Though it flopped upon release in 1980, the musical extravaganza 'Xanadu,' starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, has since achieved something of a cult status and is beloved by many. Its story concerns frustrated L.A. artist Sonny (Michael Beck) who paints enlargements of album covers for a living. He meets Kira (Newton-John), a living Muse who inspires him and with whom he becomes smitten; he also befriends retired musician Danny (Kelly), who dreams of opening up a new nightclub. Amid eye-popping, cheesetastic musical numbers, both true love and an awesome roller-disco palace eventually emerge.
One of the movie's delights is the excellent use of Los Angeles landmarks, including Santa Monica's Palisades Park and the famed Venice Beach boardwalk. Perhaps its most memorable location site was the historic, then-derelict Pan-Pacific Auditorium, which convincingly played the part of a crumbling venue that gets transformed into the glamorous titular disco. (Only its exteriors were used; Xanadu's insides -- both before and after makeover -- were built on soundstages.) Sadly life did not imitate art and the Pan-Pacific would be destroyed in a spectacular fire a decade after the movie's release. div style="text-align: center;">
One of the movie's delights is the excellent use of Los Angeles landmarks, including Santa Monica's Palisades Park and the famed Venice Beach boardwalk. Perhaps its most memorable location site was the historic, then-derelict Pan-Pacific Auditorium, which convincingly played the part of a crumbling venue that gets transformed into the glamorous titular disco. (Only its exteriors were used; Xanadu's insides -- both before and after makeover -- were built on soundstages.) Sadly life did not imitate art and the Pan-Pacific would be destroyed in a spectacular fire a decade after the movie's release.
Location as character: We first glimpse the auditorium when Sonny is assigned an album cover that features Kira standing provocatively in front of its facade. Later he follows her to the deserted building, where she practices skating. (As he skates up to the doors, a real-life "Warning: No Trespassing" sign is visible.) When Sonny and Danny are seeking a site for their new nightclub, Kira offers them "her place." At first Danny is skeptical: "Are you kidding? They used to have wrestling here," which was actually true of the Pan-Pacific. Finally, the structure is transformed into a gleaming new roller-disco, where the movie's climactic, phantasmagorical musical numbers take place.
Historical significance: Built in 1935 at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard in the Fairfax District, the Pan-Pacific was considered one of the finest examples of the Streamline Moderne architectural style; its green and white facade was distinguished by four towers resembling aircraft fins. Behind its sleek exterior was a sprawling wooden structure, which hosted a variety of events: auto and boat shows, hockey and basketball games (including the Harlem Globetrotters), political rallies and concerts, including Elvis Presley at the height of his popularity (1957). In 1972 the much larger Los Angeles Convention Center opened and quickly replaced the Pan-Pacific as the venue for major indoor events. The latter gradually fell into neglect, often serving as a shelter for transients and a target for vandals.
When the Pan-Pacific was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, followed by its onscreen transformation in 'Xanadu,' many locals were hopeful that the old building would be rehabilitated. However, due to arguments regarding the future of the site, it continued to lay vacant and deteriorate until May 24, 1989, when it burned to the ground in a fire that could be seen throughout the L.A. basin.
Eventually the site became Pan-Pacific Park, which includes a recreation center (above) on the footprint of the old auditorium, whose design it echos -- complete with a 45-foot tall fin-shaped spire. The rec center is less than a fifth of the size of the former Pan-Pacific.
Fun fact: The main gate of Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) in Orlando, Florida, is a replica of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium's iconic facade. Somewhat ronically, Disney-MGM opened on May 1, 1989, just three weeks prior to the destruction of the original auditorium.
Directions: The Pan Pacific Park Recreation Center is located at 7600 Beverly Boulevard. (The park is adjacent to The Grove shopping complex.)
From LAX: Exit LAX; right on Century Blvd.; take the ramp onto 405 North, toward Los Angeles; 10 East toward Los Angeles; exit Fairfax Ave.; left at Fairfax Ave; right on Beverly Blvd.
From Universal Studios /The Valley: 101 South; exit Highland Ave / Hollywood Bowl; right at Beverly Blvd.
From Disneyland/Orange County: 5 N towards Los Angeles; 101 N towards Los Angeles; Exit Melrose Ave.; left on Melrose Ave.; left on Highland Ave.; right on Beverly Blvd.
From Downtown: West on 3rd St.; right on La Brea Blvd; left on Beverly Blvd.
Visitor info: The park is open Monday - Friday, 9 am to 10 pm, Saturday - Sunday, 9 am to 6 pm. Facilities include auditorium, children's play area, picnic tables, barbecue pits, baseball diamond, basketball courts, and indoor gym.
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