El Rey Theater to Close, Faces Destruction

posted by Joe Vogel on February 25, 2005 at 7:46 am

CHICO, CA – Eric Hart, the new owner of Chico’s El Rey Theater, has disclosed plans to convert the century-old building to an office, retail and parking complex. The building will be gutted and the interior completely reconstructed.

This historic house opened in 1905 as the Majestic Theater. Operating first as a vaudeville house, it soon began showing movies, becoming Chico’s first cinema. In 1925, it was remodeled by the architectural firm of Stark and Flanders, and was renamed the National Theater. Closed briefly in 1939 for another remodeling, it re-opened as the American Theater. The final re-naming came in 1946, when the building was reconstructed after being gutted by a fire. In recent decades, the El Rey has been operated as a first-run house by United Artists and Regal Cinemas. It is one of the last large single-screen houses in Northern California.

Hart, who owns and has partly renovated the nearby Senator Theater, said that he would like to save the El Rey as a theater, but that the financial prospects for a large single screen cinema in this market were too poor. (Two older multiplex cinemas in Chico have recently closed, leaving the town with only Cinemark’s 14 screen Tinseltown complex and the small art film-oriented Pageant Theater downtown.)

Each of the following articles includes a photograph of the El Rey:
Chico News and Review article of January 27
Chico News and Review article of February 17

Theaters in this post

Comments (3)

RobertR on February 25, 2005 at 10:21 am

Very sad news, can they build over it?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 25, 2005 at 4:59 pm

As I understand it, the plan is to gut the auditorium and build what will essentialy be a new, steel-reinforced structure inside the existing walls. The basement and part of the ground floor will be used as a parking garage, the remainder of the ground floor for retail stores, and two upper floors will house offices. The need for parking in the area would probably preclude any plan that would preserve the theater itself.

jimgreenwalt on August 2, 2006 at 9:54 am

Joe, please contact me about the Skyway drive-in in Chattanooga, tennessee. thanks, jg

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