The Downtown Los Angeles outpost of the trendy Ace Hotel chain opened just three years ago, but it has already become something of a local institution, providing an impressive backdrop for countless Instagram posts from tourists and Downtown residents alike.
But the Broadway building that the hotel is housed in has been making its mark on visitors for nearly 90 years. It opened at the end of 1927 as the United Artists Theatre, a flagship venue for the United Artists film studio founded by Golden Age Hollywood icons Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and DW Griffith.
The building was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, who modeled the opulent theater after Spain’s Gothic-style Segovia Cathedral. In its early heyday, the theater was one of the most awe-inspiring venues in the nation, with ornate metalwork, vaulted ceilings, carved columns, and a towering dome above the auditorium.
Elaborate murals depict United Artist’s founders and silent stars of the day, as well as heroic-looking nude figures alleged to be modeled after the studio’s board of directors.
Like many of Broadway’s historic movie houses, the theater had stopped showing movies by the 1990s, eventually becoming a church (hence the glowing “Jesus Saves” sign atop the building).
When the Ace Hotel moved in, the theater was completely restored, with reupholstered seating, new carpeting, and LED lights to highlight the showroom’s spectacular dome. It was also renamed as the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Today, the theater serves as a multipurpose venue, hosting regular concerts and live performances. It’s also once more a place to see movies—occasionally. Most recently, the LA Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats film series brought classic silent film Wings to the venerable movie palace.