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Wiltern Theatre, the future site of Koreatown in 1945

While watching Gyeongsang Creature set in 1945 Korea, I started to wonder what Koreatown, Los Angeles looked like at that time. So I decided to look up a landmark in Koreatown that would be easily recognizable throughout historic photos, the Wiltern Theatre located on Wilshire and Western.


This is an aerial shot of the intersection in 1936. The tall building is the Wiltern.



What it looks like today. Korean restaurants, shopping center and luxury apartments now line the intersection.



This is 1945.



It's amazing to think that in less than 50 years from this picture, this location would become the heart of Koreatown.


I always wondered about the Wiltern Theatre. I knew it was "historic" and that the name came from a combination of Wilshire and Western. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't the original name of the theatre. The Wiltern originally opened in 1931 as the Warner Bros. Western Theater. It closed a year later and when it re-opened, it was named the Wiltern.


It was designed by the architectural firm Morgan, Walls & Clements in the Art Deco style, which was popular during that era. The architectural firm based in Los Angeles, California, was known for its significant contributions to the city during the early 20th century. The firm's work includes many iconic buildings in Los Angeles, some of which are still standing today. Some notable projects by Morgan, Walls & Clements include:

  • The Mayan Theater (1927): An Art Deco masterpiece located in downtown Los Angeles, known for its intricate detailing and pre-Columbian motifs.

  • The El Capitan Theatre (1926): Located on Hollywood Boulevard, this theater features a Spanish Colonial Revival design.


The Warner Bros. Western Theater, primarily functioned as a movie theater during its early years. It was part of the Warner Bros. theater chain, and like many theaters of its era, it showcased a wide range of films, including Warner Bros. studio productions and other popular movies of the time.


Here is a view from 1931. They built a bridge for the opening for the stars to walk on because the city refused to shut down the street. Can you imagine that happening today?



This is opening night of a movie premiere in 1931.



It's interesting to think about what was happening on the other side of the world in Korea while this movie premiere was happening. Sometimes I wrestle with that same issue now. As I write this blog comfortably and safe from military occupation, what is happening on the other side of the world. Unlike the people in this crowd who may have had no idea, today we have full access to the horrors of war and occupation in other countries. I wonder what our collective duty is or if the action we take or not take is our individual choice.


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