The theater was originally built as a burlesque theater, hosting many productions that were a “populist blend of satire, performance art and adult entertainment”. Of note, Gypsy Rose Lee performed at the Addison, signing a wall in the basement of the theater during her tenure.
Before 1926, the theater also hosted such vaudeville greats as Don Ameche, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Eva Tanguay, Eddie Cantor and even Abbott and Costello. Legend has it that Abbott and Costello preformed one of the first versions of their historic comic routine “Who’s On First?” at the Addison.
In 1926, Jack and Henry Warner used the Addison as a testing ground for a new kind of motion picture: those with sound. In October of 1927, the Addison was one of the theaters that premiered the revolutionary film “The Jazz Singer”. They bought the theater and it was one of West Hollywood’s premiere movie houses until it was sold on November 30, 1941 – exactly two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The National Broadcasting System, then a loose conglomeration of radio stations bought the theater for use in broadcasting hosted radio programs that used a live audience. During World War II, the most popular show the theater hosted was called “Studio 60 Theater of the Air”.
After the war, the radio studio converted to a television studio where its premiere show “NBS Philco Comedy Hour” was cancelled after only a year. There were two factors that lead to cancellation: the first was competition. The show was unable to compete with the popular “Texaco Star Theater” (ABC) and “The Colgate Comedy Hour” (NBC). Secondly, many of the writers were falsely accused of Communism by the HUAC at its height and were summarily blacklisted from working in the entertainment industry.
In 1959, the Addison was renamed in honor of its premiere NBS show to Studio 60.
In 1986, to compete with rival station NBC, the NBS television network developed a late night sketch program that airs on Friday nights. The studio has been nicknamed “The Paris Opera House of American Television”.