The Wiltern and Pellissier Building
Located at the busy corner of Wilshire and Western Boulevards (hence its name), the Wiltern Theatre and its adjoining, twelve-story Pellissier Building are instantly recognizable and beloved by Angelenos.
Theatre historian and founding Conservancy board member John Miller described the Wiltern as a “dictionary of Art Deco style.”
The distinctive, blue-green terra-cotta complex was designed by Stiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements.
Narrow windows in the office tower, deeply set between soaring vertical piers, give the illusion of a much taller building than its actual 150 feet (the maximum height permitted by the City at that time).
The theatre interior (designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, who also designed the interiors of downtown’s Palace and Orpheum theatres) features opulent murals, gold leaf details, and a signature sunburst suspended from its 80-foot auditorium ceiling.
The theatre was originally Warner Brothers’ Western Theatre. On opening night in 1931, the theatre hosted the premier of Alexander Hamilton starring George Arliss.
Crowds lined Wilshire Boulevard for a glimpse of the stars in attendance such as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, Loretta Young, and James Cagney.
In 1956, the Wiltern was sold to Franklin Life Insurance Company and thereafter faced a steady decline, eventually closing its doors in 1979, the same year the building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
When the building was threatened with demolition, Rick Newberger’s Citizens’ Committee to Save the Wiltern, along with a very young Los Angeles Conservancy, came to the rescue. The complex was saved from the wrecking ball through the intervention of developer Wayne Ratkovich and his firm, Ratkovich, Bowerts & Perez, the same firm responsible for the renovation of the Art Deco Oviatt Building downtown. (See the issue page for details.)
Today, the Wiltern thrives as a live entertainment venue and a beloved Los Angeles landmark. The Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the Wiltern and Pellissier Building's exterior, including the twin blade signs and the theatre marquee and entrance.