This view of the screen shows the typical drive-in parking lot and speaker stanchions. The wings flanking the projection screen were built to deflect light from passing cars and also to obstruct the view of the screen from non-paying viewers outside the parking lot.
The auditorium walls curve towards the screen, interrupted in each side by a scalloped wall edge where the screen curtain, lit by indirect lighting begins. The effect is further enhanced by the continuation of a vine pattern on the walls in cut-out form over the front exit openings. Globes of light at the center of grilles concealing the ceiling fans neatly combine two functions. The ceiling is further decorated by a scalloped design painted around the light and ventilation fixtures.
Lee designed his theatres to be most effective at night. The tall neon sign seems to hang in the air above the building. A grid of round lights underneath the canopy forms a high marquee and illuminates the entrance. Translucent panels on the lobby walls glow invitingly and the aluminum frames reflect the light. The poster cases are illuminated internally and outlined by neon strips.
The design evolved into a storefront remodel using every device to capture attention from the passerby. The strong diamond pattern applied to the upper story, the series of vertical posts applied at street and the paneled entry doors draw attention to the centerpiece, the curving neon-outlined marquee. A curved box office at the sidewalk and poster cases framed in wavey edged box frames are overwhelmed by the other design elements. Here the chief purpose of the design is to draw attention to the storefront, using a variety of cheap applied elements without regard for design integration.
The Picwood was designed as a neighborhood theatre on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles. The design epitomized the modern post-war aesthetic, which required simple lines, inexpensive building materials and quick construction to satisfy the post-war boom. The simple curved pylon was a landmark in the flat landscape of one- and two-story buildings.
All the elements in the rendering (40802) were realized in the building, although the spaces are necessarily compressed and the elements appear crowded. The scale and drama of each feature, the lighting panels, the entrance arch, the mezzanine walls and railing, the mural, and the giant cartouche above. Mirrored walls above the banquettes to the left and the right, with the mirrors set in a diamond pattern, enhance the complexity of the space, while at the same time enlarging it.
The simple lines of the long narrow auditorium, its shape dictated by the urban lot, all lead the eye toward the proscenium,, which is framed by bands of indirect lighting and flanked by large scale designs in relief. A sumptuous curtain hung in swags fills the upper portion of the proscenium, scaling the immense arch down to cinema size.
The auditorium interior reveals Lee's use of the inexpensive Quonset hut truss system, also used in the Puente Theatre (51101-51110) and the Garmar Theatre ((30301-30305) from the same period. In the immediate post-war period the system was used to build housing, commercial and factory buildings to satisfy the pent-up demand for new construction.
The finished theatre conforms closely to the design of the night-time rendering. The box office and sign focus attention on the corner. The use of artificial brick cladding was fashionable for both commercial and residential building of the period. (See also the Garmar Theatre in Montebello 30301-30305 for similar treatment of the exterior.
The drawing style, with its curving frame, the simple swept lines of the box office, and the abstract lines on the lobby floor, which use motifs drawn from contemporary painting, all bespeak the era of the 1930s and 1940s.
This night view is a simplified design for a one-story building, retaining the downlighting in the lobby area, but eliminating the curved Streamline effects of the daytime view. Here the sign at the corner becomes the principal element of the design. Lee uses a series of recessed frames highlighted by indirect lighting, around the entire entrance, the poster cases, the false windows on the façade, and above the box office as a unifying motif.
Lee's rendering of this small-town theatre on a corner site in Visalia shows a simple Streamline Moderne two-story building with glass block, tile, curved glass windows and butt-jointed glass box office windows. The flat marquee shows recessed downlights, almost the only feature retained in the final design.