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Mystery solved. The address of the El Dorado Theatre is 469 Main Street. Current resident is Arian’s Supply Sergeant. I received this information from the El Dorado Historical Society:
In answer to your mystery question – Yes, there was an El Dorado Theater located in the Upper Fairchild Building (now the Supply Sergeant). It opened under Ruth Knacke’s management in April, 1936. The theater was located on the lower floor of the building, large enough to accommodate 500 seats. Ruth Knacke, who owned the Empire Theater bought the El Dorado in order to prevent further competition with her theater. If you would like any additional information feel free to contact us.
To answer davebazooka, there is nothing left of the theatre on the gym floors. Nothing. It’s all gone. Although, the large glass windows of the second floor, which are evident in old photos of the theatre are still there and all the treadmills are lined up there so you can look out on Steinway as you run. I think all the original interior ornamentation was gone when the theatre was split into 6 screens, because I don’t remember any when I saw movies there in 2000-2001.
I am going to be in Placerville in August. Maybe for fun I’ll hunt around for the final answer to this El Dorado Theatre location question.
The Fairchild Building is across the street from the Empire Theatre building. Here is a link to a contemporary picture. The building, since the beginning, was prominently labeled “Fairchild” and still is.
Having grown up in Placerville, I never knew of an “Upper Fairchild Building” though the Fairchilds might have owned another building that was referred to as that, but the Empire Theatre Building was always referred to as the Empire Building. There was, in the Empire Building, the Fairchild’s Pharmacy, which might be the confusion. The Fairchild’s Pharmacy was later occupied by Robbinson’s Drugs until they moved down the street a block.
The picture that Joe Vogel references of the Empire Theatre Building was built in 1931, so the caption information, which comes from a CSUS archive, is not correct. I am guessing that the use of “Upper Fairchild Building” might be a description, rather than a name that was ever used.
Was there to see a movie last Friday afternoon. The Screen was big and the house a good size and comfortable, though uninteresting. Not a bad experience, though only 6 people were in attendance.
I just treked out to Kew Gardens to see the old theater and it was a great experience. The area is like a cute old fashioned small town main street and the theater, though broken up into many screens, is a comfortable place to be. The lobby is long and big with the old murals in place and decorated throughout with old movie posters, framed movie fan magazines and such. However, I was one of 5 people in the big theater on a Friday night for the seven o'clock show. I hope this isn’t the usual case these days because it’s a great place to see a movie.
I first stepped foot in the Golden Gate to see a sit down production of ANNIE in 1981 when I was 12. It was magical to me. I was not aware of how bad the area was because we got out of a cab right in front of the theater. That was my first experience inside a big theater like that and I have vidid memories of it. We sat in the front of the Loge seating area. Not many theaters have a section that uses that title. In New York that area is always called Front Mez. I didn’t know it was built as a movie theater primarily, but obviously it was built to allow for live stage shows because it handles all the biggest touring Broadway shows. I guess it was due to the popularity of Vaudeville that so many movie palaces were built as full stage theaters. Over my teen years I returned to the Golden Gate often to see other musicals and the area was always bad. I’m amazed that nothing has been done to clean it up since other areas not far away are pretty nice.
Sorry that last post is wrong, the photo is from May 3rd.
Here is the Jackson Triplex today, May 3, 2009, playing first run movies, though the marquee and entrance is in horrible repair.
Here is a back view showing the loft space.
Here is a photo of the Polk Theater site today, May 5, 2009. Gone.
Here is a photo of the Colony today, May 3, 2009.
Here is a photo of the Eagle today, May 3rd, 2009. It is quite closed, though a friend told me there is a “Bollywood Strke,” so it may open again. Still, it looks like it is in horrible shape. Friends who saw a film there only a few weeks ago say the interior is old and stripped of whatever Art Deco glory it once had. At least it is in operation. The neighborhood is really improving near by. This would be a prime old theater to fix up and make viable again.
When I worked for the Sacramento Music Circus there was an old program hanging around from the Sacramento Theatre Company that had a map of all the old theaters around downtown before 1930. The Hippodrome was mentioned and the article stated that Maude Adams flew as PETER PAN in that theater, but I don’t recall the date. I thought it was 1910, but if that was true, then the theater was actually the Empress at the time. Anyway, I think it’s cool that the original Broadway Peter Pan flew in Sacramento.
