DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - If not for Ezat Delijani, the lavish Los Angeles Theater might very well be another nondescript Downtown parking lot.
Delijani, who bought the 1931 theater in 1987 at the urging of former Mayor Tom Bradley, died on Saturday, Aug. 27. He was 83. Delijani had been struggling with lymphoma.
Like so many other Persians looking to escape the tumult surrounding Iran's 1979 revolution, Delijani fled Tehran and settled in Los Angeles. In the 1980s, he went on to acquire several buildings in the Garment and Jewelry districts Downtown, said Shahram Delijani, who along with brothers Michael and Ramin, helps manage the family's real estate holdings.
But in Downtown, Delijani's legacy will be on Broadway, where the family business bought three more theaters after acquiring the Los Angeles. The family also owns the Palace, State and Tower theaters. While it wasn't initially his idea to buy old theaters and, one day, restore their historic integrity (the seed came from Bradley's plea to buy the Los Angeles Theatre to save it from proposed demolition) Ezat Delijani made the vision his own, Shahram Delijani said.
"He came to Los Angeles and really became the steward of one of the most remarkable theaters in the city and the fact that he really loved Los Angeles, I think, is an important part of his story," said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy.
The Delijani family has long characterized their investment in the four theaters as somewhat of a sacrifice, made for the benefit of the Los Angeles community.
"Just the holding costs, the opportunity cost for not converting that money to something else and the amount of money he poured into just maintenance and repairs, it's so many millions it's difficult to even calculate," Delijani said. "It was a big sacrifice he made."
It was such a sacrifice that owning the theaters has been a financial loser, said 14th District Councilman Jose Huizar, who counted Delijani as a crucial supporter of his Bringing Back Broadway initiative.
"He told me that despite losing money on the theaters, he put his heart and soul into preserving them for the love of the theaters and for his deep affection for the city of Los Angeles," Huizar said in a statement. "All Angelenos owe Ezat Delijani a huge debt. He was a great man and a great friend. He will be missed."
The city renamed the intersection of Seventh Street and Broadway Ezat Delijani Square in June 2009.
Shahram Delijani said it was "very important" that his father got to see the fruit of a recent $1 million renovation of the Palace Theatre, the most extensive upgrade to any of the family's four theaters to date, he said. The Palace hosted a L.A. Conservancy screening of Sunset Boulevard in June, and then in July the avant-garde performance troupe Lucent Dossier took over the 1911 venue.
"Seeing that the opening was so incredible, well-attended and a type of show that a lot of people doubted would be possible really pleased him," Delijani said. "It was his vision from 30 years ago. He definitely had the comfort of knowing from here on out that things were going to start happening on Broadway, one after another."
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