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Now Showing: Stores in classic L.A. movie palaces


Los Angeles’s Broadway Theater District was the first such entertainment strip to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Is the famed alley of theater palaces now poised to make retail history?

The 12 majestic movie halls lining the neon-encrusted thoroughfare have been reborn over the years as hotels and churches. Now retailers are getting into the act, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. Urban Outfitters got things going when it leased the old Rialto Theatre in 2013. But soon H&M’s up-market brand COS will set up shop in the Olympic theater, and Apple is in talks to lease the famed Tower Theatre, where talking pictures first appeared.

A “Bringing Back Broadway” movement initiated by the city helped break ground on this unlikely retail arcade. “We were fortunate the city was so eager and interested in getting Broadway to be revitalized. “We knew we wanted to get in on the ground floor,” John Hauser, Urban Outfitter’s chief officer of brand experience, told the Times.

Hauser toured all of the theaters in the district before settling on the Rialto and found most of the spaces problematic in converting to retail space. But the debut of the Ace Hotel in the nearby United Artists building built traffic to make the location viable.

COS is about to begin construction inside the Olympic, where it will install some 5,500 sq. ft. of retail space on the ground floor and mezzanine. COS managing director Marie Honda told the Times that the chain is always on the lookout for venues of historical prominence that will distinguish its brand.

“Sometimes it’s because of their charm or striking architecture, and other times it’s for more practical reasons,” Honda said.

Brigham Yen, broker for the Olympic property, cautioned that retail renovation of movie palaces is not for everybody.

“There’s so much money required to restore these buildings. It costs millions. We need big chains that are still cool and relevant,” Yen said.
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