UPDATE: On August 2, 2018, Apple officially announced plans to adaptively reuse The Tower Theatre as a retail operation, including additional community programming, classes, and events. The Conservancy is pleased to see this long-vacant building reactivated on historic Broadway. We are currently working with Apple to review proposed plans and ensure important character-defining features are retained as part of this project.
The Tower Theatre, at S. Broadway and W. 8th Street, was commissioned by H.L. Gumbiner, who would later also build the Los Angeles Theatre in 1931. It was the first theater designed by architect S. Charles Lee.
Seating 900 on a tiny site, it was designed in Renaissance Revival style with innovative French, Spanish, Moorish, and Italian elements all executed in terra-cotta. Its interior was modeled after the Paris Opera House. Its exterior features a prominent clock tower, the very top of which was removed after an earthquake.
It opened in 1927 with the silent film The Gingham Girl starring Lois Wilson and George K. Arthur. The Tower was the first filmhouse in Los Angeles to be wired for talking pictures, and it was the location of the sneak preview and Los Angeles premiere of Warner Bros.' revolutionary part-talking The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson.
In 1950, the theatre began a successful period of running only newsreels, aptly taking on the name, Newsreel Theatre. That signage can still be faintly seen on the north and east sides of the building. It also served as a general-run theatre under the name Music Hall Downtown.
In 1965, the theatre was renamed the Tower Theatre. During the 1990s, the Tower became a popular location for film production, including the Warner Bros. film, Mambo Kings.