Designed in 1927 by notable motion-picture theatre architect S. Charles Lee, the Tower Theatre in downtown Los Angeles sits peacefully on a pioneering past. Remarkably, it was the first of its kind wired-up to show talkies – the name given to films with sound. It was also the first theatre on the storied Broadway strip to treat movie-goers to air-conditioned comfort.
After its shuttering in 1988, the majestic space remained mostly out of service – only coming to life briefly as a place to shop or worship. But its legacy of nurturing technological innovation has resumed some 90-plus years later. The opulent venue has been reborn as Greater Los Angeles’ 26th Apple store; a fitting tenant whose endeavours have revolutionised modern-day photography, video-making and music composition.
Apple Tower Theatre in Los Angeles by Foster + Partners
As with other projects in Apple’s portfolio that also required a gentle approach, the tech-giant collaborated with leading preservationists, restoration artists and, in this case, the City of Los Angeles to thoughtfully preserve and restore the theatre’s fading beauty. Off the back of several other store fit-outs for Apple, UK-based architecture firm Foster + Partners was commissioned to oversee the ambitious reuse project, culminating in a “seismic upgrade” of the grand cinema complex.
Now called Apple Tower Theatre, the building anchors the intersection of Eighth Street and Broadway. It’s one of about a dozen remaining historic movie palaces in the area. “At every corner, Los Angeles bursts with creativity across the arts, music and entertainment, and we are thrilled to build on our relationship with this special city,” says Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people. “Apple Tower Theatre honours the rich history and legacy of this entertainment capital.”
Touted by Apple as one of the brand’s “most significant restoration projects to date”, Apple Tower Theatre aims to activate more creativity in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Passers-by and visitors to the imposing store will immediately recognise the fully restored clock tower, recreated Broadway marquee, revived terracotta exterior and renovated historic blade sign.
At every corner, Los Angeles bursts with creativity across the arts, music and entertainment, and we are thrilled to build on our relationship with this special city.
After walking through the Broadway-facing doors, visitors enter the monumental lobby inspired by the Palais Garnier opera house (1669) in Paris. They’re met with plush red carpet lining a grand arched stairway; its bronze handrails flanked by marble Corinthian columns. The original chandelier illuminates the entryway while restored marble drinking fountains and ceiling murals give a sense of what it was like to visit the theatre in its heyday.
In the heart of the former cinema, a big screen of a new kind – Apple’s signature video wall – is positioned underneath the fully restored proscenium arch with an audience of original balconies. Ahead of this lies the Forum. The multipurpose zone will accomodate Today at Apple Creative Studios; a new global initiative that provides hands-on experience and mentorship to emerging creatives. Free daily sessions will be led by the Apple team and select members of the local creative community to provide inspiration and share practical skills.
The expansive auditorium, surrounded by embellished arched bays and restored bronze, displays Apple fans’ favourite gizmos, including the all-new iMac, iPad Pro and Apple TV 4K. Visitors looking for service and support from Apple team members have ample space, as the theatre’s original seating on the upper level has been modernised and made accessible to create an open, flexible space for Genius Bar appointments.
Today at Apple Creative Studios
In collaboration with the nonprofit Music Forward Foundation, as well as Inner-City Arts and the Social Justice Learning Institute, Today at Apple Creative Studios will provide access to technology, creative resources and hands-on experience, along with a platform to elevate and amplify up-and-coming talents’ stories over nine weeks of free programming.
Today at Apple will also offer public in-store sessions at Tower Theatre in Los Angeles and virtual sessions hosted by Creative Studios’ teaching artists and mentors, including photographer and filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof, rapper and producer D Smoke, singer-songwriter Syd, and cellist and singer Kelsey Lu.
Noah Humes and his mentor Maurice Harris – two artists who worked on the mural outside Apple Tower Theatre, inspired by the spirit of Creative Studios Los Angeles – will also teach a virtual session. Registrations are now open.
Foster + Partners also designed Apple Central World in the beating heart of Bangkok. Catch up on more architecture and design highlights. Plus, subscribe to receive the Daily Architecture News e-letter direct to your inbox.