The Greek Theater–An Experience Restored
After five months of renovations costing over $8 million, the landmark Greek Theater will reopen on April 22 with the legendary David Bowie. Unlike Los Angeles County’s destruction of the Hollywood Bowl in order to save it, the city of Los Angeles and the theater’s manager/operator/promoter, Nederlander-Greek, Inc., have restored and improved the 75-year-old facility.
Over the past two years the Nederlanders have made
presentations and progress reports to Hollywood Heritage to get support and
advice on the project. This was important as the alternative proposal for this
project was not as sensitive to historic preservation issues.
The theater structure, built in 1931 (to replace the 1929 structure that burned down), has had its façade restored to its original appearance. Various additions had covered it since the 1950s, including the box office. A new, larger, box office has been built as part of a new 35,000 square foot plaza fronting the theater to Vermont Avenue. This area includes new concession stands, a picnic lawn area and new landscaping.
For performing artists, the backstage dressing rooms, commissary, and artists lounges have been renovated. State-of-the-art sound and lighting systems have been added to the stage area.
Original plans had hoped to uncover the audience side of the theater façade, but structural issues allowed only removing all additions back to the 1950s. Though less cluttered, the hope is to someday still bring back the original façade when time and money allow, though the version now seen is an improvement (it was the first cover-up done to the façade). To help “recreate” the re-opening night, the Hollywood Heritage Museum lent its copy of the 1931 Greek Theater opening night program to provide some of the material for the April 22 program.
The other audience
area improvements include doubling the concession stands, adding many more
women’s restrooms, and additional wheelchair space. These improvements for the
audience, performers, and historic preservation should once again win the
Nederlanders the prestigious Pollster Award for “Best Small Outdoor
Amphitheater” in the country, which the Greek has won the past four years.
It is important to thank the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department–the theater’s owner as part of Griffith Park–Councilman Tom LaBonge (in whose district the Greek sits), and the Nederlander Organization (who also restored the 1930 Pantages Theater in Hollywood) for their combined efforts to work out an effective restoration plan that allowed for all of the improvements and upgrades to be implemented. David Green, Sr. Vice President/CFO of the Nederlander Organization and Mike Garcia, General Manager of the Greek Theater, have done a tremendous job to pull this together for the April 22 opening and deserve our thanks. Special thanks to theater legend James M. Nederlander and his son James L. Nederlander for their continuing interest and support for successful Hollywood theater restoration/renovations, and for running the Greek for the past 26 years (visit www.greektheater.com for more information).