Nickelodeon Lost

L.A.'s historic Earl Carroll Theatre will reopen as an entertainment complex

The Earl Carroll Theatre in the 1940s. (Courtesy the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation)

The Earl Carroll Theatre has gone by a lot of names since it first opened in Downtown Hollywood in 1938: Moulin Rouge, Hullabaloo, Kaleidoscope, Aquarius Theatre, Longhorn Theatre, and Nickelodeon on Sunset, to name a few. Since Nickelodeon relocated two years ago and left the building without a tenant, the theater community has eagerly awaited the renovation of the building to its former glory.

On September 25, it was announced that Thaddeus Hunter Smith, one of the former owners of the nearby Fonda Theatre, and business partner Brian Levian, had signed a ten-year lease with the intention of not only restoring the building’s original facilities, but also transforming the site into an entertainment complex, with spaces for concerts, stage shows, movie premieres, and other specialized events.

“We’re thrilled to be revitalizing the theatre, returning it to its original Streamline Moderne design, and bringing all kinds of wonderful entertainment experiences to locals and visitors alike,” said Smith. Working in close collaboration with preservationists and Hollywood historians, the renovation of the theatre will include the renovation and recreation of many of the building’s original details, including a 20-foot neon depiction of Beryl Wallace, Carroll’s girlfriend and muse, that once hung above the street entrance.

Steps leading up to a theater entrance

The art deco interior will be restored with the assistance of preservationists and Hollywood historians.(Mike Hume/Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation)

Because it “exemplifies the optimism and grandeur of pre-war Hollywood,” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the building was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument in December 2016. It was originally designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann for director and producer Earl Carroll as a supper club and performance theatre, both of which were once world-famous for their over-the-top presentations. According to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, the theatre hosted shows “on a massive stage with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling,” while the supper club “featured a chorus of 60 girls singing and dancing while patrons dined in style.”

The theatre is currently owned by developer Essex Property Trust, which first nominated the building for historic-cultural landmark status and has already begun construction on Essex Hollywood, a mixed-use development with 200 apartment units on the opposite side of the site. The Earl Carroll Theatre is slated to reopen to the public in late 2020.

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