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Alex Theatre Will Keep Name but Lose Canopy in Renovation

June 18, 1992|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — The 52-year-old canopy that spans the forecourt of the Alex Theatre will come down, but the theater's abbreviated name, marquee and neon-lighted spire will remain.

The design plan adopted Tuesday by the Glendale Redevelopment Agency clears the way for the start of a $6.2-million renovation project to convert the historic 1925 movie house into a city-owned performing arts center.

The city Historic Preservation Commission and Redevelopment Agency will award a contract for construction next month, with completion expected within a year.

A nonprofit board appointed by the city to oversee conversion and operation of the theater had recommended that the city return to the theater's original name, "the Alexander," as it was called when first built for vaudeville and other live performances.

The board and theater consultants said the name is classier than "the Alex" and would reflect the more sophisticated live performances planned there. The name was officially shortened in 1940 when an Art Deco-style marquee, with a distinctive 100-foot-high spire and a canopy, was built over the forecourt at 216 N. Brand Blvd.

But the preservation commission disagreed, saying "Alex" is part of the historic fabric of the cavernous theater, which was known for its first-run movies and frequent celebrity events.

The agency, which consists of the five City Council members, voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to retain the current name. "In my mind, the historic name is the Alex Theatre," said Councilman Larry Zarian. "I grew up with the Alex Theatre."

Agreeing with Zarian were Councilwomen Ginger Bremberg and Eileen Givens. Mayor Carl Raggio and Councilman Dick Jutras said they prefer the name Alexander.

However, the agency voted 4 to 1, with Bremberg opposing, to approve plans calling for removal of the canopy and support columns leading to the theater entrance.

The theater board said the canopy shields from view the distinctive neo-Greek architecture of the facade and inhibits use of the large forecourt. The preservation commission had recommended that the canopy be retained.

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