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San Pedro Theater Getting Repairs

Safety code violations forced closure of the 73-year-old building, but fixes are being made, and it's hoped a reopening is not far off.

March 22, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

The Warner Grand Theater hasn't been feeling like its grand old self lately.

The 1930s Art Deco theater in San Pedro was shut down by the Los Angeles Fire Department two weeks ago after inspectors found 34 safety code violations.

The lights need fixing, a couple of doors drag and the electrical system is in need of repair, the inspectors concluded.

Now, repairs are being made and it's hoped the theater will reopen after a reinspection scheduled for Thursday.

"It had a lot of problems that a 73-year-old theater is going to have," said Lee Sweet, the Warner's general manager. "Most of them would never occur to us."

But Fire Capt. Richard Gregory described one of the violations as potentially dangerous -- exit doors that dragged on the floor. As a result, the doors would be harder for patrons to exit in an emergency.

The department recently stepped up its efforts to help prevent nightclub disasters such as those that occurred last month in Chicago and Rhode Island.

The Warner theater has a grand history that lives up to its name, said Elizabeth Schindler, the executive director of Grand Vision Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1995 to restore the Warner Grand.

It is the last of three Art Deco theaters designed by B. Marshal Priteca, architect for the Pantages Theater chain, to remain intact.

The theater now shows movies and hosts live music events.

"We love the theater very much," Schindler said. "It's one of the gems of San Pedro."

The restoration process has had its ups and downs. Theater officials closed the Warner's doors temporarily last year while electrical repairs were made.

"It's one bump along a rocky path," Sweet said.

"We never said it was going to be easy."

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