Variety Arts Center
940 S. Figueroa Street,
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Firms: Allison & Allison
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Previous Names: Friday Morning Club, Playhouse Theatre, Times Theatre
The Friday Morning Club was founded by suffragist and abolitionist Caroline Severance. In 1922, the members announced plans for brothers James & David Allison to design and build a five-story clubhouse on Figueroa Street, replacing a 1900 structure alreading in use. The club opened in April, 1924, at a cost of over $750,000. Over the doorway is carved their motto:‘In Essentials Unity - In Nonessentials Liberty - and In All Things Charity’.
The building contained offices, lounges, a library, assembly/dining room with seating for 500, an art gallery and two small clubrooms. The 1,100-seat auditorium occupies first floor. The 500-seat auditorium on the third floor was leased out as The Playroom, a live venue and vaudeville house. It is said that Clark Gable made his acting debut here in “Romeo and Juliet” in May of 1925.
In the 1940’s, the theatre became the Times Theatre, and featured movies as well as live shows.
The Friday Morning Club sold the building to Milt Larsen’s non-profit Society for the Preservation for Variety Arts, and it became the Variety Arts Center. Due to problems with the IRS, the Center closed in 1988. For a while the building was being run as a club/concert venue with performances by the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Butthole Surfers, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre’s movie “Murder Was the Case”, held its premiere here on November 3, 1994.
The Anschultz Entertainment Group owned the building for a short time. David Houk of Houk Development Company purchased it in 2006 and it was used for special events. Purchased by the Robhana Group of investors in 2012, in January 2016 renovations began to convert the building into a church. The Australian based Hillsong church who have been using the Belasco Theatre four times a week in recent years have taken out a 15 year lease and will move into the Variety Arts Center in late-2016.
The building is a registered historic cultural landmark.
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