Mary Mallory / Hollywood Heights: Hollywood Reporter Building Highlights Golden Age Hollywood


The Hollywood Reporter Building at 6715 Sunset Blvd., in 2015, via Google Street View.

The venerable Hollywood Reporter building on Sunset Boulevard offers a striking salute to Golden Age Hollywood with its patina of class and sophistication. Designed by architect Douglas Honnold for industry power broker and Reporter publisher William “Billy” R. Wilkerson, the building served as the headquarters for Wilkerson’s real estate fiefdom and his powerful trade paper. A landmark building in the evolution of Hollywood as an industry and as a point of influence in architecture, the structure represents the epicenter of the Hollywood publishing industry and its impact on Tinseltown filmmaking.

The edifice represents the glamorous dreams of its owner, Wilkerson. Ambitious and driven, he rose from small town Tennessee boy to king maker by absorbing every facet of the film business in his rise to the top. Beginning as a local theatre manager, Wilkerson moved on to jobs as booking agent, publicity and exploitation chief, regional distribution manager, distributor, production manager, producer, and director before entering publishing when he became acting editor and publisher of Exhibitor’s Daily Review in 1928. This diverse and educational journey prepared him for a leading role in shaping entertainment production at the Reporter.

Hollywood at Play, by Donovan Brandt, Mary Mallory and Stephen X. Sylvester is now on sale.

Sunset House Photo Ad copy

In February 1930, Wilkerson purchased Moving Picture Review and Theatre Management, turning it into a daily magazine devoted to motion pictures called The Hollywood Reporter. The powerful trade debuted on September 3, 1930, surviving a rocky couple of years before becoming Hollywood’s go-to newspaper, publishing reviews, box office receipts, script sales, release dates, salary and labor issues, and gossip/travel items. Wilkerson himself penned “Trade Views,” editorializing on controversial subjects, prominent issues, and events affecting the film industry. The Hollywood Reporter could make or break careers and films as well as shaping entertainment trade views behind the scenes.

The publisher purchased the property in July 1931, moving his paper to the two-story building at 6715-7 Sunset Blvd. to combine production and printing at one location. Editorial took over the second floor of the office building, while the publishing department occupied a two-story plant in back.

Jan. 3, 1938: An ad for a reorganization sale at Sunset House in the Los Angeles Times.

By 1936, tycoon Wilkerson desired fashionable and luxurious office space reflecting his power and influence in the entertainment industry. He hired architects Arthur Hawes and Douglas Honnold to execute his vision of a sleek showplace. The two men worked to adapt the complex into a suitable publishing empire, as well as adapting the building into a combination office for the Reporter and specialty men’s haberdashery, Sunset House.

Hawes designed an expanded two-story printing plant in back, while in 1937 Honnold conceived a glamorous new facade for the office building in the Hollywood Regency style, reflecting the glitz and opulence of Art Deco motion picture production design. Honnold stood as one of Hollywood’s top architects in the 1930s for his clean, rich looks in the Gibbons-Del Rio home, the Samuel Goldwyn estate, and stars’ dressing room building at Twentieth Century-Fox.

Alan Hess in his book, “Forgotten Modern: California Houses,1940-1970” describes Honnold and his partner George Vernon Russell as two of the developers of the “Hollywood Regency style, which consciously slimmed traditional ornament to achieve a sleek modernity within the bounds of traditional imagery.” The cutting edge facade featured sexy curved ornament, clean horizontal lines, and cool marble walls, a sensual feast for the eyes.

Sumptuous but unostentatious, the look oozed affluence and fashion by remodeling existing buildings into a contemporary, modern, and architecturally significant design. The book “Regency Redux” describes Hollywood Regency as “the perfect amalgam of the old and the new and struck the perfect balance of tradition and novelty desired by upscale commercial establishments.”

Sunset House

The style merged Wilkerson’s concepts of old and new in business as he reinvented and branded himself as entertainment mogul in the mid-1930s. Pushing beyond publishing into high concept businesses and watering holes catering to the entertainment industry and wealthy, Wilkerson launched upscale gourmet specialty store Vendome Wine and Spirits Company and high end restaurant/nightclub Ciro’s, fresh takes on old concepts and up-to-date in every way.

Moving beyond restaurants into high-end retail, Wilkerson’s redesigned and luxurious space served as the setting for Sunset House, an exclusive men’s haberdashery and barber shop. The upper crust could enjoy lush, rich surroundings while shopping for stylish clothing or seeking out hair and beauty treatments.

Billed as “the finest men’s store in America,” Sunset House featured “carefully selected and complete stocks of men’s wearables and gift articles” in its classical yet up-to-date interiors such as intimate lounge with fireplace and fashionable barbershop. After only six months in business, the establishment folded, with Ben Bail liquidating the stock. The Hollywood Reporter offices gradually filled the entire space, with minimal remodeling or alterations of the interiors.

Sunset House LDM

After Wilkerson’s death in 1962, his widow Tichi Kassel Wilkerson continued publishing the Hollywood Reporter, becoming one of the most powerful women in town. She established the nonprofit Women in Film in 1971 to provide women with mentoring and filmmaking opportunities and a voice in the industry. She later founded the Key Art Awards, honoring the best Key Art created in marketing and publicizing movies.

The Hollywood Reporter moved out of the building in 2005 after 74 years of operation, with the L.A. Weekly moving in shortly after and remaining until 2013. They employed both the front office building and the printing plant building behind to publish their paper as well. On December 12, 2012, the buildings were transferred to Gray Marble Front LLC.

The Hollywood Reporter Building stands as a significant example of Hollywood Regency architecture by master architect Douglas Honnold for industry powerbroker William R. Wilkerson, who operated the most important West Coast trade paper The Hollywood Reporter out of the building for almost 75 years. More than just a trade, the paper chronicles the industry’s business and social life for readers around the world.

On Tuesday, October 24, the Hollywood Reporter Building goes in front of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee as part of the process in becoming a Los Angeles’ Historic Cultural Monument. To write or attend in support, visit Save the Hollywood Reporter Building on Facebook.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Architecture, Film, Hollywood, Hollywood Heights, Mary Mallory, Preservation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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