About Us

The Montalbán Theatre

The history of the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre not only highlights its many incarnations over its 90-year life, but it also provides a special window into the entire entertainment business and the performing arts in Los Angeles during the Twentieth Century.

Built in 1926, the theatre's architect was Myron Hunt, whose work included the Rose Bowl, CalTech, the Ambassador Hotel, and many other Southern California landmarks. Named The Wilkes Brothers Vine Street Theatre in honor of its builders, it was the first legitimate Broadway-style theatre in Hollywood.

By the early 1930s, Howard Hughes, already famous for his aviation projects, was producing movies and building a movie chain; he acquired the Vine StreetTheatre to convert it into the first fully automated cinema, renamed it The Mirror, and added it to his Hughes-Franklin circuit.

Hughes got out of the movie theater business after only a few years and sold The Mirror in 1935 to CBS Radio which needed a home for its local station KNX andits long-running “Lux Radio Theatre.” wildly popular, this anthology series featured adaptations of stage plays and film scripts performed by well-known actors in front of a live audience. For many of its years it was produced and hosted by the legendary producer/director Cecil B. DeMille.

In the 1950s, HuntingtonHartford, the heir to the A&P grocery store fortune acquired the theatre. He spent $750,000 remodeling and restoring it to the first-class legitimate-stage venue it was intended to be.  Soon, the Huntington Hartford Theatre became synonymous with high-profile productions featuring the biggest stars of the era.

In 1964, James Doolittle, who was already running the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, acquired the theatre. Over the next 20 years, Doolittle became the theatre's most successful owner, and his smart productions with Hollywood and Broadway stars added luster to the 969-seat venue's already enviable reputation for fine acoustics and sight lines. 

When the Doolittle era came to an end, UCLA took over, but after several years, thetheatre went dark until Ricardo Montalbán stepped in. He envisioned having aphysical presence in Hollywood that would provide inspiration and training foremerging artists in the Hispanic community and thus enable them to mainstream into the performing arts and the broader entertainment industry.  

In 1999 a generous community support and donations enabled The Ricardo Montalbán Foundation to buy the building, and the Foundation reopened the theatre as The Montalbán in 2004. We are in the process of another restoration and are soon beginning a capital campaign for a proposed expansion of the below-stage and upstairs areas. We thank Nike, KV2 Audio, Canon USA and LA84 for their installation of the rooftop sports court.