3. Carthay Circle Theater

THE REAL PLACE: The Fox Carthay Circle Theater was opened in 1926. Made of whitewashed concrete with an iconic octagonal bell tower, the theater was designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival style with its inner auditorium placed in a cylinder raised above the roofline, almost resembling a circus tent. The elegant, soaring, and spectacularly majestic movie palace instantly became one of the world's finest, with Pacific Coast Architect writing that it was a theatre "masked as a cathedral".

The theater was renowned for its never-ending list of premiers, including 1939's Gone with the Wind. In Disney terms, though, its most well-known debut was of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the world's first full-length animted feature film, and the movie that critic expected would spell the end of Walt Disney.

By the 1960s, the single-auditorium theater had become overshadowed by multi-plexes. It was demolished in 1969 and today, two low-rise office buildings stand in its place. (A slightly younger sister, the Fox Village Theater, is still standing in Los Angeles' Westwood Village and is a sight to behold.)

IN THE PARKS: In 1994, a squashed-down spire of the Carthay was one of the structures added along the Disney-MGM Studios' Sunset Blvd. expansion, though it was merely a facade over a souvenir shop.

However, the Carthay really made a comeback in 2012, at the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure post-facelift. The 1920s-Los Angeles themed Buena Vista Street now terminates in a scaled recreation of the Carthay Circle Theater, acting as the park's central icon.

Image: Disney

Though early plans apparently called for an exhibition of Walt Disney's story inside the theater, it ultimately became a bar and restaurant (though at least the restaurant is decorated with original cel art from Snow White). It's appropriate that the Carthay stands directly counterpart to Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, as its a multi-faceted rememberance: the theater is an icon of film history, an icon of Los Angeles, and an icon of Disney history. 

4. Crossroads of the World

Across the United States, the era of the shopping mall appears to be coming to an end. The new trend? Outdoor "town centers" mixing retail, dining, and entertainment. But is the trend really new? The Crossroads of the World was designed by architect Robert V. Derrah (responsible for the iconic 1939 Streamline Moderne Coca-Cola Building), and when it opened in 1936, it was called America's first outdoor shopping mall.

Image: Los Angeles Conservancy

THE REAL PLACE: Crossroads of the World featured a central building designed to resemble a streamlined ocean liner with portholes and ship railings, with a massive icon tower rising from the front. Small, bungalow style cottages around the ocean liner created villages mixing Spanish, Italian, Tudor, Mexican, Turkish, and New England styles. The idea was that the buildings would represent the corners of the world (with 57 shops and cafes housed on the street level, and 36 offices in the second stories) with the ocean liner tying it all together to create an international shopping port.

In the 1950s, the whole complex was converted into offices (Alfred Hitchcock once set up shop there), so while you can still visit the Crossroads of the World, don't expect to shop. In 2019, the Los Angeles City Council approved a measure to revitalize the Crossroads area with 950 apartments and condos, a 308-room hotel, and 190,000 square feet of commercial space... a project lambasted as "the Manhattanization of Hollywood" by detractors.

Image: Disney

IN THE PARKS: The Crossroads of the World icon tower was recreated at Disney's Hollywood Studios just inside the park gates in the inner plaza leading to Hollywood Blvd. (Sort of the equivalent of the flag flying on Main Street's Town Square). Though the tower was recreated, the ocean liner wasn't. Instead, Disney's tower just contains an open-air pin-trading stand at its base. So even though the Disney version is still prominently labeled "Crossroads of the World," you might never have connected it to a travel-themed shopping-mall-turned-office-park of the same name in Hollywood!

The other change is obvious: Disney's version has a four-foot tall mouse stepping on the turning globe... what a pessimist might call a somewhat surprising display of corporate bravado! 


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