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Friday, August 29, 2014

Only a marquee and memories remain of an Echo Park movie house

Former Ramona Theater in 2009/Photo from Loopnet.com

The marquee of Echo Park’s long awaited Mohawk Bend restaurant currently reads “Opening Soon Very Soon.” But at one time, the marquee overlooking the 2100 block of Sunset Boulevard promoted films shown inside a  theater that opened nearly a century ago when the nearby  Edendale studios were churning out silent films.  The Sunset Boulevard theater clad in an exterior of white, glazed brick had been known by different names over the decades – The Creation;  HK Studio, The Ramona and finally Studio One.  Except for a brief life as a German art-house cinema, the Echo Park theater appealed to a mass audience with Hollywood hits and budget prices.  The movie house closed for good in the mid 1980s, with Studio One showing “Running Man” and “Dirty Dancing”  in December 1987, according to advertising in the L.A. Times. No other ads for Studio One could be found after that date.

About a decade after  the theater stopped showing films, the  interior was gutted, the seats removed and the sloping floor flattened to attract new tenants that never came until construction  of the Mohawk Bend restaurant began about a year ago. The small movie house appeared to face numerous struggles long before it closed.  A 1927 L.A. Times ad announced that the theater – including a “costly” Robert Morton pipe organ – were being auctioned off.  Three years later, the theater, a “talkie,” was offered up for sale for $2,500.

1950s Ramona ad/L.A. Times

In the 1966, the theater owners attempted to appeal to the art house crowed by showing German films. But the Studio One Deutsches Lichtspielhausan did not seem to last very long after screening its inaugural film, “Die Fledermaus.”  By 1971 the Studio One was selling “All seats 49 cents ALWAYS!!!”  and showing films like “Lovers and other Strangers” and  “Diary of a Mad Housewife.”

The Ramona and Studio One may have been relatively modest affairs but they won many loyal fans over the decades. In a comment posted on the History Bulletin Board of HistoricEchoPark.org,  Sandra Ponce recalls childhood visits:

I sure do remember the “Studio One”!  It used to be called “The Ramona” way back when I saw “A Hard Days Night – starring the Beatles” there in the 60″s.
My family and I lived on Douglas St, Bellevue Ave and finally ended up on Laveta Terr (my parents still live there).  On Saturdays myself and the other kids in the neighborhood would walk to the Ramona and literally spend all day at the movies watching the same movie over and over!   We paid 25 cents to get into the movies.

The Ramona was of one of two Echo Park movie houses that operated on Sunset Boulevard. The other, The Globe Theater, opened in 1912 at 1624 Sunset Blvd. and eventually changed its name to The Hollyway, according to HistoricEchoPark.org. That building that once housed The Hollyway is now La Guadalupana market.

No comments

  1. The theater was still showing films in 1989-90 when we lived around the corner.
    The staff had a habit of recycling the prior nights leftover popcorn the next evening!

  2. I remember seeing The Little Mermaid , Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Earnest scared stupid, and Halloween 5 there.

  3. Does anyone know why the Lotito family chose to gut the space and make it unusable as a theater? It was obviously a terrible commercial decision. Some have said they simply hated having a theater in Echo Park, and preferred a rotting derelict.

    Do they still own the property on that block?

  4. i’m not so sure that it was “obviously a terrible commercial decision.” had the theater continued to bring a steady flow of patrons, i’m sure it would’ve stayed open and continued to run as such. i’m not saying i’m a fan of the decision – love, love, love old theaters, so it breaks my heart that this one was gutted at some point. but the sad state of single screen cinemas these days makes them a dying breed. but hey… who knows? there are a couple around town that seem to be doing okay with niche programing, like the cinefamily at the silent theater on fairfax.

    anyhow, what’s done is done and i’m very happy someone found a use for the space. can’t wait to have a beer (or two) here!

  5. If the Lotitos had left it as a theater, they probably could have at least made a little money with the occasional event or film shoot.
    Instead, they wasted tons of money on ruining the theater space, turning into a pair of awkward, unrentable white elephant storefronts that were only used as homeless encampments for a the better part of a decade, And in the end, all of their pointless work had to be laboriously and expensively undone to just bring back a single usable space.

    So yeah, I’m pretty sure the Lotitos made a truly awful commercial decision.

    My question was — why?

    Does anyone know them and why did they did this? Are the Lotitos still owners on that block?

  6. If the movie theatre had trouble making money from the 20′s through the 80′s, it seems fairly obvious why the owners decided to gut the place. All history, culture and beauty aside, if something isn’t generating positive income, what is the point of keeping it as is? Sure the family could have generated some revenue, but the cost of running the theatre probably outweighed the little revenue.

  7. I’ve heard that the Echo Park Film Center tried to lease that spot a few years back.

  8. Looks like Chris and Mary Lotito own 1122 Mohawk St. Any relation?

  9. It’s weird that they gutted the place in 1998. The preservation pendulum had already started to swing back in the other direction by then. It’s like they killed the theater out of spite.

  10. so the theater-gutting lotito family still owns property in the “washington heights tract” eh? interesting…..

    http://echoparklife.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/voices-are-being-heard/

  11. Thank You Eastsider for bringing up La Guadalupana market. They do not have ANY parking! It is impossible for them to be a market! Where do people PARK!?!?!?

  12. The Lotito family’s custodianship of the Studio One theater was best signified by that cheap vinyl “Juice Bar for Lease” sign that they hung out front for five or six years, till it finally rotted away in the sun. That must have been a pretty awesome return on their investment.

  13. man, the eastsider is OBSESSED with this place! it starting to seem personal!

    does anyone know what’s going on with the ez-sleep building across the street? it’s got some nice looking architecture. looks like they’re tearing out the insides.

  14. Hey hoochie,
    PETA is going in the EZ Sleep.

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