1301 - 1313 Third Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Criterion Theatre & Apartments

Known As: Criterion Theatre & Apartments
Architect: Engineering Service Company
Built: 1923
Designated:

This mixed use building arrived at a time when downtown economic activity was expanding rapidly – the booming 1920s. The building combined retail shops, apartments and a theater in a lavish version of Classical Revival architecture. The Third Street façade is symmetrical and uses all of the elements of classical architecture – pilasters, capitals, friezes and ornamental motifs. Surfaces are embellished with rich floral ornament and enlivened by theatrical masks, windows with balconies, and framed oval windows. The cornice has an elaborately detailed profile, adding dimension to the roofline.

When the theater opened in 1924, the opulent interior décor rivaled the famed movie palaces of Los Angeles, and an orchestral Wurlitzer organ provided a marimba, harp, chimes, bells and many other features. In 1932, during the Depression, Shirley Temple and Will Rogers performed here to raise money for unemployed citizens.

After heavy damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the building was totally reconstructed. The exterior is faithfully restored, but the ornate interiors are gone. The theater was converted into a multiplex with a subterranean addition. The south wall shows the intersection between the original façade and the new theater wall. The marquee and sign recreate those used when it was part of Fox’s West Coast Theaters chain.

The rebirth of this theater along with the Broadway/Elmiro, and new theaters constructed recently, reveal how entertainment venues have contributed vitality to the Promenade’s economic success.

Sources:

  1. Santa Monica Conservancy. “Downtown Walking Tour.”
  2. Movie Palaces along Wilshire Boulevard. “Criterion.”