The Alex Theatre is something of a powerhouse in the Glendale area and was first built in 1925. The theater used to be a vaudeville house in the days of old before it was transformed by modern technology and became a single screen theater. After a period when live shows were no longer performed, the theater has now gone back to it vaudevillian roots, and you will find live performances such as musical theater, symphony orchestras, ballet recitals, and even film and television screenings. The Alex Theatre is a landmark located at 216 North Brand Boulevard in Glendale, California, United States. It is currently owned by the city of Glendale and operated by Glendale Arts. The theater’s capacity is 1,400. The Alexander officially opened its doors on September 4, 1925. It was operated by the West Coast-Langley Theatre Circuit and featured vaudeville performances, plays and silent movies on a single screen. It was named after Alexander Langley, the son of Claude L. Langley, owner of the West Coast chain that included the Raymond Theater in Pasadena, and the Orange Theatre in the city of Orange. In addition to the lavish architecture, a huge Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed. A regular organist supplied improvised accompaniment during the silent picture era.
Located only a few miles from Walt Disney’s Hyperion studio, the theater was Disney’s favorite place to preview his cartoons to see how they would play to audiences. Several movies had their preview screening at The Alex, inviting celebrities such as Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Elizabeth Taylor for National Velvet and Bing Crosby for Going My Way (both 1944). A backstage fire on August 23, 1948 caused $150,000 in damages. Starting in the 1950s, the Alex showed blockbuster films such as Ben-Hur (1959) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). A wide aspect ratio screen was installed in 1954, to accommodate the new CinemaScope pictures, along with a surround sound system. The Alex underwent an extensive renovation in 1993, which restored much of the original wall-painting and decorations, as well as the neon spire added by S. Charles Lee.
The Alex Theatre Performing Arts and Entertainment Center has been the centerpiece of Glendale’s arts, culture and community events since it originally opened. It is managed by Glendale Arts, a non-profit organization. The theater’s diverse schedule boasts roughly 250 events per year and attracts more than 100,000 patrons annually. Programs range from classical and contemporary concerts, theatre, dance, comedy, fundraising and special events as well as TV and film productions and industry related award presentations. The Alex was the venue in 2017 for the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race (season 9). And in the summer of 2019, the NBC comedy competition series Bring the Funny used the Alex Theatre as the venue for the final two episodes of its first season. Resident companies include the Alex Film Society, Glendale Youth Orchestra, Musical Theatre Guild, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The Alex Film Society regularly schedules classic films, often accompanied with special guests (e.g., the annual Thanksgiving weekend tradition “Three Stooges Big Screen Event,” which children, grandchildren, and other relatives of the Stooges often attend), live musical performances of the film’s soundtrack and vintage photos.
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