…and I spoke too soon about there not being an El Dorado Theater, I’m sure there may have been, but there isn’t any history on it that I ever came by except for the mention from Joe Vogel and Boxoffice Magazine above. Maybe it was a short lived operation.
Another link to an old photo of the Empire:
A link to a pic of the Empire:
There was an El Dorado Drive-In on the edge of town, but I never knew of a regular sit down movie house called the El Dorado, nor has anyone I ever knew in Placerville ever mentioned it, nor does it appear in photographs of the town of which I have poured over in the past. As far as any history of Placerville known, I don’t believe there was ever another theater other than the Empire, which dates back to the beginning of the town and was first a canvas roof structure seen in very old photos of the town. Every time it burned down and was rebuilt or even moved to another address, it was always named The Empire.
I’m not sure when the management renovated it as I knew it in the 1970s, but it had a late ‘60s/ early '70s decor of orange, red and gold curtains lining the walls and a gold curtain that opened and closed over the screen. The carpets were red with a pattern befitting a movie theater and I think the lobby actually had fake wood paneling on some of the walls.
I forgot another observation: Although there is an antique mall in the place, the basic interior structure is intact, although all the decor is stripped. They’ve done a rather cheap job, but for that matter, it would be rather easy to restore. There is simply a plug in the proscenium arch and you can see the outline of it. The floor, which used to slope downward towards the screen, has been built up to be level so that when you are by the proscenium arch you are sort of in the middle of what used to be the screen—maybe 10 feet above stage level. The stage and fly area his hiding behind the plug, probably used for storage. The wires from the surround speakers are hanging out of the walls and the projection booth windows are in full view. The lobby area is still separated from the auditorium, but the old crystal chandelier is gone and the entry area under the marquee has been partially built in as a storefront window area for showcasing goods. The box office is gone. The Marquee is still there.
I’m glad the Crystal is still a movie theater. I haven’t been to Salinas downtown to see it yet (although I am in the area for Christmas every year). I hate the cineplex out at the Salinas Mall, so hopefully this new theater will be a treat and bring a lot of business to that cute downtown area.
I remember this place. As a kid I remember driving past it often. I always wanted to go in, but of course they weren’t showing Disney films at that point. I love the style of the exterior—very California.
On second thought, 9/11 probably had little to do with the closing when you consider the Kaufman cineplex down the street, but a lot of business dissolved after 9/11 and the Astoria seemed to be one of them.
Hello Empiretheater09, I don’t know how much help I can be except I can email you a couple of jpegs of the theater from the 1920s and 1931 when the building currently on site opened. In 1985-1986 when the venue was trying to function as a live performing arts venue I performed in two shows—a production of the musical CARNIVAL and a variety show called BERTA’S HERE when I was in a tap dancing act. Prior to that the theater showed a new double feature each week and I was there A LOT. The place was hopping until a 4 screen cinema opened on the other side of town about 1983. You can email me at
I used to go to the El Ray (Cinema 1) in 1986-87 when it was a dollar theater and saw KING LING LIVES. It was always showing horrid movies like that, but for a Hartnell College student on a budget you couldn’t beat the dollar admission. I always loved the interior and thought it was such a treasure. My friends and I always dreamed about going into The Fox Theatre, but it was always boarded up. The cineplex at the local Salinas mall is horrible, so it would be grand to have movies again in the El Ray (change the name back) and The Fox. My grandparents lived in Salinas, so I grew up visiting in the summers and Christmas and always rode my bike by those theaters to dream about going inside.
I live 2 blocks from the Astoria Theatre. The original entrance with it’s ornate carvings and such are preserved and it is stupid that the drug store didn’t use the grand arch entrance as the entrance. I go to the NY Sports Club gym located on the second floor of the building and take a certain pride that I am inhabiting the theater. I saw movies in that theater up until the time it closed and although it was a dump by then, I was sad that a theater built in 1920, which had survived for so long, was dead. I always thought 9/11 was the final blow for that theater. Too bad.