Downtown Los Angeles, Broadway

Photography and audio by Michael Robinson Chavez

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Remember those dismissive jabs from New Yorkers about Los Angeles not having a downtown?

No more. Anyone who mentions rolled-up sidewalks has not walked Broadway on a weekend, when crowds and a mix of sounds and smells stir memories of Lower Manhattan or Mexico City.

Before World War II, Broadway was Los Angeles' version of the Great White Way -- in this case, the world's largest concentration of movie theaters. The grandiose style of its film palaces spilled over to nearby office buildings and stores, still resplendent in gargoyles and rococo trim.

Broadway's fortunes have fallen and risen, but landmarks remain. The Grand Central Market is awash with the scent of fish, tortillas, barbecue and ripe vegetables. Outside the International House of Music, an old RCA Victor dog statue stands with its head cocked to hear the music. At the Guadalupe Wedding Chapel, couples can buy a $250 package with minister, chapel, music and a choice of video, bride's bouquet, cake-cutting knife or gold-plated rings for two.

Day and night, film crews zoom in on brownstone storefronts and 1920s foyers. The Guadalupe chapel appeared in "The Wedding Singer" and "Six Feet Under." This is Broadway, after all, and entertainment is king.

--Deborah Schoch

What is Street Scenes?

Southern California is a vast land of neighborhoods. Drive Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, for example, and you'll encounter industrial blocks, the garment district, Koreatown, West L.A. bungalows and the burgeoning entertainment district at the eastern end of Santa Monica.
But most of us don't spend time driving from neighborhood to neighborhood--so L.A. Times photographers have done it for us. Throughout the summer, we'll spotlight their portraits of a variety of neighborhoods, ranging from the Fairfax District to Newport Harbor.

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