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A Survivor’s Story.
I first found the Palm as all good neighborhood theatres should be found: completely by accident. A couple of years ago, visiting the Bay Area, on an unscheduled pit stop, the way to the freeway was lost and in a bid to find it, a corner was turned and BAM came the Palm, looming in the windshield and seen briefly in the rear-view mirror before the brakes were smashed and the car parked – all the better to see you, my dear. Having found out about the final evening of the Palm on this very site, I went to the final evening of The Palm with my girlfriend, having made friends with the guy behind the counter – likely the friendly fellow people initially encountered when they entered; he’d been working there and the Burbank since 1991 – and knowing that the final evening of screenings would be important indeed, seeing as this was the last neighborhood theatre converted to straight porn left in California (there’s still the Tomkat in West Hollywood), however. Initially the manager was standoffish but was very kind when he discovered our intentions to document the Palm’s last night were pure; we got some shots of the projection booth, and many of the lobby interiors – except for the interior of the theatre itself, which was simply too dark and the house lights weren’t due up until midnight. We’d have to leave early, so we never got those shots; possibly the former manager or the other employees took some after the videos ended.
I recorded the final schedule off the answering machine, as well as tape-recording 45 minutes worth of sounds during one of the screenings. The regulars were truly, sincerely sad that this era was ending – it had caught them too suddenly to bring in prints of things like “Deep Throat” or “Behind the Green Door” – yet there was a celebratory air as people filtered through the theatre and the employees took our photographs and vice-versa. I even brought my raincoat in honor of the occasion, and was photographed in it. Yes, at one point, my girlfriend was prodded by a man sitting behind us – she promptly told him off and that was that – and couples who came in either had people approach and sexualize them, or tell them in no uncertain terms to buzz off. I find going to pornographic theatres a rather furtive, taxing affair – despite my stylish and sartorial exterior, I know I’m a square but I don’t care who gives me stares. Having someone masturbating near oneself during a film is a weird experience, to say the absolute least (despite our over-sexualized society, sex in an adult theatre becomes a discomfiting situation due to its immediate reality). That said, the patrons were generally respectful of our personal space, which took off some of the edge. There were swingers doing unspeakable things in the partition behind the screen. A faint mist descended from the cloud cover, making the neon spelling out P-A-L-M even more aethereal. It’s always sad when a theatre dies – this one, despite what the realists say in this newspaper or that, was no exception – and on driving away, there was a feeling not unlike spending an afternoon with a relative one knows is terminally, irrevocably ill.
I was there with my photographer on the last night of business.
The Mini Cinema was located at 631 West Hueneme Road, later became a bank and is now currently vacant, as is most of the adjacent shopping centre. At no point did the Marina and the Mini exchange names. There is currently a World Market in the space where the Esplanade 3 once sat.
There is a photograph – with a radically different marquee much like the current Arlington’s – of this theatre in 1924 in one of the booth’s at Joe’s Steakhouse, just south of the theatre on State Street.
Here’s a bunch of them in California: http://www.militarynewcomers.com/Theater.htm
The Temple was announced as opening on February 9, 1980 as the U.S. Cinema.
Prior to its life as a medical clinic, it was a Chuck E. Cheese just before it became the medical clinic. Come to think of it, there was another Fox Oxnard further east, too.
This theatre is featured quite prominently in the film “Demons” (1985).
This is now Gary’s Tuxedo Shop.
It’s now Drake’s Books, an adult bookstore.
“Located on the infamous Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Book Soup has been serving the Hollywood community for twenty-eight years!” says their website, so there’s a slim chance it went porno chic in the early 1970s, but since it’s in the heart of the Sunset Strip, possibly not.
This theatre is now operating as Club 740. Website – with many photographs of a radically altered and cleaned-up interior – is here: http://www.740la.com/
I sent this question to my contacts at Landmark; I should know what’s up for the theatre in the next day or so. It really is a beautiful little theater – on par with the Royal on Santa Monica Boulevard – but there’s also an empty lot to the left of it so maybe someone’s fixing to tear it down and build on both lots. I hope not.
They still had admission tickets for the Burbank on their final evening.
The historical society is saving the amazing mirror mural of the Seven Dwarves, as well as the deco EXIT and restroom signs. There are murals inside the theatre itself – which is remarkably tall for a neighborhood theatre – that resemble a more Pop Art version of Picasso’s “Guernica”. The lights finally went on in the auditorium after who-knows-how-long, but we were sadly gone before the time. Oh, and the seats were naugahyde with velvet backing, just in case anyone wondered how difficult it was to clean up afterwards.
Not entirely ended – there’s the Regency (former Pussycat) in Sacramento, Secrets / Xanadu in SFO and a couple others in Oakland and surroundings. But certainly yes, as far as mainstream neighborhood cinemas converted into porn palaces. It was the regular customers that actually kept the place going, especially after the demise of the Burbank.
Yes, but the Tiki is more like a storefront conversion – not to cast aspersions, though. The Palm was more like the Monica / Tomkat.
You missed the last night at The Palm, Ken! No more straight porno theatres in California! When are you coming back out?
Closed at midnight tonight. Manager said it had 658 seats. Demolition purportedly begins next week.
Major reconstruction witnessed this past week – they’ve gutted the place entirely and are shaping it up to be another theatre. Unsure if it’s first-run or revival or what, but one of the construction guys said that the theatre had been there for 90 years or more. While that may or may not have been hyperbole, it looks like it could’ve seated 500 or more; the walls are still decorated with cornices of some kind but it’s still too destroyed to make out any of its past architectural accoutrements without blueprints and / or some serious remote viewing.
I think that Yahoogroup is specifically not spidered, for obvious reasons.
Bump for sadness.
The Yahoogroup dedicated to regular habituees of the Palm confirms it. They’d know if anyone would.
The renovations are almost done now. The seats are insanely comfortable, the sound is crisp and the screens are far wider than they use to be.
Here’s the most recent plans for The Port: