The Warner Grand Lights Up East Coast Theater!

We were excited to read the story in yesterday’s LA Times, “Silent Movie Buffs Search the Screen for Clues to Origins of 'Mostly Lost' Films” -- a festival held at the State Theatre at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus in Culpepper, VA, where dedicated silent movie buffs got to identify obscure film clips of the early film era. The article specifically mentioned that the State Theatre’s grand chandeliers “pay homage to the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.”

Years ago, silent film aficionado and tech heir David W. Packard became concerned about the disappearance and possible extinction of thousands of early films made of nitrate, which is an unstable material. He donated $155 million to create the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in what was formerly a Federal Reserve facility. The underground vaults would be ideal for storage of nitrate film, since it’s highly flammable. Part of the campus would be the State Theatre, which Packard wanted to resemble the great movie houses of the West Coast.

Grand Vision’s Executive Director Liz Schindler Johnson remembers back in 2006 when she got a call from an architect’s office inquiring about the chandeliers at the Warner Grand Theatre. At the time, Liz was immersed in the campaign to refurbish the seats and make other needed repairs. “I got a call from an intern who asked if we could send her some photos of the chandeliers.” Liz soon received a call from the architect himself. He said his client was Mr. Packard. “That’s when I knew this was real.”

Packard was on the hunt for unique art-deco movie palace artifacts for his new theatre. He spotted the Warner Grand’s chandeliers on Grand Vision’s website and wanted to model the chandeliers in his new theater after them. Liz worked with Lee Sweet and the City of Los Angeles to get permission to remove one of our chandeliers and ship it to a lighting restoration company in Northern California, where it was replicated for what would become the State Theater. In exchange, they agreed to return our chandelier rewired and fully restored, with its broken glass panels replaced with its original lavishly etched designs replicated.
Today, the chandeliers remain the “crown jewels” of both the Warner Grand and the Packard movie palaces. In fact, when the one chandelier was shipped out it was insured for $250,000! The restored chandelier now hangs in the southwest corner of the Warner Grand’s auditorium.

The State Theater is one of only five places in the country that can legally screen nitrate films. The theater stays true to the days of silent movies, playing a reproduction Mighty Wurlitzer organ during its screenings of silent films. The State is open to the public and offers a wide selection of film, video, and television screenings for visitors.
To read the story about the film festival, click here.

Thanks to Director & Founder of the LA Harbor International Film Festival (LAHIFF) Stephanie Mardesich and Grand Vision board member Fred Allen for both bringing this story to our attention yesterday morning.

Article Posted: 8/6/2015