Venue Type :
Dave & Tim (1)
Originally built in 1931, the Wiltern was designed by architect Stiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements, the city’s oldest architectural firm. The Wiltern Theatre was originally designed as a vaudeville theater and initially opened as the Warner Brothers Western Theater, the flagship for the theater chain. Quickly closing a year later, the theater reopened in the mid 1930s and was renamed the Wiltern Theatre for the major interesection which it faces (WILshire Boulevard and wesTERN Avenue).
In 1956, the building and theater were sold to the Franklin Life Insurance Company of Springfield, Illinois. However, the company ignored the landmark building and by the late 1970s the Wiltern had fallen into complete disarray. Only the intervention of a group of local preservationists saved the complex from being demolished on two occasions in the late 1970s when the owners filed for demolition permits (the preservation of the Wiltern was one of the Los Angeles Conservancy's first victories in its fight to preserve the architectural heritage of the City).
In 1981, the Wiltern was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked with architect Brenda Levin to restore both the theater and the office building to their former glory. The renovation of the office building was complete by 1983, but the Wiltern Theatre presented a much more difficult problem and took another 2 years to complete. The theater had been poorly maintained - many of the murals and plasterwork were damaged, many of the fixtures had been sold off or pillaged, and portions of the ceiling had crashed onto the ground floor seats. To restore the theater to its original state required some expert craftsmanship to repair what was there (including A.T. Heinsbergen, the son of the original painter) and some creativity to replace what had been lost (including salvaging vintage Art Deco seats from the soon to be demolished Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon). Further, while originally a movie theater, Ratkovich wanted to convert the Wiltern into a performing arts center that could host live concerts and Broadway level stage performances which entailed extending the rear wall of the theater back thirteen feet. After a four year renovation the Wiltern Theatre finally opened again to the public on May 1, 1985.
The Wiltern Theatre is one of the largest in Los Angeles and at one time seated 2,344 (subsequent modifications removed 1,200 seats on the ground floor to allow for a variety of configurations from a standing room only crowd to a more intimate arrangement). Since then, the Wiltern Theater has been purchased by the South Korean owned LG company, and has subsequently been renamed the Wiltern LG.