Golden Gate Theater: East Los Angeles Icon Reborn

Lights, Camera, Adaptive Re-Use!

On August 19, 2012, Golden Gate Theater reopened as a CVS Pharmacy, bringing new life to the historic building through adaptive reuse.  As the County of Los Angeles’ historic preservation consultant, Chattel worked with the developer (Charles Company), the tenant (CVS), and the Los Angeles Conservancy to ensure historic fabric remains in place to the maximum extent feasible, and that alterations are reversible so the building can be returned to theater use in the future.

Built in 1927 at the corner of Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards, the Churrigueresque-style building is one of few remaining examples of a combined neighborhood movie palace-live stage theater in Southern California.  It is the only building in unincorporated East Los Angeles listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Significant for its architecture, the theater was designed by the “Balch Brothers”, Clifford and William Balch.  It was originally wrapped by the two-story Vega Building, demolished in 1992 following damage caused by a 1987 earthquake.  The theater closed in the mid-1980s and remained vacant for many years; during which time a damaged roof exposed the interior to the elements and the building was vandalized by intruders.  The property was purchased by M & A Gabaee, a California Limited Partnership, in 2003.  On February 17, 2010, the Regional Planning Commission of the County of Los Angeles certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed rehabilitation and reuse project, which involved restoration of historic features and tenant improvements to accommodate a new use as a CVS/Pharmacy.

Certain historic features have been carefully stored on site, and others have been restored and are visible from the CVS sales floor, including interior decorative trim and light fixtures.  The historic sequence of spaces from the lobby into the auditorium is intact, and a large percentage of the high-volume auditorium ceiling and decorative proscenium arch are also visible.

The project has been controversial amongst some who remember attending showings at the theater and would like to see the building reused for film screenings or live performances.  Despite the change in use, great care has been taken to retain the building’s significant historic features and protect the theater from deterioration and vandalism.  The completed project represents a substantial investment in the East Los Angeles community and reflects the hard work and willingness of all members of the project team to celebrate the architecture of the theater while also accommodating CVS.

Additional photos of this project can be viewed on CurbedLA.  

Golden Gate Theater adaptively reused as CVS Pharmacy.