News of the Week: “Vision Theater”

Art Deco, sometimes called Style Moderne was a type of visual art that first began in the mid-to-late 1910’s and lasted until the beginning of WWII. It was one of the first truly international designs.

Named after the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts held in Paris it influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theaters, trains, ocean liners and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.

Simple and clean, with geometrically stylized details, its signatures include florals, animals and sun rays. Another characteristic of Art Deco, especially in architecture, is its use of man-made materials such as reinforced concrete.

Art Deco Influences:

Besides Art Nouveau, the Bauhaus, Cubism and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes its designers were also inspired by the Native Americans, Egyptians and nature. One of the most famous Art Deco architects was from Finland and his name was Eliel Gottlieb Saarinen (1873-1950). Luxurious, glamorous and exuberant the goal of Art Deco was to represent “social and technological progress”.

Vision Theater:

The building I’m concentrating on in this piece is the Vision Theater (formerly the Leimert Theater)because not only is it exquisite, and an excellent example of 1930s Art Deco, it also has an interesting history. Located in a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles at 4252 South Bronson Avenue the area it’s in, Leimert Park, was named by the developer Walter H. Leimert who developed it in 1928. It was one of the first planned communities in Southern California designated for upper and middle-income families.

The park itself, was designed by the landscape architecture firm operated and managed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903), the landscape designer of Central Park in New York City. On May 2018 the area between Vernon Ave., Crenshaw Blvd., 43rd Street and Degnan Blvd. became Historical Leimert Park Village. An enclave of African American cultural arts it’s often been called the Harlem and Greenwich Village of the Westcoast.

Vision Theater was designed in 1931 by the Morgan, Walls and Clements architectural firm and “erected by contractors from Lindgren and Swinerton Inc.. The structure itself is “made out of reinforced concrete and topped with a 115 foot ornamental tower.” Used to attract movie goers from their cars it was a smart use of advertising.

Stylistically the building is “representative of the streamlined Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco style” reflective of the era following the lushness of the Jazz Age.

Reportedly organized by president of Fox Westcoast Theaters Harold B. Franklin and Howard Hughes it was initially utilized for movie premieres. First opened on April 21, 1932 as the Leimert Theater it remained popular and showed many movies for years before it closed in 1968. The last film to premiere there was Bonnie Clyde.

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