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Leimert Park fire spares Vision Theatre during renovation

The 1931 Art Deco Vision Theatre, which overlooks Leimert Park Plaza, is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation by the city of Los Angeles.
The 1931 Art Deco Vision Theatre, which overlooks Leimert Park Plaza, is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation by the city of Los Angeles.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A predawn fire in an abandoned building near a historic South Los Angeles theater caused alarm early Tuesday morning, but city officials are now saying the Vision Theatre escaped largely undamaged.

The roof of the Vision Theatre, which has been under renovation since 2018, caught fire around 4:35 a.m. in the 4400 block of Leimert Boulevard in Leimert Park, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. More than 100 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was knocked down around 5 a.m., according to the LAFD.

No one was injured in the fire, but local activist Najee Ali posted a video on Facebook showing burn debris littering the outside of the Art Deco theater, which opened in 1931.

Tuesday afternoon, City Councilman Herb Wesson said the fire actually occurred in an abandoned building next door. Damage to the Vision Theatre itself was minimal, according to Wesson’s staff.

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“I was deeply upset to hear about the fire at the Vision Theatre, an incredibly important and special place in South L.A. However, I want to set the record straight,” Wesson said in an email. “The preliminary investigation has shown the fire was actually in an abandoned building next door, and we are incredibly fortunate that the theater is largely intact. While the west side of the marquee suffered some damage, it appears that there is zero damage to the roof.”

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

The theater was purchased in 1990 by actress Marla Gibbs, who gave it the Vision name, according to the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. The city eventually took over the theater and turned it into a performing arts center.

The theater has been envisioned as part of a revived stretch of the city that would be along a new light rail commuter line. Wesson said the remodeling of the theater is expected to be completed by the end of the year.


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