YouTube Theater opens amid cheer, optimism

By Ural Garrett

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat performance venue in the shadow of SoFi Stadium, officially opened for business Aug. 9 with a dignitary-filled ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is the developer pf the project that includes SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater, was on hand along with YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr., YouTuber Mai Pham, Live Nation Concerts’ Chief Strategy and Development Officer Jordan Zachary and Los Angeles Live Nation Concerts President Rich Best.

“YouTube Theater is in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world and inspired by creativity and technology,” Kroenke said in a statement marking the occasion. “We are proud to partner with YouTube at this unique venue. YouTube Theater’s opening series of special and diverse concerts and events is not only for the Inglewood and Los Angeles communities it calls home but also representative of them.”

The theater ribbon cutting came five days before the Rams and the Charges play an exhibition game Aug. 14 in SoFi Stadium, the first football game to be held inside the new stadium with fans inside. Both teams played last season in an empty stadium.

Prior to the ribbon cutting, selected members of the press were given a preview of the 6,000-seat performance venue Aug. 6.

SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park Managing Director Jason Gannon told the group that the goal for YouTube Theater was to offer something that compliments the many aspects of Hollywood Park outside of the stadium including upcoming hotels, shopping centers, movie theaters and residential housing.

“If you look at the 300 acres of Hollywood Park it gives us an opportunity to do a lot of things here,” Gannon said. “Be it SoFi stadium which is a very flexible venue in and of itself being anywhere from a smaller 45,000 to 50,000 thousand seat venue all the way up to 100,000 and then the 6,000 max-capacity of the YouTube theater. From a flexibility standpoint it was really important for us to do something like this.”

Inside the more intimate three-story indoor venue, YouTube Theater’s stage is 6,100 square feet with the farthest seat sitting only 164 feet away. Beyond the 6,000 seats available, the capacity also can be reduced to 3,400 and 4,000.

Having YouTube involved also means several unique tech focused features to the theater including a 13-foot-by-10 foot digital sign featuring the YouTube icon outside of the venue that will be able to transform as visitors walk past it. Inside, a large interactive digital wall can be utilized by performers or YouTube creators for activations.

Vice President of Brand Marketing for YouTube Angela Courtin said the theater is an opportunity to blend the digital world with the physical world.

“I think if we can dream it, it’ll exist here,” Courtin said. “Our goals are threefold. One is to ensure we can bring the best of YouTube to fans in the physical space and put that back out into the world. Also to create unique creator and fan events. And finally, to continue to be a part of the Los Angeles community, Inglewood and the rest of the world.”

YouTube Theater’s addition means that Inglewood could potentially become a more attractive performance venue than LA Live in downtown Los Angeles as performers will have the option of the 17,000-plus seats offered by The Forum besides the larger SoFi Stadium and significantly smaller YouTube Theater.

The 18,000 seat Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center, which will be the new home to the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise, is currently in proposal stage for a 2024 opening.

According to Inglewood Mayor Butts, the YouTube Theater will be able to serve various niche audiences besides helping the creator community at large.

“What this has done is rounded out the rich tapestry that we have where you can come to Inglewood and do anything,” Butts said. “It’s perfect that YouTube would be a sponsor because they have the capacity to provide coding training and other services that’ll benefit development of youth in the community.”

Butts mentioned the economic prospects of the YouTube Theater and how the venue will impact Inglewood citizens as well.

“The cities that depend on indiginous sales tax space and property space do OK in boom cycles of the stock market and economy,” Butts said. “Everytime there’s a recession they struggle and have to lay off employees and cut services.

“The cities that bring cars and people from outside their borders contribute to that sales tax space. This will be another contribution to the ticket tax space for the city and parking tax will be paid. It’ll have the ability to impact public safety and services for our residences.”

The theater is designed to host concerts, theater performances, award shows, sports competitions, community gatherings and more.

The first event planned at the theater is the Sept. 3 Hollywood Black Comedy Festival, hosted by Deon Cole. Theater officials plan to announce the venue’s first “artist residency” later this year.

Officials said the residency would feature “one of today’s most popular music groups.”

The venue also includes premium boxes, a back-of-house hospitality space with an adjacent dressing room and a private club with 140 premium seats.

City News Service also contributed to this story.