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Back To The Future Series #2: Valley Music Theatre (60s-70s), Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall (80s - 2004)

[Update: May 22, 2014]: Found three more awesome pictures.
Valley Music Theater on June 14, 1965 with rock 'n' roll singers Desi Arnaz, Billy Hinche, and Dino Martin. Image courtesy Los Angeles Public Library/Valley Times Collection
Image courtesy The Gear Page
Image courtesy Charles Okonski Facebook
[Update: October 15, 2012]: Found the two pics and a flyer below from the internet that I thought might be of interest.

Above images courtesy Greg Gorski Facebook

Image courtesy MSFV
[Update: March 11, 2012]: I recently acquired a ticket from the Woody Allen show in 1972. I hope this thing is real because I paid a good amount of money for it. 



[Update: June 09, 2011]: see an updated post here discussing plans for a mixed use apartment dwelling targeting senior citizens and commercial space.


[Original Post]:
So what do Bob Hope, Michael Jackson, and God all have in common in Woodland Hills? Continue reading to find out.(Check here for the first BTTF series on Clem Ruh Chevrolet)


This site was originally called Chalk Hill which was between Taft High School and St. Mels Catholic Church at 20600 Ventura Blvd Woodland Hills.  In 1963, Bob Hope (he loved investing in SFV R.E.), Cy Warner, and Art Linkletter built the Valley Music Theatre by pouring tons of concrete over a rounded-off hill. When the cement hardened, dirt beneath the dome was excavated which became known as the "theatre in the round" seen in the postcard picture to the left. It first opened in 1964 with a production of the Sound of Music. According to an online petition site to keep it from being demolished, this theatre played to the following acts:
Ray Charles, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Ike & Tina Turner, Peter, Paul & Mary, BB King, Lou Rawls, Three Dog Night, Jim Croce & the Spiral Staircase, among others. Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, Don Rickles & Woody Allen also performed in the futuristic domed structure. (check out pics of the Doors shown below from Doorshistory.com website)



Can you imagine all of these music & entertainment legends hanging out on Ventura Blvd? I can see Sammy Jr or Carson hanging out at an after party at the local Pickwicks Pub (well not till after 1974).  This was truly an  amazing site to add to the Valley files that only a limited amount of people had the chance to experience.

Unfortunately, this site faced financial difficulties in addition to parking constraints (the theatre held approx 2800 people so with parking limited, it was quite the walk up from Ventura Blvd) that only a couple years later forcing Bob Hope to try other methods to bring in revenue like promoting boxing matches. So Hope did what any other struggling investor would do and jump ship. The site was sold to the Jehovah's Witness (JW) and became their Kingdom hall in 1980 through 2004. Michael Jackson and his mother also attended this theatre before he left JW (remember that disclaimer in the Thriller video about not believing in the occult, thats when he supposedly left JW). The bottom postcard pictures depict JW era:


The story doesnt end there. The JW wanted to move on from this deteriorating site and with the still challenging parking situation, make a move to the promised land of Santa Clarita. So they sold right in the middle of the housing boom for $30 million (which was a great deal with their initial purchase price of $1 million) to a developer with the intentions of razing it to build condos/retail center.  Note: Back in 1989, JW was trying to sell the property and in 1990, an application for a Hisorical Cultural Monument was submitted which would have put the property in protected status so it could never be demolished. Something tells me that JW opposed this so that they could sell their property.  

Then came the subsequent housing bust. In 2007,  JPI Development of Texas, purchased the property and later demolished it. In April 2009, JPI defaulted on their loan of $41.8 million and was seized by Bank of America where it now sits empty. Not sure of its current status but I believe its still available for purchase or possibly a joint effort from the bank. 

Check out Abandonedbutnotforgotten for pictures just before it was demolished shown below:





This is what Google Maps show today. By zooming in/out, you can see the site before and after demolition:




This post wouldnt be complete with my own set of pics so here is the site as it stands today. Kinda eerie being up there all alone with nothing to protect me from the wild. This wouldnt be the Valley without some graffiti.




When I take a step back and think about this site, it seems it was doomed to failure from the beginning having changed so many hands for such short durations. It seemed like it was destined to demolition. This is unfortunate as this site had 1) a unique architecture 2) diverse history and use and 3) something to be proud of as Valley and Woodland Hills residents. Oh well, thats the theme for the Valley these days, knock down and build an apartment or retail complex. Pretty soon we will have nothing to remember of the original days of the Valley. I would like to end by going full circle back to a concept design for this site which shows the evolution to the final design courtesy of the CSUN Digital Library.



Sources:
Hills of Woodland Blog......good general blog post
AbandonedButNotForgotten............pictures prior to demolition
Broowaha.com article
Jehovahs-Witness.net.....forum post with contributions from various knowledgeable JW
L.A. Daily News article from 2009
Los Angeles Times 1989 article
Los Angeles Times 1990 article
thepetitionsite.com
CSUN Digital Library

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

5 comments to ''Back To The Future Series #2: Valley Music Theatre (60s-70s), Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall (80s - 2004)"

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  1. Hello. I enjoyed your article. I attended the assembly hall until it was sold. I knew it was a historic building but I never knew what was there before. Anyway, just to update. It is no longer empty. Sadly enough, it is now apartment buildings that will be completely done soon.

    ReplyDelete
  2. HI Jillian. Thanks for the comment. I have a relative that also attended the hall. I am well aware of the construction as its been discussed and documented on this site. Amazing how time flies but I provided an update in 2012 http://sanfernandovalleyblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/former-valley-music-theatre-site-turned.html. Today it looks humongous. Sad to see when I drive by.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My Dad, Nick Mayo, conceived, built and ran this theater in its heyday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello The California Picker(TM). Thanks for the info, you must have had a lot of opportunity to play around at the theatre. I never knew about your dad's involvement so I need to edit my post to include that information. Would you happen to have any pics, documentation or stories to share?

      Delete
  4. Don Rickles with guest star Lou Rawls appeared here, September 1972. Highest ticket price was $7.50

    ReplyDelete

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