AFM Flashback: The Majestic Brought Culture to Santa Monica in 1911

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION/PHOTOFEST
Gene Wilder (left) and Peter Boyle on the stage of the Mayfair Music Hall in 'Young Frankenstein' (1974).

The venue opened as the renamed Majestic Theatre on Dec. 12, 1911 has appeared as a location in several films and TV shows (most memorably the "Puttin’ on the Ritz" sequence from 1974's 'Young Frankenstein.')

In 1910, a developer named Charles A. Tegner wanted to bring a little culture to Santa Monica, so he hired architect Henry C. Hollwedel to design the Santa Monica Opera House at 212 Santa Monica Blvd. It was a small theater — just 602 seats — but it was extravagant, featuring an ornate facade full of baroque touches and a curved balcony with comedy and tragedy masks. The venue opened as the renamed Majestic Theatre on Dec. 12, 1911, but most folks didn’t feel like making the schlep from downtown to the beach to take in its live theater and opera offerings.

A few years later, it went lowbrow, booking vaudeville acts and silent pictures. That helped — until the advent of the talkies in the 1930s. By the '60s, it was a rep house that specialized in double features. In 1972, Milt Larsen, creator of The Magic Castle, refurbished the place and turned it into Mayfair Music Hall, where it mounted British-style music hall productions.

It has appeared as a location in several films and TV shows (most memorably the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” sequence from 1974’s Young Frankenstein) and became the Los Angeles home of Chicago’s The Second City comedy troupe in 1989. It was finally demolished after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Today, only the facade of the Mayfair remains; where once was a stage now stands a Shoe Palace sneaker store.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Nov. 10 daily issue at the American Film Market.