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A star-studded audience mingled in the foyer...

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

A star-studded audience mingled in the foyer of the Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills on the night of May 18, 1925, in anticipation of the gala opening of the first “movie palace” built in a community already known as a residential haven for film celebrities.

The theater at Wilshire and Beverly Drive was done in striking Moorish architectural style with slender minarets and a bulbous dome. Its interior featured a Chinese moon gate proscenium arch and romantic mural renderings from the Arabian Nights.

The master of ceremonies that evening was director Fred Niblo, the man who coordinated 1 million feet of film shot for the classic super spectacle “Ben Hur” and who directed such stars as

Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Greta Garbo. The new film showcase premiered First National Picture’s “I Want My Man” and showed a filmed tour of local movie stars’ homes.

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The building was designed by L.A. Smith, who also did a number of neighborhood theaters for West Coast Theaters, of which only the Rialto in South Pasadena and the El Portal in North Hollywood still remain.

Over the years, the Beverly Theater underwent many changes and very little is now left to suggest its proud debut six decades ago.

During the 1970s, the theater housed Fiorucci--an upbeat Italian boutique featuring funky clothes, rock music and a capuccino bar. Ironically, the spurious mosque-like structure currently serves as headquarters for the Israeli Discount Bank.


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