast Architect wrote that it was a theatre "masked as a
There was a drop curtain that featured an homage to the pioneer Donner
Party, which perished crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bronze
busts of Native American leaders and photographs of
Lillie Langtry and
other 19th century actors adorned the lounges and lobbies. Murals of
historic scenes forty feet tall graced the walls, painted by Pasadena
artist Alson S. Clark.
The premiere of
High, Wide and Handsome
High, Wide and Handsome at the theater in 1937.
The theatre hosted the official premieres of The Life of Emile Zola
(1937), Romeo and Juliet (1936), Walt Disney's first animated
feature length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Gone
with the Wind (1939), among many other notable films. For Disney's
Fantasia (1940), the most elaborate audio system in use at the time,
Fantasound, a pioneering stereophonic process, was installed at this
For the glamorous world premiere of MGM's Marie Antoinette (1938),
Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power, the gardens around the theater
were restructured and enhanced to resemble the landscaping of the
Palace of Versailles. In the 1930s and '40s, props from the sets of
such premiered films as
The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld (1936), The Good Earth
(1937), Captains Courageous (1937) and Gone with the Wind (1939) were
displayed on the grassy median of McCarthy Vista, from Wilshire
Boulevard south to San Vicente Boulevard. The premieres were
red-carpet events, with the stars of the motion picture arriving in
limousines at the entrance to the covered walkway to the theater south
from San Vicente and cheered by hundreds of fans in bleachers there,
accompanied by searchlights scanning the sky. Only Grauman's Chinese
Hollywood also had such elaborate premieres in that era.
In 1951 the first
PATSY Award ceremony was held at the Carthay Circle.
Presented by the American Humane Association, the event was hosted by
Ronald Reagan, and honored
Francis the Talking Mule as the first
recipient of the award that honored animal actors.
Although the Carthay Circle Theater had hosted the first-run
"roadshow", reserved-seat engagements of a great many esthetically-
and economically-important films, by the 1960s the "roadshow" concept,
and, indeed, the Carthay Circle Theater itself, was considered an
anachronism, overshadowed by modern multi-screen cinemas.
Its customer base had also been sapped by suburbanization, and many
other economic factors, as film print runs increased almost
exponentially from a few, high-quality, high-resolution prints (often
"wide gauge"), to literally thousands, or even several thousands of
average-quality, lower-resolution prints (usually "standard gauge").
The theater was demolished in 1969 by its owner, NAFI Corporation,
which erected its headquarters and main computer operations center in
its place; today, two low-rise office buildings and a city park occupy
its former site.
Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure, during the
In July 1994, a smaller-scale pastiche of the facade of the theatre
(primarily the octagonal tower) was opened as the "Once Upon a Time"
gift shop on the Sunset Boulevard section in Disney's Hollywood
Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The store now sells
clothing items for men and women.
In June 2012, a fanciful larger-scale replica of the theater building
was opened in the
Buena Vista Street
Buena Vista Street section of Disney California
Adventure Park at the
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.
Although this replica is larger than the Orlando version, it is still
slightly smaller than the 1926 original, and has a modified exterior
footprint and interior floorplan. While there is no actual theatre
inside, the building houses the "Carthay Circle Lounge" and the
members-only "Club 1901" on the first floor, with the "Carthay Circle
Restaurant" on the second floor. This structure is located on a
circular plaza known as Carthay Circle, giving the impression that the
theater is named for its location on a circular plaza. Also, the
original's signature circular floorplan is absent from the replica
building, and the circular parapet is squared off from the outside.
These facts help to cement the confusion about the original meaning of
the names "Carthay", "Carthay Circle" and "Carthay Circle Theater."
^ a b c d e f g Roderick, Kevin; Lynxwiler, J. Eric. Wilshire
Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles. Angel City Press.
pp. 135–137. ISBN 1-883318-55-6.
^ LAist Archived 2011-09-25 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "ArchitectDB - Structure Detail". Digital.lib.washington.edu.
Retrieved December 21, 2012.
^ Higham, Charles (Dec 1994) . Merchant of Dreams: Louis B.
Mayer, M.G.M., and the Secret
Hollywood (paperback ed.). Dell
Publishing. p. 289. ISBN 0-440-22066-1.
^ The March 2, 1938 edition of the Los Angeles Times reported that
every Sunday afternoon at 5:00, a fully dubbed Spanish language
version of Disney's Show White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was
^ DisneyWorld Official Site: Disney's
Hollywood Studios Shopping
^ Disneyland Official Site: Carthay Circle Restaurant
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Carthay Circle Theater.
Carthay Circle Theatre
Carthay Circle Theatre at CinemaTreasures.org
Coordinates: 34°03′39″N 118°22′05″W / 34.0608°N