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S. Charles Lee; Architect of Art Deco Theaters

January 30, 1990

S. Charles Lee, who was hailed as the most prolific and prominent architect of movie theaters of the Art Deco period, died Saturday. He was 90.

Lee designed more than 400 theaters around the world, including the Tower and Los Angeles theaters in downtown Los Angeles and the Wilshire Theatre in Hollywood, said his daughter, Connie Keiter.

She said he also designed 10,000 residences and 5,000 factories and business buildings, including the Max Factor Building in Hollywood.

Born Sept. 5, 1899, in Chicago, Lee came to California in 1922 after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War I. He opened an architecture firm in Los Angeles.

In an interview with The Times in 1984, Lee said he believed he was 20 years ahead of his time when he began designing theaters in 1929. "Auto traffic was not so great then, but in 1930 I proposed building an underground parking garage under Pershing Square. City officials thought the idea absurd, but 20 years later, they built it," he said.

The Society of American Registered Architects presented him with the "Synergy Award," its highest honor, in 1975.

At the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, an endowed chair honoring the architect was established in 1986. The school holds most of his drawings, pencil sketches and plans.

Lee is also survived by his wife, Hylda.

No funeral services will be held.

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