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Earl Carroll Theatre named a historic monument on the road to restoration

If you're driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, you'll go right past the Earl Carroll Theatre, once home to the Emmys, huge stage shows and more — but you won't recognize it. That's because, today, it's Nickelodeon On Sunset, a studio for the cable network.

But some of that old Hollywood magic may be on the way back. In an agreement announced Thursday, the site was named a historic-cultural monument. Along with that designation, restoration work is set to eventually return the building's historic 20-foot-high neon signage — the sign that featured the face of entertainer Earl Carroll's partner, Beryl Wallace, who he called "one of the most beautiful girls in the world," Adrian Scott Fine with the L.A. Conservancy told KPCC.

One of the theater's other unique features was a revolving turntable stage, featuring multiple levels, Fine said.

"I don't think there's anything like that anywhere else in the world. So it was very much designed with ultimate entertainment in mind, in terms of an adaptability of doing a variety of kinds of shows and venues, and having this type of stage was custom-built for this space," Fine said.

This photo shows Earl Carroll, some of his aides and chorus girls examining the theater's unique moving stage in 1938.
Keystone Photo Service/L.A. Public Library
This photo shows Earl Carroll, some of his aides and chorus girls examining the theater's unique moving stage in 1938.

The theater, built in 1938, was designed by the same architect behind landmarks like the Los Angeles Times Building, the Santa Anita Race Track and even Hoover Dam.

"You look at the building, you would never guess it was built that early, because it looks very simplified in its overall form, and that was part of the plan," Fine said. "It was all really the brainchild of Earl Carroll himself."

It was designed as a theater/supper-club, becoming the first building featuring dining, dancing and stage shows under one roof, according to a statement on the designation from L.A. City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell's office. It also featured unique art-deco/art-modern details on the interior, Fine said.

A show at the Earl Carroll Theatre in 1949.
Herald-Examiner Collection/L.A. Public Library.
A show at the Earl Carroll Theatre in 1949.

Fine said that he thought it was fantastic for the location to be recognized, and for this designation to help ensure that it would continue to be protected into the future.

"This and other venues like the Palladium are buildings that are seeing proposed construction nearby, and while we're supportive of that, we are also supportive of ensuring that these historic landmarks are protected along the way," Fine said. He added that he thinks it's great that, alongside new construction, they can "ensure that what makes Hollywood so unique and special is retained, as well as new things that are being added to the landscape in the future."

The theater was sold when Carroll and the face behind that sign, Wallace, died in a plane crash, but the venue lived on. It became the Hullabaloo in 1966, the Aquarius in 1968 and eventually became home to Nickelodeon studio production in the 1990s. Keep an eye on 6230 Sunset Boulevard to see how it moves forward — while bringing back some of the past.

Clarification: The Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group rented and managed the theater in the 1970s, but the Mark Taper Forum itself was and continues to be located in downtown Los Angeles.