Las Vegas’ Historic Huntridge Theater Shows 1st Sign of Comeback
Posted on: March 31, 2023, 03:13h.
Last updated on: April 2, 2023, 10:33h.
In 1947, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello appeared live on its stage to promote their movie “Buck Privates Come Home.” In the ’70s, Elvis Presley rented it to screen movies. In the ’90s, it was a bustling live music venue hosting the likes of Hole, Green Day, and the Beastie Boys.
Now, after being closed and abandoned for nearly 20 years, the Huntridge Theater in downtown Las Vegas is about to undergo a process few historic landmarks in this town undergo — restoration.
On April 7, the first outward sign of that process will take place when Las Vegas city officials light its marquee for the first time since 2004.
The Huntridge, located at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway, was purchased for $4M in March 2021 by Las Vegas developer J Dapper, whose real-estate holdings include the Huntridge Shopping Center across Maryland Parkway.
According to Dapper, renovations will start in April 2024 and take about two years. They’re estimated to cost around $10M, plus an additional $5M-8M to shore up adjacent retail space, which Dapper said will be converted to additional performance spaces seating 100 and 200 more patrons.
A tenant is already signed up, according to Dapper. SoHo Playhouse, which stages off-Broadway productions in New York City, will operate the renovated theater. It’s already stated its intention to host live music, theater, cabaret, and dance productions there.
Named after international business magnate Leigh S. J. Hunt, on whose land it was built, the Huntridge was designed by S. Charles Lee, architect of the Fox Theater in Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Melrose Hotel. Operated by the Commonwealth Theater Company, it opened on Oct. 10, 1944, and hosted first-run movies as well as many of their premieres, drawing stars including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich.
In 1951, operations were taken over by a consortium partially owned by actresses Loretta Young and Irene Dunne. Another company, Nevada Theater Corp., took over that same year and reportedly made the Huntridge the first desegregated theater in Las Vegas.
After serving as a movie house for five decades, the Huntridge was converted to a concert venue in 1992 by new tenant Richard Lenz, a former audio engineer who knocked down a wall erected in the ’80s to divide the Huntridge into a twin cineplex. Among the other acts it hosted were No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, and Las Vegas locals, the Killers.
Lenz got the Huntridge listed on the national and state registers of historic places in 1993. Two years later, its roof collapsed during a sound check prior to a Circle Jerks concert. Though the theater was rebuilt and reopened in August 1996, it never quite regained its momentum, dragged down by competition for both audiences and artists with newer casino venues, including the House of Blues and the Joint.
In 2002, the Huntridge was acquired by Eli Mizrachi, owner of an adjacent furniture store. Mizrachi closed the Huntridge on July 31, 2004, in preparation for renovations that never occurred. By 2008, he was discussing plans to convert the theater into office and retail space. The city sued Mizrachi in 2014, alleging his group had breached grant provisions by failing to pay for maintenance work and by keeping the theater closed for years. The case was settled in 2016 for an undisclosed sum.
The Las Vegas City Council approved a plan in 2019 to sell the Huntridge to Dapper, who had been trying to acquire the property for many years, but who was thwarted by the city’s legal case.
Public tours of the theater can be booked online.
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