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Mark: I haven’t found any references to a third theater built on the model of the Lakewood and Tacoma projects, but if one was built it would probably have been built for one of the Forman companies; Forman United Theatres or Pacific Theatres. I’ll keep an eye out for evidence of such a project.
Boxoffice announced the construction of this theater, as yet unnamed, in its issue of May 8, 1948. The owner of the project was J.H. Harris, and the house was to be operated under lease by Bob Smith. The theater was designed by San Bernardino architect Howard E. Jones.
Jones is best known as the architect of the 1926 San Bernardino County Courthouse, which has recently been restored, but I’ve also found him cited as the architect of a remodeling of a Savoy Theatre in San Bernardino in 1921. In addition, Jones designed the San Bernardino Municipal Auditorium (erected 1923) and was the lead architect of the 1924 Platt Building and West Coast Theatre in San Bernardino, a project on which Lewis A. Smith was associated.
The West Coast Theatre was part of an office-commercial project called the Platt Building, erected for local developer Frank C. Platt. The project, planned from the beginning to include a large theater, was designed by San Bernardino architect Howard E. Jones.
The West Coast Theatres circuit signed a lease for the theater before the project was publicly announced. West Coast brought in Los Angeles architect Lewis A. Smith, who had designed a number of projects for the circuit, to work in association with Jones on the details of the theater. Jones was not unexperienced in theater design, having been the architect of the San Bernardino Municipal Auditorium, erected in 1923. He is also credited with the rebuilding of a Savoy Theatre at San Bernardino in 1921, and late in his career designed the Arrow Theatre at Fontana, California.
Fred Stein Theatres acquired the West Coast Theatre in 1960, and immediately began renovations. The house reopened as the Crest in June that year, according to Boxoffice of June 20.
Since posting the comment immediately above I have done more searching in Boxoffice and have found that Ben Mayer, who the magazine said had designed the Tacoma Mall Theatre, was in fact an industrial and graphics designer, not an architect.
Therefore I think it’s safe to accept the Tacoma Library’s claim that the architect of the Tacoma Mall Theatre was George T. Nowak, of George T. Nowak & Associates, architect of the nearly identical Lakewood Center Theatre in Lakewood, California, which opened a few months earlier than the Tacoma Mall house. As the Lakewood Center was designed in association with Mel C. Glatz, his firm might have been involved in the Tacoma project as well.
I’ve found Ben Mayer credited with the design of a few other theater projects, but aside from the one drive-in at Tacoma these were all remodeling or decorating jobs.
A boxoffice item of May 8, 1948, reveals the time when the Bellflower Theatre became the Nubel (yes, only one “l” on the end— see the vintage photos linked in comments above) and got its modern look. It says in part: “South-Lyn Theatres… has earmarked $150,000 for extensive modernization and enlarging of its Bellflower Theatre, which will be renamed the Nubel.” The item said that the seating capacity was to be increased by the addition of a balcony, the width of the entrance was to be doubled, and a new marquee and 60-foot sign tower would be installed.
Boxoffice of October 22, 1949, announced the recent reopening of the remodeled house. The expanded seating capacity was 1,150, according to this item. South-Lyn Theatres was run by Al Hanson, and operated two houses in South Gate, two in Lynwood, as well as a second theater in Bellflower.
Prior to its purchase by Hanson, some time after January, 1947, the Bellflower Theatre was operated by its original owner, Lester Funk, according to a brief biography of him in Boxoffice of April 14, 1945. The item said he had opened his first theater in Bellflower in 1926, then opened the Bellflower Theatre in 1929. Funk also opened the Circle Theatre there in 1941.
An interesting item appears in Boxoffice of April 4, 1942. It is about an arbitration complaint filed by L.W. Allen, operator of the South Gate Theatre. The Vogue Theatre in South Gate, operated by Fox West Coast, had been given a 91-day clearance over Allen’s house. The thing I found most interesting was that the arbitrator named to handle the complaint was the noted architect, John C. Austin.
Robert J. Allen is named in Boxoffice of May 20, 1950, in an article about a suit he had filed against National Theatres, Fox West Coast, and eight major distributors. The suit charged that Allen’s Avon Theatre in South Gate had, since 1940, unfairly been subjected to an arbitrary zoning system forcing it to run movies from 91 to 126 days after houses operated by Fox and Warner in the same zone. The item doesn’t mention L.W. Allen, but it seems likely that the two Allens were related.
A May 4, 1973, Boxoffice item says that Allen Theatre owner Hugh Dallas had announced a return of the house, the only theater then operating in South Gate, to a policy of family movies.
