The theater is giving locals a destination for entertainment, and it’s a key component to the revitalization of downtown Inglewood.
By Megan Reed
Downtown Inglewood used to have multiple theaters lining Market Street and the surrounding area.
The United Artists Theater and the Fox Theater, which took the place of the demolished Granada Theater, were right across the street from each other. The Ritz Theatre was down the street, and the Inglewood Theater was around the corner on La Brea Avenue. The 5th Avenue Theater and the Keyhole Theater were on Manchester Boulevard.
All of those theaters have gone out of business, with the structures either torn down, vacant, or repurposed as something else. All except for the Ritz, which had a rebirth three years ago.
The Ritz opened in 1937, became a part of The Pussycat theater adult cinema chain in 1975, and then became a cultural arts center under the name The Miracle Theater in 1985. By the early 2000s, the Miracle Theater fell into disrepair and was left abandoned. That all changed in 2017 when Owen and Mariana Smith reopened the doors and became a major part of the city’s plan to revitalize of Market Street.
While the NFL stadium project, which includes a mall and restaurants, will bring glitz and glamor to Inglewood, and will attract people from all over the world who will pass right through the city as major events come and go, the Smiths goal was to build the local community through cultural experiences.
“We’re in the heart of downtown Inglewood, so we understand that community is the driving force of culture,” Owen said. “So whether it’s art, music, performing arts, we’re open to all of those things.”
Change is inevitable. Many of the changes has locals concerned, but the Miracle Theater is a welcomed change.
“Change can be positive when you’re talking about a community space that is celebrating culture,” Owen said.
The new Miracle Theater has hosted plays, concerts, conferences, and private events. HBO’s “Insecure” held a block party for the premiere of Season 2. The event featured performances by Kamaiyah, Ty Dollar $ign, and SZA. Ice T was featured in an intimate conversation at the theater as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival. Tom Browne, Ronnie Law and Eloise Law were featured in An Evening of Jazz and Soul. Grammy-Award winning singer Bilal recently performed at the theater, and it has hosted local dance studios, music academies and school groups performing recitals and showcases.
The theater, along with the new restaurants and art galleries along Market Street, is attracting locals to an area that has been neglected for years.
“People realize that you need foot traffic, so you need a destination,” Owen said.
That destination is dramatically different from what’s going on in Hollywood Park.
“I think that there will be a great difference between the stadium, with the restaurants, and commercial retail that will be surrounding it, and Market Street,” Owen said. “One will be corporate and brand new, and the other will be an alternative, independent space that won’t be totally prohibited based on cost. That over there will be very expensive. I don’t go to football games. Those are $250 tickets. And then you want to eat. For a family of four, it can be a $2,000 day. The hope is that people who live here feel that they can be entertained and go to a nice restaurant (on Market Street).”
For Market Street to become a destination again, there doesn’t need to be a major development.
“There’s things that are happening here on Market Street that point towards a vibrant town center,” Owen said. “The skeleton is already here. The buildings are here. There’s already a vibrant existing community that’s here that would support the arts and the restaurants.”
Last year, the 400-seat Miracle Theater held 80 events. In the near future, Owen wants to hold at least 150 events a year. He is in the process of creating a foundation that can help subsidize many community productions, and educate local children about the ins and outs of the entertainment business.
“So many kids want to be artists, but they have no idea how hard it is, or how much work that is,” he said. “It would be cool to have an Erykah Badu, or another top-level performer talking to 20 to 30 kids about what it means to be an artist. Then on the other side is the technical aspects of venue operations. Showing younger people what that means and what it looks like.”
The Miracle Theater is giving locals a destination for entertainment, and it’s a key component to the revitalization of downtown Inglewood.