Theater Chic: LA’s Classy Conversions


The Mayan, 1927

Downtown LA is home to many historical buildings, including theaters, that have served various purposes over the past century. Many of them are now nightclubs and entertainment venues that cater to a modern crowd while preserving their rich history. These are some of the more popular hotspots that you can check out when you’re feelin’ the urge to go dancing or if you just want to listen to some good music:

Avalon – Originally opened in 1927, the theater was home to various traveling shows, Broadway stars and comedy acts throughout the ‘30s, ’40 and ‘50s. Like any person or place in the entertainment industry, it went through a period of name changes as well. The venue became El Capitan for a period of time until it was renamed the Jerry Lewis Theatre and then the Hollywood Palace. It is now known as Avalon, a music venue popular amongst the hip LA crowd. The structure underwent a major makeover in 2003 and also features an outdoor patio on the second level that serves as a smoking lounge. Now Avalon is home to numerous EDM club acts and world renowned DJs such as Paul Oakenfold and Kristina Skky. And unlike other bars and clubs that shut down at 2 a.m., this place follows a more European format, staying open until 7 a.m. – perfect for those that just want to dance to one more song before calling it a night.

Mayan – One of the glitzier and more ostentatious-looking buildings that serves as a reminder of downtown LA’s glamorous and flamboyant past, the Mayan opened in 1927 and focused primarily on musical comedies and ran movies as well. In the ‘40s, the building showed Spanish language films and the occasional adult “artie” film before being converted into a porno venue known as the “Fabulous Mayan” in the late ‘60s. Some of you may recognize shots of the theater in films such as “The Bodyguard” featuring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner or “The Replacement Killers” starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino. Nowadays the venue operates as a nightclub, and if you drive by on a weekend night you’ll find long lines wrapped around the block with people dressed to the nines waiting for their turn to get past the velvet ropes.

Belasco – A 1900s historic relic,  the theater was founded in 1904 and renamed the Follies in 1926, where it then served as the premier destination for burlesque shows as well as the play “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Stars like Humphrey Bogart and Helen Hayes often graced the stage, and after a brief stint as a church in the ‘70s, the 40,000 square foot building underwent a $12 million restoration  in 2011. A great amount of detail went into preserving most of its original architecture and dramatic interior design. In addition to a main theater, the club also has a ballroom, basement lounge, a café for casual dining, along with a seafood restaurant and wine/tapas bar. From DJ sets to well-known performers to private events, the Belasco is one of LA’s most prominent entertainment venues that continues to grow in popularity.

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