The Surreal Experience of Shopping for a New iMac at an Old Movie Palace

A couple weeks ago my beloved iMac started show signs of age. It could barely keep up with my photo editing, and I knew its days were numbered. So I set out to get a new one. Not too long ago Apple announced they were introducing new colored iMacs. My millennial heart skipped a beat. I remember when the first colored iMacs were released and wanted one oh so badly, and now I could live that dream. When it came to shopping and seeing the colors in person we visited the newly opened Apple store in downtown LA, because well, you’ll see…

Apple stores are normally known for their walls of glass, and stark white walls, but walk around downtown Los Angeles and you’ll spy an Apple store that is quite the opposite, with ornate statues, clock tower, and gleaming gold accents, along with a long blade sign reading “Tower.” So, why is this Apple store so different than the rest? That’s because it didn’t start out as an Apple Store, it was originally the Tower Theatre, in fact it was LA’s first cinema to be wired for talkies.

Angled view of the front of the store, which is white and features a dark marquee. Details in various architectural styles of Greek, Italian, Moorish.

Overview of the sales floor from the balcony, high white walls feature arched details of gold on them, the arched proscenium frames a screen, two small arched balconies sit on either side of the screen.

The first theatre designed by S. Charles Leo, the Tower Theatre opened its doors in 1927 as a silent movie house with the film The Gingham Girl. However soon it became the first theatre LA to be wired for sound. It was here Angelinos first saw and heard The Jazz Singer and realized Hollywood was about to change forever. It was also one of the first air-conditioned buildings in LA.

After a handful of name changes over the decades, the Tower Theatre shuttered in 1988, becoming an elegant yet haunting filming location for various films and series, such as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, the exterior was used as a London theatre in the 2006 film The Prestige, it stood in for a Berlin movie house in yet another 2006 flick, The Good German, and became Italian restaurant Club Figaro in the so bad, but so good 2013 Gangster Squad. It’s during this time, and up until Apple took over that the theatre’s interior was very dark, with rich wood tones and red painted walls.

Apple announced their plans to take over and restore the Tower Theatre in August of 2018. The restoration process took three years, and an undisclosed amount of money. Historical photos, architecture drawings, 3D scans, and forensic paint analysis all aided in the theatre’s transformation. Over the years parts of the bronze railings were broken and went missing. The restoration team made molds of remaining pieces and recast them to replace the missing elements. They also recreated the top of the clock tower, which had been damaged in an earthquake and then removed in 1971. The blade “Tower” sign was yet another element recreated, of course with an Apple touch, with the tech company’s logo at the very top.

View of the front doors with the large marquee above that has elegant details around the end. The marquee reads "Tower Theatre" in white curling letters, and "Take the family on a storytelling journey Apple Camp now in session" in white block letters.

Close-up of the clock tower and the Apple logo at the top.

Detailed view of a window on the side, that features two sculptures of a man and a woman.

Details of the marquee.

Ornate sculpture of a face that sits on the marquee above.

Exterior view of the side, with various arched windows.

View of the theatre from the side, which has a large tall clock tower and the long blade sign hanging off the corner.

Close-up of the male sculpture, he holds a camera and a megaphone.

Ornate sign that reads "Tower Theatre"

Close-up of the female sculpture, she holds a small mirror.

An urn sits in a small niche in the front of the facade.

View of a crystal chandelier that hangs in the lobby space.

Close-up of the swirling brass railings.

View showcasing the ceiling, which has a gold oval frame feating a painted blue sky with white clouds.

Interior of store, on the ground level clean lines display screens and Apple products, above a highly ornate balcony painted in white and gold.

Close-up of one of the balconies.

Detailed painting in the ceiling of flowers and fleur de lis images.

Overview of the balcony, painted in gold and white, with brass railings.

Highly ornate ceilings painted gold and white.

Close-up of a brass pinecone that sits atop the railing, in the distance is a massive stained glass window.

Myself, seated in one of the original theatre chairs, wearing a black cowboy hat, black and silver fringe leather jacket, black shirt, and blue jeans.

Overview of part of the sales floor, which includes light colored wood tables in the middle with various Apple products such as iMacs and laptops on display. In the back is an arched balcony framed in white and gold.

Recessed lighting in the ceiling is framed by circular gold frames.

A mural of two persons in a Greek style, one holds a scroll, the other holds a lyre.

View of the balcony from the screen.

An impressive sculpture of a woman's face above the screen, painted white with gold details.

Angled view of the blade sign, which reads "TOWER" in curling letters and is lit up by small white bulbs.

Opening June 24, 2021, Tower Apple became another perfect example of how gorgeous and historic buildings can be adapted for today’s needs. While the screen no longer plays host to film stars, a new one was put it with some seating in front as the store is more than just a store, as it also hosts programs and events. Those in need of help from the in-house tech team can visit the balcony, which is now home to the Genius Bar. Also upstairs you can spy some original theatre seats!

So which iMac did I decide upon? I got the pink and red one. Pink is a very soothing color for me, and about a year and a half ago I got new office furniture that was also pink, and it matched perfectly!!

Get help with your iPhone, buy some earbuds, or just reflect upon Hollywood history at the Tower Apple Theatre at 803 S. Broadway in Los Angeles. Interested in another old movie palace that has been adapted? Check out my post on an East Los Angeles CVS.

What’s Nearby?

Angel’s Flight Railway

Bradbury Building

Cicada Club

Clifton’s Cafeteria

Grand Central Market

Tower Theatre.” Los Angeles Conservancy. Accessed 7 August 2022.
Reuter, Dominick. “Get an early look inside Apple’s newest Store that’s opening in an iconic theater after a meticulous 3-year renovation effort.” Insider 24 June 2021. Accessed 7 August 2022.
Vincent, Roger. “At the historic downtown L.A. Tower Theatre, Apple plans a store and event space unlike any other.” Los Angeles Times, 2 August 2019. Accessed 7 August 2022.
Vincent, Roger. “Look inside Apple’s new downtown L.A. store and event space, a symbol of its Hollywood ambitions.” Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2021. Accessed 7 August 2022.
Willman, Chris. “Downtown L.A.’s First Talkie Theater Becomes a Spectacular Apple Store, and Preservationists Are Talking It Up.” Variety, 26 June 2021. Accessed 7 August 2022.

Leave a Comment!

2 comments on “The Surreal Experience of Shopping for a New iMac at an Old Movie Palace”