Owner guts historic Fairfax Theater for home conversions

The owner of the 93-year-old Fairfax Theater plans to turn the Los Angeles landmark into homes.

Alex Gorby, of Santa Monica-based B&F Associates, has demolished the interior of the historic moviehouse at 7901 West Beverly Boulevard, with plans to replace it with 71 apartments, Urbanize Los Angeles reported. 

However, a long battle to save the theater at Beverly and Fairfax Avenue will result in a “facadectomy” — which will preserve the Art Deco exterior, theater marquee, entrance facade and terrazzo.

Plans call for a four-story complex with 71 apartments and 10,800 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants, plus an underground parking garage for 228 cars.

For now, Gorby has gutted the once-darkened theater where tens of thousands of moviegoers gazed up at the silver screen. 

The 1,500-seat Fairfax Theater, designed by Woodbury Pennell, opened on March 26, 1930 with the premiere of “Troopers Three” and an appearance by star Rex Lease, according to a Los Angeles Theatres blog. Tickets cost 30 cents.

During World War II, the theater served as a hub for information and fundraising for Fairfax’s Jewish community, and was often used for religious services and political and social events.

The theater, which closed in 2010, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2021, it became a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. 

But because the project was approved a decade earlier, predating its landmark status, it was allowed to move forward, while preserving the historic facade.

The project, designed by Howard Laks Architects of Santa Monica, is described as having “a contemporary interpretation of the original Art Deco theater facade.” The new construction within the historic walls will be topped by a rooftop deck and pool.

In April, The Beverly Press reported that Gorby, who has owned the theater for decades, wanted to break ground as soon as possible, as he was faced with a March 2024 deadline to begin work.

— Dana Bartholomew

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