Have the Curtains Closed on Broadway?

Dtla Broadway

All seemed well until late last year when news and social media reports about The Ace Hotel, United Artist Theatre, Globe Theatre, and Clifton’s Republic—beloved hotel and entertainment venues being permanently closed—started making Angelinos anxious about where they would spend their Friday nights. Was happy hour over? Were the curtains closing on Broadway?

Once upon a time in Downtown Los Angeles, former CD14 Councilmember Jose Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” initiatives aimed at revitalizing Broadway between 3rd and Olympic, and all of downtown. With the revitalization of its historic theaters, newly illuminated retail shops, a thriving nightlife, in the years that followed, a new downtown was emerging.

Story and Ai interpretive images were created by Shawn Smith

Huizar would host a celebrated yearly Night on Broadway event that last drew 250,000 people into the Broadway corridor, promising not only to bring back Broadway but also to further the revitalization of the whole of downtown Los Angeles. However, in 2019, the FBI’s investigations threatened to bring Downtown’s revitalization plans to a screeching halt.

Despite the calamity of the district’s representative, a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, upticks in crime, and solving the problems of the unhoused, downtown’s Broadway corridor has had it’s ups and downs, as it tries to continue being a cultural powerhouse, offering a diverse array of programming that catered to every taste.

Roadblocks And Detours

Darkness loomed at the Ace Hotel and the United Artists Theatre at 929 Broadway when impending news of Ace Hotel’s closure and the termination of the 10-year management contract made global newswires.

In contrast to feelings of ultimate doom being whipped up in the headlines, new reports recently surfaced, claiming the new operator is Kasa Living Inc, a tech-enhanced “ApartHotel” concept featuring self-check-in, limited services, that would take over bookings for short-term to extended stays.

Reports state that Kasa will create a seamless transition, starting operations possibly in February, and will maintain the current interior design aesthetics and furnishings.

The Show Must Go On!

TVG Hospitality is rumored to assume entertainment operations of a cultural beacon, the United Artists Theatre, soon to be former, “The Theatre at Ace Hotel.”

TVG was founded by Ben Lovett of the Grammy-winning British band Mumford & Sons, along with his brother Greg Lovett, former Finance Director at Soho House. With a full calendar until June 4th, 2024, United Artists Theatre could be in very capable hands, as the Lovett brothers operate venues in Washington D.C., Huntsville, Austin, and London.

The historic Globe Theatre was shrouded in mystery and speculation about its future as the first whispers of closure surfaced. LA Weekly reported on a social media post by Prestige Wrestling about the Globe’s closure, later pointing out an inactive website since November 2023. Both reports later retracted the closure.

Amid the uncertainty, Los Angeles Magazine published an online article, December 21, 2023, featuring anonymous sources and insinuating potential disputes and a permanent closure of the theater.

In response, the owner of the Globe Theater/Garland Building at 740 S Broadway clarified with DTLA Weekly, “Ownership has every intention to keep the Globe Theater open and operational as a theater and live venue space. We are currently looking for a seasoned and reliable operator.”

The Sky Is Not Falling

There is good news on the horizon for 648 Broadway, Clifton’s Republic. After a worrisome June 29th, 2023, social media post that stated, “We’ll be temporarily closed due to some unexpected flooding.” By December, the community was fearing the worst and assumed the closure was permanent. 

Andrew Meireran, Founder of The Neverlands and operator of Clifton’s, updated DTLA Weekly, saying, “We’re definitely reopening — looks like Mid-March. We’ll actually be bigger and better — more hours, more offerings —- welcoming families, tourists, and locals back! But of course, the DTLA struggles are a huge hurdle – especially in the Historic Core. We are working to unite with other business owners in the area to change the neighborhood’s direction— and have some great plans that will impact everyone’s quality of life.”

Happy Times Will Be Here Again

Blair Besten, Executive Director of Historic Core BID, provided a statement about the future of Broadway: “The Globe Theatre and Clifton’s are not permanently closed. The arrival of UCLA will affect all of Downtown in many positive ways. The Palace Theatre has been regularly programmed of late — a sign of more things on the horizon. Hard times have always created change in the Historic Core, as well as incredible opportunities for the right investor.”

The Orpheum Theatre under the capable hands of Steve Needlemen, still thrives amidst a buzzing atmosphere. Long lines wrap around the building, a testament to the city’s insatiable appetite for live entertainment. On the same block, the Apple Tower Theatre provides a glimpse into the modern convergence of art and technology, together leaving Broadway with a mixture of live entertainment and promise lingering in the air.

A recent initiative by Councilman Kevin De Leon, branded The Run, aims to celebrate and spotlight the queer community with a public infrastructure project. Pride flag banners, murals, rainbow crosswalks, and rainbow LED string lighting in the works will help further activate the block while creating safe spaces for queer visitors.

A Pot Of Gold At The End of the Rainbow

The block of Broadway between 3rd and 4th streets has become an LGBTQIA destination with Precinct, and there is chatter about more queer venues coming. With 20 empty storefronts on this block, there is lot of room for growth. These venues neighbor the Grand Central Market, downtown’s number one tourist destination that offers over 40 different food stalls.

Nicholas Griffin, Executive Vice President of Downtown Center Business Improvement District, told DT Weekly, “Broadway traverses three Business Improvement Districts – the Downtown Center, Historic Core, and Fashion – all of which are part of Council District 14.

Griffin continues, saying, “Signature events like Night on Broadway, along with major streetscape and transit projects, have come and gone with the political tides, but now is the time for a coalition of the BIDs, property and business owners, and elected officials, along with key agencies like Metro and DOT, to align around an ambitious vision to make Broadway a world-class destination in time for the Olympics in 2028.

What Does The Future hold?

Two notable game-changers that have been in the pipeline, and yet to be executed, are the electric streetcar and pedestrian-only Broadway. These impactful projects could promote economic recovery and growth, while encouraging tourism and urging Angelenos to return to the heart of the city.

Ultimately, the sky is not falling, and what remains constant is change. The city’s rich history reflects the enduring spirit that shapes its cultural landscape, but does downtown have setbacks and then rebounds? Sure.

Author: Shawn Smith

A Cancer Sun, Leo Rising, and a Pisces Moon, Shawn Smith is a multi-media artist with a background in real estate and a champion of The Run. Shawn has been a resident of downtown Los Angeles since 1990.