Originally built as a vaudeville theater and movie palace in 1931, the Wiltern Theater and Pellissier building is a stunning example of american art deco architecture. The theater is registered as a historic place, and even after changing hands and uses many times over the years, the marquee, entrance and lobby on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue retain their original grandeur.
Designed by famed architect Stiles O. Clemens, the 12-story Pellissier Building—which today houses CMS’s lobby, offices, and the Jack Pierce Museum—was the tallest privately-owned building in Los Angeles at the time. The Wiltern’s interior was designed by G. Albert Lansburgh in combination with painter Anthony Heinsbergen, who added to the theater’s art deco theme with his beautiful wall murals.
When the theater first opened in 1931, it was launched as the Warner Brothers Western Theater and served as the company’s flagship movie palace. The theater closed after just one year but was reopened in the mid-1930’s under a new name, the Wiltern Theater (“Wiltern” is a portmanteau of Wilshire blvd and Western Avenue, the intersection on which the building stands). At the time, the Wilshire/Western corner was among the busiest intersections in the world.
In 1956, Franklin Life Insurance Company bought the building. Sadly, under this new owner the building and theater were not well kept and came close to complete demolition on two occassions.
In 1981, the Wiltern was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked to restore the building and theater to its former glory. The theater’s stage was expanded and orchestra pit remodeled to accommodate concerts and Broadway scale performances. A.T. Heinsbergen, son of the Wiltern’s original mural painter, was enlisted to restore the work his father had completed. After four years of extensive renovations, the Wiltern finally reopened in May of 1985.
Today, the Pellissier building is privately owned and is home to Cinema Makeup School and a number of other companies ranging from creative services and film production to doctors’ offices and retail stores. The Wiltern Theater is owned by concert promoter Live Nation and hosts hundreds of events a year. In recent years the venue has hosted many major touring acts including The Arcade Fire, Frank Ocean, and even The Rolling Stones.