Off-Ramp

Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

East LA's historic Golden Gate Theater is now a CVS drugstore

The historic Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles has been repurposed into a CVS drugstore.
The historic Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles has been repurposed into a CVS drugstore. C.J. Salgado/Eastsider LA

It's 85 years old. It's shown thousands of movies. And now it's a pharmacy. After years of protests, meetings, construction and permitting the long shuttered Golden Gate Theater has started the latest chapter in its life as a CVS drugstore.

The theater had been in disrepair for a long time--it's been decades since anyone's seen a film inside the Golden Gate's walls. Many developers had come and gone before a local company agreed to convert the aging structure into a drug store while preserving as much of the theater's character as possible.

Not everone liked that idea. Almost two years ago, we did a story on the controversy over the Golden Gate's fate. I talked to members of Mothers of East Los Angeles, who advocated the theater be more than a drugstore: incorporate the property with the local school, bring back more retail by rebuilding a torn down structure originally built with the theater--they also had reservations about the drugstore's liqour license.

I also talked with LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina supported the theater's conversion, but not enthusiastically. "The best we could've gotten was someone to come in and restore the theater and bring it back to life. But this doesn't happen. We're going to have a building that's still in tact, it's not being torn down, it's being preserved, and it's gonna have reuse.

The building has been preserved, somewhat: the interior features an odd mix of flourescent lighting and gorgeous art deco trim, for example. Except for a few canvas signs strung high up around the building--the exterior looks basically unchanged. Does it look like a theater still? Not really. But it doesn't look like a CVS, either.

Regardless: C.J. Salgado--who took the photo above--published an in-depth look at the theater/drugstore. He captures perfectly the awkward mix of past and present in the theater today. Make sure to check it out at the Eastsider LA.

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