The United Artists Theater on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, now run by the Ace Hotel, was once the Los Angeles Universal Cathedral. Prominent movie stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin founded The United Artists Theater in 1927 as a movie house. The theater designed by architect C. Howard Crane was inspired by the famous Spanish cathedral in Segovia. Crane also built the adjacent 13-floor tower in a modernist style which stood as the tallest building in LA until the 1950s. In 1986, Rev. Gene Scott bought the theater and tower and restored it as the location for the Los Angeles Universal Cathedral. From the theater he televised his messages amongst a multiethnic congregation. Furthermore, he installed the infamous neon ‘Jesus Saves’ signs that Ace hotel continues to display as a nostalgic reminder of the theater’s history.
Located on 120 N. San Pedro St. the Japanese Union Church built in 1923 is now home to the Union Arts Center. The Japanese Union Church started as the joining of three Presbyterian and Congregational Japanese congregations in 1918. By 1923 they raised the money to build this neoclassical building with four tall, white columns and three prominent stained glass windows with a cross raising 45 feet above the street. The Japanese Union Church served as a gathering space for the Japanese American community in Little Tokyo including movie nights and community classes. During the Japanese internment the abandoned building became a community center for the African American community. Post-WWII the church was used as a resettlement center for returning Japanese families. In 1975 the church moved to it’s new location on 3rd street while the city bought the building. Today, the Union Arts Center continues to preserve this historic sacred space by housing the LA Artcore, East West Players, and Visual Communications. “You have a church of God turning into a church of art, but yet there is something very sacred about the way that we treat it.” ~Tim Dang Producing Artistic Director of East West Players
The historic Cathedral of Saint Vibiana is now a high priced event space and restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. The cathedral was completed in 1876 for the growing population of the city. The cathedral holds the remains of Saint Vibiana, a 3rd century female martyr of Rome.