Construction was to start within a few weeks on the 500-seat Village Theatre in Claremont, and the house was to open on April 15, according to Boxoffice of February 18, 1939. The Village would be operated by Richard L. Bare, operator of the Filmarte Theatre in Carmel, California, and, like the Filmarte, it was to be a single-bill house booking both American and European movies. The Claremont Colleges were associated with Bare in the project, and would have supervision over the programs, which would change twice weekly.
Given the short time between the start of construction and the projected opening date, I suspect that the Village was installed in an existing building that was remodeled into a theater. The Boxoffice item confirms Sumner Spaulding as the architect for the project.
Richard L. Bare, who went on to become a director, writer, and actor for movies and television, is apparently still living.
The Cosmo remained open at least as late as 1950, when the August 12 issue of Boxoffice said that operator Grover Smith planned to shutter the house on the 19th of that month.
The Muse was a grind house featuring exploitation movies by the mid-1960s, when it achieved its moment of glory (such as it was) by hosting the world premier of Cambist Films' release “Rent-A-Girl” on October 15, 1965. The upcoming event was duly noted in Boxoffice of October 11, lest any Omaha area subscriber miss out.
For anyone unfamiliar with Cambist Films, the Grindhouse Cinema Database provides this page about the company and a few of its lurid releases.
Boxoffice of May 2, 1966, has somewhat different details than the L.A. Times article ken mc quotes just above. It says that the former Lido Theatre was to reopen as Stage One on May 4, with a double bill of “Juliet of the Spirits” and “The Magnificent Cuckold.” The article does mention “The Shop on Main Street” as one of the upcoming films on Stage One’s schedule. As the Times article was dated after the projected opening, it seems likely that Fox missed the opening date.
The August 21, 1972, issue of Boxoffice reported that the Stage One Theatre in Riverside had been closed indefinitely. Fox Riverside manager Dave Lackie gave a lack of suitable product as the cause for the closing, but added that the equipment remained in place and that the theater could be reopened if potentially profitable releases became available. The house had enjoyed considerable success for some time after its 1966 opening, Lackie said.
I’ve been unable to discover if the house was ever reopened under its old policy after this closure.
The opening of the Sky-Hi Drive-In was tentatively set for July 1, 1952, according to Boxoffice of May 31 that year. The theater was being built for Earl Hargis, owner of the Sky-Hi Cafe, and was his first venture into movie exhibition.
The Star was built in 1941 by F.L. “Doc” Lowe, who already operated theaters in Sterling, Kansas, and Brookfield Missouri. The opening of the Star was announced in Boxoffice of July 12 that year. Reportedly it had 500 seats.
From Boxoffice of November 9, 1964: “Robert Cannon, owner of two indoor theatres at Lake City, has sold his first-run Lake Theatre for nontheatrical purposes and has reopened his former sub-run Columbia Theatre as a first-run house.”
However, this was apparently not the end for the Lake. Boxoffice of November 14, 1966, says this: “MCM Theatres… has leased the Lake Theatre… from Robert Cannon. MCM has renamed the Lake to the Gateway.” The Gateway was opened after extensive remodeling, according to Boxoffice of January 30, 1967. The item said the Gateway had 500 seats.
But there is a problem. The Cinema Treasures listing for the Gateway Theatre gives a different address from that given above for the Lake Theatre. Is it possible that Lake City renumbered its streets at some time?
Theaters in Lake City are difficult to research with search engines, given the fact that the name is so common. The name Robert Cannon turns out to be pretty common, too, so knowing it isn’t much help. I think that somebody familiar with Lake City is going to have to help sort this one out.
The Columbia must have opened a bit earlier than 1949. Boxoffice of March 15, 1947, says this in an item datelined Lake City: “Leonard Vaughan has been named manager of the New Columbia Theatre here.” The fact that “New” is capitalized might indicate that there was also an earlier Columbia Theatre in Lake City, or it might just be an error by a Boxoffice typesetter.
Prior to its destruction by fire on St. Valentine’s Day in 1960, the Lyric was operated under lease by Publix Great States Theatres. The new house was to be leased to Square Amusement Co., a subsidiary of Great States.
I’m wondering of the seating capacity of 939 currently listed above was for the old Lyric? Two issues of Boxoffice (March 26, 1962, and February 4, 1963) each give the seating capacity of the rebuilt theater as 800. The 1962 item mentions that seats “…of the new wide variety….” were planned for the new Lyric.
