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Puppets on York: Bob Baker Marionette Theater moving to Highland Park

The former York Theatre in Highland Park is now home to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater

The new home of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Highland Park  — Only a few months after closing its long-time space in Echo Park, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater has announced it has found a new home for its shows and 3,000 puppets: an old movie theater on York Boulevard.

The theater company, in a post on its Facebook page, said puppet performances are scheduled to resume early this summer at 4949 York Boulevard, a 1920s era movie house that was most recently used as a Korean church.

“At the heart of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a child’s first theatrical experience, which we plan to share and continue for generations in Highland Park and all of Los Angeles.”

The theater company, which signed a 10-year-lease, is working with the architectural firm Escher GuneWardena to turn the nearly 10,000-square-foot, Art Deco building into a live performance space, according to the L.A. Times.

The building was a movie theater for decades, making its debut in the 1920s during the silent film era. It also hosted women’s club meetings and special events, and, in recent years, served as the home for the Pyong Kang Church — its neon cross glowing over the marquee.  Last summer the building went up for for sale and was sold in November for $2.5 million, according to tax assessor information.

The Art Deco building near Avenue 50 first opened as the York Theatre, and was later known as the Fox Theater, according to a city historic survey.  You can see a portion of the old York Theatre sign peeking above a streetcar in this old photo.

It is first mentioned in the Eagle Rock Sentinel in November 1923, in an event notice for the North Highland Park Women’s club. But entertainment listings for the theater really seem to have begun in earnest in 1926, with such movies as “The Little Irish Girl,” starring Dolores Costello.

In recent years, the neighborhood around the old theater  has been gentrifying and changing. Right across the street is the highly popular York Park, and one block over is a strip of shops that include the Hi Hat, The York, Highland Cafe, Highland Brewery and Donut Friend. A few steps away, a vegan restaurant and beer garden recently opened for business.

 

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11 comments

  1. Bittersweet news. It is an absolute disgrace that the “protected” Historic Cultural Monument Bob Baker Marionette Theater is slated to be demolished for redevelopment, but it’s wonderful that Bob’s marionettes have found a new home and that the theater company is thriving.

    • IMO there was nothing special about that building itself, and the location wasn’t ideal. I see the “protected” status for the theater troupe itself rather than the building, and it’s great to see that they will continue in what looks like a more fitting location in a great neighborhood.

  2. Great news for the community!!!

  3. This sounds like a pretty ideal place for them to land.

  4. This is a fantastic improvement for Highland Park and a great location for the York Blvd commercial area that is growing and developing into a arty creative street. The old Baker theatre building was just a concrete block box , the cultural monument was what was happening inside the box. Unfortunately the Cultural Heritage Commission can’t protect uses in buildings. So this move to York Blvd is a perfect solution for the puppeteers and their art.

  5. While I’m overjoyed that they’re coming to my neighborhood, I worry they haven’t quite familiarized themselves with the parking nightmare that is the York/50 area. And I worry less as a denizen and more out of concern for their viability. Where in god’s name are their patrons gonna park? The parking situation around York has gotten pretty dire, and I don’t know what the solution is.

  6. So happy to hear this news. This is a wonderful space for the Bob Baker ensemble. I’m thrilled!

  7. Happy to see a pointless stupid church closing and something actually interesting, matching the neighborhood taking its place. Now if we can get rid of all those stupid party supply stores. Would love to see more restaurants, bars and hipstery shops.

    • Bob Baker marionette company IS OLD. So it’s out with the old and in with the old. Sounds good to me.
      You sure don’t sound any fun hating on party supply stores and churches. I’m not Christian, but I wouldn’t call a church stupid…..and besides……Jesus loves puppets.

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