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How Spanish-Language Entertainment Revived the Broadway Theaters

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,
The marquee of the Globe Theater advertises Spanish-language entertainment in the early 1970s.

Once upon a time, Broadway was the Great White Way of the West. A high concentration of theaters populating the stretch of Downtown between 3rd and Olympic rendered it an epicenter for film and live entertainment. However, as early as the 1920s, Hollywood Boulevard started drawing crowds away with its own slate of shiny new theaters, and as the city expanded, attendance at the Broadway theaters suffered.

Starting in the post-World War II era, many of the theaters converted to Spanish-language programming which proved to be a boon to the aging movie palaces. The Globe and United Artists theaters were among those who found new life in a different language, but it was the Million Dollar that especially came to be associated with its Spanish-language offerings.

With a fully functional stage that had originally supported elaborate Sid Grauman prologues, owner Frank Fouce ushered the Million Dollar into a new golden age that catered to the local Latino population. The theatre flourished for decades with a slate a live performances by entertainers such as Dolores Del Rio and Cantinflas, and also served as a venue for film premieres.

For many of the theaters, the switch to Spanish-language programming provided these magnificent structures with a longevity they might not have otherwise had. By the early 2000s most of the theaters on Broadway had gone dark or converted to storefronts or churches. With the redevelopment of the Downtown area, the theaters are slowly but surely having new life breathed into them. Thankfully, many of these buildings were able to stave of the decay of neglect because the local Latino community made sure they remained open past their Hollywood heyday. 

Actor Gilbert Roland (center) is pictured with Sergeant Joseph C. Rodriguez and Eddie Rodriguez at the Million Dollar Theater (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)

 Actor and comedian Resortes (center) with two co-stars at the Million Dollar Theater. (Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)

A publicity photo for Fernando Rosas used to advertise his appearance at the Million Dollar Theater. (Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)

The marquee of the United Artists Theater adverises Spanish-language programming in the 1950s. (William Reagh Collection/Los Angeles Public Library) 

Lobby cards and posters for Spanish-language titles are visible in the entrance of one of the Broadway theaters in the early 1970s. (William Reagh Collection/Los Angeles Public Library) 

The marquee of the Globe Theater advertises Spanish-language entertainment in the early 1970s. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library) 

Gerardito Fernandez performs at the Million Dollar Theater in the 1990s. (Gary Leonard Collection/Los Angeles Public Library)

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