This house was listed in the 1900-1901 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide as the Fisher Academy of Music, with a seating capacity of 1,650. The back wall of the stage was 40 feet from the footlights, and was 66 feet wide wall to wall, with a proscenium 33 feet wide. Quite a spacious theater for a town of 18,000.
I doubt AlanSanborn is still watching this page, but if anyone else mistakenly believes that the United Artists Westwood Theatre is (shamefully) missing from the Cinema Treasures database, it can be found listed under its later name, the Mann Festival Theatre.
The Bal Theatre was designed by architect Vincent G. Raney. An article about it appeared in Boxoffice of September 14, 1946. There are four photos. The article mistakenly palces the Bal in Oakland.
Boxoffice of July 30, 1938, reported that the Harvey Amusement Company and Gerald Hardy had acquired the Casa Grande Theatre in Santa Clara, and would spend $20,000 renovating it. The house was expected to reopen in August as the Santa Clara Theatre.
The information in the comment above by thomas_gladysz is the final piece I needed to clear up the mystery. The West Side Theatre did indeed open as the Newman Theatre, probably in 1936 or 1937.
Southwest Builder & Contractor of March 6, 1936, mentioned plans by architect S. Charles Lee for a theater project at Newman. Boxoffice of December 18, 1937, said that the newly formed West Side Theatre Company was taking over two houses from the Harvey Amusement Company; the land and building of the Newman Theatre at Newman, and the leasehold on the Empire Theatre at Gustine.
I’ve been unable to find an exact opening date for the Newman Theatre, or when it was renamed the West Side Theatre, but I no longer have any doubt that they were the same house.
In his comment of April 9, 2008, Warren identifies the architects of The Folly as the firm of Dodge & Morrison. The senior architect of this firm, Stephen Webster Dodge, is the subject of this brief biography in a 1908 book, “Flatbush of Today.”
The biography only mentions three theaters designed by the firm, all of them already attributed at Cinema Treasures. The firm’s junior partner, Robert Burns Morrison, didn’t have a biography in the book. Perhaps he didn’t live near Flatbush.
Here is a link to the California Index card citing the May 17, 1940, Southwest Builder & Contractor article identifying Clifford Balch as the architect of the new theater to be built at the northwest corner of Magnolia Boulevard and Valley Street. It’s misidentified as the Major Theatre in the caption, but that is the location of the Magnolia Theatre.
The earliest mention of the Liberty I’ve found in Boxoffice is from the issue of July 7, 1935, which mentions the operators as Rudolph Navari and B. L. Stoner. A June 9, 1945, Boxoffice item about the sale of the Liberty to the Camerlo brothers says that Rudy Navari, the seller, had been an exhibitor at Verona for 26 years. I haven’t found references to Navari connected with any other theaters at Verona, so it’s possible that the Liberty was in operation by 1924, though I’ve found no confirmation for this.
Ed Blank: I’ve just seen your question (my email service was blocking Cinema Treasures comment notifications for a long time.) I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t know Joel Navari, and I’ve never been to Chicago. I did a search for him in the Boxoffice magazine archives at issuu.com, but the last time he was mentioned in the magazine was apparently in 1968.
The last time the Eastwood Theatre was mentioned as far as I can determine was in the issue of February 2, 1970. It’s an item saying that the Eastwood was being demolished. It says that Mrs. Rudy Navari had been robbed at the theater and decided not only to close it but to have the building razed. You can read the item at this link (third item in the farthest left hand column.)
The Olympic was listed in an ad for Tiffany Productions in Movie Age of December 7, 1929. Exhibitor’s Forum of February 3, 1931, said that A. Buby had taken over the lease on the Olympic from A. Belda. The same magazine’s issue of April 7, 1931, reported that the Olympic Theatre in Verona had been sold at a sheriff’s auction.
The Olympic was listed in Boxoffice of October 9, 1937, among theaters that had been remodeled since the start of the year. The operator at this time was J. Moritz. Max Arnold was operating the Olympic in 1946 when the September 21 issue of Boxoffice said that the house had been redecorated and new drapes hung.
The Olympic was closed for remodeling and the installation of CinemaScope, said an item in the June 11, 1955, issue of Boxoffice. On January 7, 1956, Boxoffice reported that Sam Plutis' Olympic at Verona had been reopened after being dark for several months.
In 1957 the house appears to have gradually sputtered out of existence. The March 30 issue of Boxoffice said that Bill Graner had closed the Olympic, but that it would be reopened by Joe Mazzei. On November 9, 1957, Boxoffice said that Joe Mazzei had closed the Olympic at Verona. I haven’t found the theater mentioned in any later issues of the magazine.