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Belasco Theater mixes it up in downtown L.A.

One of the area's newest spots, the massive venue aims to offer entertainment that goes beyond the dance scene, with a wine bar and restaurants in the works.

March 25, 2011|By Charlie Amter, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Cory Davis, left, and Celeste Gray, right, dance as DJ DeadMau5 spins during the grand opening of the Belasco Theater.
Cory Davis, left, and Celeste Gray, right, dance as DJ DeadMau5 spins during… (Bret Hartman / For The Times )

The downtown Los Angeles nightlife scene is bearing ever more exotic fruit as the area continues to draw bar crawlers from all over Southern California. Last Saturday night, more than 1,000 twenty- and thirtysomethings swooned over the area's just-opened hot spot, Belasco Theater, paying $100 or more per ticket for a grand opening featuring one of electronic music's hottest names, Deadmau5.

But the Belasco isn't just for dance fans. The massive theater at 1050 S. Hill St. has undergone a meticulous, $10-million-plus restoration and comes across as a hybrid of adjacent historic haunt the Mayan Theater and Hollywood's Music Box at the Henry Fonda. The 40,000-square-foot historical 1926 building will also soon feature a wine bar (Vintage 1050) opening next month plus two forthcoming restaurants and a separate basement club.

"We fell in love with this place," said Christina Kim, one of the managing partners and owners behind the Belasco, which had been vacant for years. "It was in bad shape, but we saw beyond that. We felt like we had an opportunity to restore it and bring it back to the community."

Resplendent in red, purple and gold hues, the space has already hosted private events. Last month, Carmelo Anthony, Quincy Jones and Ford executives took in a premiere of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's film "On the Shoulders of Giants" at the multi-level hang with bottle-service-style booths on the balcony instead of theater-style seats.

It's too soon to tell, however, if loft-dwelling downtown denizens will embrace the club. The booking strategy of the Belasco has yet to emerge (don't expect expensive "gets" such as Deadmau5 every week). However, one downtown booster thinks the newly restored night spot is exactly the kind of multi-use venue residents are looking for.

"It's not a frequented area of downtown, so it brings more to the residents here," said Michael Ferguson, a real estate broker and founder of the Downtown Loft Exchange.

"I don't think people know about it too much yet," he said, "but to see this old theater as a functioning venue [again], the local residents appreciate that."

Last weekend, locals and music fans who drove in from as far away as Orange County certainly appreciated Deadmau5, who delighted a sold-out audience with a stellar set coupled with state-of-the-art lighting projected onto a screen and the dome ceiling.

"Everything you see in Las Vegas you'll see here," said the club's lighting director, David Flad of Q1 Designs, adding that the rented lights at the Belasco run the club nearly $30,000 a month and that the projection equipment is worth "about a million dollars."

Still, the curious combination of laser-like lights set against ornate Mayan revival-detail may not be enough for the Belasco to thrive. ExchangeLA, a similarly well-equipped downtown nightclub set inside a historic building with Art Deco-inspired detail, has struggled to make back money for its investors in a competitive club environment.

But for now, the Belasco is off to a good start. The club's general manager, Charlie Ybarra, says they sold multiple tables in advance of Deadmau5's show, including one "opera deck" table overlooking the DJ station/stage for $8,000.

"The thing about this venue is you can go big or go small," Ybarra said. Downtown dwellers may want a bit of both this spring, and the Belasco aims to offer club nights every Saturday and more sedate weeknights inside their wine bar.

Belasco Theater

Where: 1050 S. Hill St., downtown L.A.

When: Saturdays (a Friday night to be added soon)

Price: Cover varies, but $20 this Saturday for Shiny Toy Guns DJ set

Info: (213) 746-5670;

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