The Wonderful Warner Grand
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s the only movie theatre I knew was the multiplex. Either in a mall or surrounded by a giant parking lot it was a nondescript structure filled with identical black box theaters that often had sticky floors and dirty seats. Not until I became an adult and started to get involved with the Los Angeles Conservancy did I learn there was such a place as a movie palace. Long before I was born, the theatre was a special place to go and the structure itself was perhaps more impressive than what was on the screen. Although, many such places have sadly fallen victim to the wrecking ball we’re lucky to have several remaining in Southern California. I’ve slowly been visiting them and along the way have found a few favorites including the Warner Grand in San Pedro.
This Art Deco beauty was built in 1931 by the Warner Bros. and was designed by the same folks behind the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. A jewel of the South Bay it’s situated in the heart of San Pedro just blocks from the harbor. It served the community for over 50 years transitioning to a Spanish language theatre during that time. In 1996, needing a good dose of TLC, it was purchased by the City of Los Angeles and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The same year the city purchased the theatre the Friends of the Warner Grand formed to save it from demolition. The group, now known as Grand Vision, spent several years painstakingly restoring it. In fact, I first visited about a decade ago, right before the restoration began, for a screening of The Princess Bride. I remember thinking the theatre was beautiful but in poor shape and wondered if it would ever return to it’s former glory. Imagine my surprise a few years later when I returned and found it completely restored.
I couldn’t believe how wonderful it looked! Was this really the crumbling theatre I had previously visited?
Now, the theatre has returned to its status as the jewel of the South Bay and is a popular venue for live performance and last week I was lucky enough to return. Last Remaining Seats, the popular Los Angeles Conservancy film festival, held two screenings at the theatre and I made sure to volunteer for the matinee of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Before showtime I was able to explore a little and found the Warner Grand to be even more lovelier than I remembered. In the restoration no detail was neglected and I had fun spotting all deliciously Deco elements.
Isn’t it absolutely stunning?
I’m so glad I made it back to the Warner Grand to participate in Last Remaining Seats. The show was a success and all the patrons were as in awe of the theatre as I was. It’s not only a jewel of the South Bay but all of Southern California.