The historic Vision Theatre and the Manchester Youth Arts Center in Leimert Park has closed for final restorations until 2021.
In 2011, the Vision Theatre underwent an $11 million renovation. Construction on the final three phases has now begun. Updates to the entertainment space include reconfigured seating; an enlarged stage; a fly loft with office spaces; and a build-out at the lower level to include an orchestra pit and other upgrades to enhance theatrical and musical performances.
“The Vision Theatre is a vibrant landmark of the Leimert Park community; I am delighted that we are entering the final phase of its renovation, the improvements to the theatre are long-awaited and ambitious,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson. “For years communities like Leimert Park have ensured access to the arts, and the Vision Theatre has served as a place of connection, celebration, and self-discovery. Upon completion, the Vision Theatre will continue to support the community, both artistically and economically.”
The Leimert Park neighborhood is recognized as a regional artistic community and a centerpiece of the creative and social fabric of African American culture in Los Angeles.
“It is a place where first dates have turned into marriages, and art, poetry, jazz, and dance have inspired imaginations,” said Danielle Brazell, general manager of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “When completed, the Vision Theatre will once again serve as a global beacon, celebrating and honoring the cultural contributions of the African American and African Diaspora communities in our city and beyond.”
“The new ‘vision’ for the Vision Theatre is to provide an arts venue for professional arts presentations and productions; a training center for diverse cultural talent reflective of South LA; and the production and presentation of diverse world-class theatrical performances, music, dance, and film festivals – along with a variety of cultural forums, community meetings, and conventions,” said Ben Johnson, performing arts director for the Department of Cultural Affairs.
“The newly re-imagined Vision Theatre is designed to be the anchor organization for Leimert Park and the African American and African Diaspora cultural community-at-large,” Johnson added, “a celebration of the performing arts — dance, music, and theater; and a resource for all Angelenos.”
James Burks, manager of the Vision Theatre, said, “Past community collaborations were created specifically to support and provide visibility to the important artists creating work in Los Angeles, and to bring attention to the gap left by the closure of some of the Black theaters in South Los Angeles. Theatres such as Inner City Cultural Center, Marla Gibbs Crossroads Arts Academy, Ebony Showcase Theater, The Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles, Foxx Follies, Frances William Corner Playhouse, Inglewood Playhouse, and the Watts Mafundi Institute.”
The Vision Theatre, a large neighborhood movie palace, is a 1931 Spanish Deco facility that has retained its importance to the community for over 80 years since it first opened as the Leimert Theatre. Built as a showcase theater for premieres, it became a neighborhood movie theater soon after opening and was operated by Fox West Coast Theatres. The theater was later renamed the Watchtower in the 1970s, following its purchase and conversion to a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.