The Projectionist Remembers: The Olympic Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Once again as the sun has set upon our little town of Haddonfield, I find myself able overcome my distaste for Carl’s technology, this laptop however for the time being gives me far more ability to make my words and the overwhelming emotions I hold for hallowed places like my Haunted Drive-In known to the world at large!

Mind you not all Drive-In’s and Movie Palaces have been put to the torch like mine…but so many of the Haunted Drive-In’s cinematic brothers and sisters have felt the ravages of the March of Time. Like the Olympic Theatre…


(Photo courtesy of John Rice and Cinema Treasures – Carl)

The Olympic Theatre at 313 W. Eighth Street in Los Angeles, CA, opened in 1927 as the Bard’s Eight Street Theatre. Lewis A. Smith was the architect, taking what was a restaurant at the time and remodeling it to be the last in Lou Bard’s theatre chain, it was said to have been decorated in Chinese decor and held 600 seats. The first feature to beam on it’s screen was Universal’s “Oh, Baby”, a comedy starring Creighton Hale and Madge Kennedy.

In the year of 1932 the Bard’s Theatre was rechristened, she became the Olympic Theatre to commemorate the hosting of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Architect Charles O. Matcham, gave the Olympic yet another remodeling in 1942.

The Olympic’s claim to fame goes beyond entertaining her audiences for over 59 years, she was featured in the 1971 film, The Omega Man. It was the theatre that Neville, played by Charlton Heston took refuge within to watch Woodstock and try to escape his loneliness.

The Olympic Theatre closed its doors in the Summer of 1986, it like the Ramova Theatre, ended it’s years as a Spanish language house after being bought out by Metropolitan Theatres. It was said that she had been closed to strengthen the walls to stand up to earthquake shocks but never reopened as a movie house. In the year 2004, the facade and marquee had been worked on but the interior was being used as storage. 2007 found the Olympic being transformed into a business shop for French Rococo furniture and chandeliers.


(Photo courtesy of Ron P. and Cinema Treasures – Carl)

I see it is time to change the first reel, I’ve found that a projectionist must always preview the films being shown to ensure there are no defects in the quality of the feature. Doubly so with this vast vault of films I was able to save from the fire.

Perhaps in the future you will be able to come visit me in the Haunted Drive-In? Just remember to wait until after dark…

The Projectionist

Lurking in the bowels of the Retroist Vault, the Projectionist comforts himself with the dreams of celluloid glory of days gone by. With his assistant, Daniel XIII, in the quiet time of the night he serves as host in what has been dubbed the Haunted Drive-In. Bringing films to the entertainment starved masses the Haunted Drive-In projector roars to life and shines brightly once again...

Subscribe to the Retroist Newsletter

* indicates required