Glendale Would Support Cultural Center, Study Shows

Times Staff Writer

Consultants are recommending that the City of Glendale build a mid-size theater, even though another study found no need for such a facility at the nearby Music Center in Los Angeles.

Theatre Projects Consultants of Los Angeles said there is a "very strong demand" in downtown Glendale for a cultural arts center with a 1,300- to 1,600-seat proscenium theater and a theater with 99 to 250 seats.

But consultant Harrison Price, who conducted a study for the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission, said last week that a new mid-size theater at the Music Center, similar to that proposed for Glendale, is "impossible to justify at this time" because the demand has been met by such facilities as the Huntington Hartford Theater and Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

Less Likely to Go to Los Angeles

The Glendale theater study, released Friday, found that residents of Glendale and its surrounding communities are more likely to attend a live performance in Glendale than to travel to downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood.

The study consisted of telephone surveys and personal interviews of almost 1,000 Glendale residents and shoppers at the Galleria shopping mall, said David T. Staples of Theatre Projects Consultants.

Staples said a mid-size theater would complement, rather than compete with, neighboring facilities and would not duplicate existing theaters in the Glendale market area, which includes Los Feliz, Highland Park, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta and Sunland-Tujunga.

He said middle-income theatergoers are reluctant to travel to downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood except for major productions. "They want to attend a production closer to home at a much more reasonable cost," he said.

The study found that the Alex Theatre, built in 1925, has the potential to serve as a first-rate performance space if it is renovated. Eighty percent of the residents surveyed said they would like the theater to be saved because of its historical value to the city.

The report is the first of two phases of a $62,000 study commissioned by the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on the need for a cultural arts facility in the downtown redevelopment project and the feasibility of preserving the Alex Theatre.

Although the study found that the Alex is the most suitable place for a cultural arts center, a second study, expected to be completed within three months, will determine if the proposal is feasible. Officials said the configuration of the Alex Theatre stage, which abuts Maryland Avenue, may prohibit its expansion and renovation and the addition of the dressing and storage rooms required by a live theater.

'Tawdry, Drab' Interior

Glendale city officials last year toured a similar theater in Portland, Ore., which has since been renovated as that city's cultural center. That theater was saved because the stage and preparation areas were expanded onto adjoining property, Glendale officials said.

Staples, who has worked on new and renovated theaters throughout the United States, Canada and England, described the Alex as "congenial, elegant and unusual." He said the interior of the theater, which was remodeled in 1940, is now "tawdry" and "drab" and the equipment is "antiquated."

Former Glendale Mayor Warren Haverkamp, chairman of the Glendale Cultural Arts Investigation Committee, said the theater "has a rather romantic history" because it was the site of major motion picture premiers and that there is "a lot of historical sentiment" among residents to preserve the facility.

Thomas C. Mitze, manager of a La Mirada theater similar to the one proposed for Glendale and a member of Theatre Projects Consultants, said development of a cultural arts center in downtown Glendale would restore nighttime vitality to the core of the city.

He said restaurants and entertainment facilities would attract people at night to an area that otherwise might become "a deserted canyon of high-rises."

City officials have recommended that a cultural arts center be developed in the redevelopment area and incorporated into a mixed-use development that would include luxury hotels, restaurants, retail stores, offices and residential units.

The redevelopment agency is expected to authorize the second phase of the cultural arts study at its meeting next week.

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