Elmiro/Broadway Theater

Known As
Art Deco, Streamline Moderne
Norman W. Alpaugh
1441 3rd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

This theater, originally called the Elmiro, was built during the Depression, at a time when construction activity nationwide had all but slowed to a halt. Perhaps because of its entertainment value, this diversion from economic woes was all the more welcome.

The building is a dynamic, three-dimensional Art Deco design, combining both Art Deco (zig-zag -phase) and Streamline Moderne.  The façade is divided into three forward bays and two recessed bays. The central vertical sign tower is almost three-dimensional, and creates an energetic upward thrust. Flanking the tower are two recessed V-shaped forms. Angular forms were popular in Art Deco design, but it is very unusual to see that motif transposed into a three-dimensional, sculptural form, as we see here.  An angular motif, also slightly curved, is found crowning the central piers of the side bays.

On the side piers, this motif repeats several times in reverse, invigorating the design. The side piers are also grooved and fluted, emphasizing verticality. Vertical accents are placed as a top tier on the recessed V-shaped forms. Inside the central pier is a window of glass blocks, a material that was very popular in Streamline Moderne architecture. The Streamline Moderne “speed lines” – three parallel horizontal lines – are also used here. The three rectangular slabs at the top of the vertical tower are a three-dimensional version of the speed lines.

The theater façade was incorporated into the Janss Company’s mixed use project that pioneered the redevelopment of the old Santa Monica Mall into The Promenade in 1989. As the renovated, multi-screen Broadway Cinemas, it was linked to an adjacent restaurant, offices and residential units, with underground parking. The Janss project, a pioneering mixed use development, became a model for the Promenade’s revitalization. Theatres were the magnets that drew customers and new activity to the Promenade.