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This scan of a 1950s ad from the Ed Dobbins collection at CinemaTour also shows the address of the Grand as having been 511 S. Conkling Street. I notice that Cinema Treasures currently has it as 508 S, so that needs changing. Put the Grand back on the correct side of the street, guys!
As the photos show a building not on a corner, an address of 400 would be very unlikely. Also, the old ad on Kilduffs page shows the address as 511 S. Conkling. Baltimore County Public Library’s page must be the one that got it wrong. It’s nice to know that L.A.’s public library isn’t the only one that attaches the wrong information to its photos.
According to this page about the Seattle Cinerama Theatre on the City of Seattle website, the original design of the theatre was by local architect Raymond H. Peck. The renovation was handled by the Portland-based firm BOORA Architects.
What’s going up across the street from the new ImagineAsian Center is the Los Angeles Police Department’s motor pool building. It will essentially be just a big garage, but the LAPD grudgingly consented to allowing some retail space on the ground floor along Main Street. The project will contribute few actual users to the street, but plenty of motor traffic. It’s just the latest blob to ooze from the civic center into what used to be downtown, and will probably prove to be one of the more destructive.
It’s probably not a drawing, either, technically speaking, but a scan of a photo of a rendering. I think we should all agree to blame CinemaTour for the confusion.
From the photo of this theatre at CinemaTour, it looks to be 1930s moderne in design. That, and the fact that Shafter has never been a very large town and has thus probably never had multiple theatres built during a given decade, makes it likely that the item from Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of March 5, 1937, cited on this card at the California Index refers to the State.
The card does say the theatre was being built for a Mr. Panero, and that it would be 50'x150', which would just about accommodate the seating capacity of 550 cited above. My guess is that the State is the theatre designed by the Bakersfield firm of Franklin & Kump in 1937. Viewing the theatre’s address on TerraServer (1994 aerial photo) or on Google Maps' satellite view (a more recent picture) it looks as though they both put their markers off a bit, by about half a block. I think the State must be the building adjacent to the alley in the next block northwest of the markers.
To find the width of a screen of given height you multiply the aspect ratio by the height. Thus, 30'(1.33)=39.9'. A proper Academy ratio screen would have been 30'(1.37)=41.1'.
I was still eight years old when the first CinemaScope movie (The Robe) was released in the U.S. in September, 1953, so I saw many movies on Academy ratio theatre screens. A few of these were in big theatres in Downtown Los Angeles, but my memories of those theatres in their pre-CinemaScope days are dim. I do recall seeing High Barbaree at the 2890 seat RKO Hillstreet Theatre (most probably in a re-release, as I was not yet three years old when it first came out), and I had no trouble seeing the screen from one of the rows about midway back under the soffit (the underside of the balcony).
By 1950, I think, most theatre operators were routinely installing the largest screens they could fit into the space available. In older theatres, I would imagine that the size of the screen was constrained as much by the height at which the fixed draperies of the proscenium began as it was by the width of the proscenium. The largest movie palace in Los Angeles, the Paramount Downtown (aka Grauman’s Metropolitan) had a fairly wide proscenium, but its screen was probably no wider than that of many theatres with narrower prosceniums, due to the limited height available.
The suburban neighborhood houses I most frequently attended usually had screens not too much narrower than their proscenium (in the older theatres with stages), or, at widest, about half the width of the auditorium (in theatres without stages.) That means screens of about 20-30 feet wide in theatres of from 400-1200 seats. My memory of the Hillstreet is that the screen was about the size of those in the largest of the suburban theatres I attended.
According to Picture Show Man, it was 1932 when the Academy established the ratio of 1.37:1 as the standard for movies.
1.33:1 (just about 4:3) is the aspect ratio that was adopted by the early television industry.
Rory: If a 1.33:1 ratio screen were 30 feet high, it would be 39.9 feet wide, not 33 feet wide.
There were no theatres operating on Spring Street in the 1960s. I believe that the last Spring Street theatre showing movies was the Lyceum, which closed in 1941. I don’t recall any theatre called the Edison operating anywhere in the Los Angeles area during the 1960s. I’ve never seen “Madigan” but I’ll check it out if it shows up on TV and see if I can solve the mystery.
In the L.A. library’s California Index, I found three cards citing articles in Southwest Builder & Contractor which probably concern this theatre. The issue dates are 3/28/30, 4/25/30, and 5/23/30. The theatre was being built for Fox West Coast and its subsidiary, Valley Theatres. A Mr. Dave Croft is mentioned as being connected with the project. The only location given for the theatre is “…between Heber and Hefferman streets….” The 300 block of 2nd Street is between Heber and Heffernan Avenues, so the Capitol must be the place. The architect is not named on any of the cards, but might be in at least one of the articles, if somebody can get hold of the magazine itself.
There’s another card in the index which cites a February 5, 1932, issue of Southwest Builder & Contractor in which there’s a notice about Fox West Coast Theatres planning to “…remodel the former Rialto Theatre building in Calexico. Several stores will be added.” No location is given for this house, and the wording leaves it unclear if Fox was converting an old theatre to stores, or if stores were being added to the building and the theatre was remaining but getting a name change.
Plaza Theatre Mapping Problem
The official address of this theatre (125 Pioneer Plaza) will not map correctly on either Google Maps or on Microsoft’s TerraServer. However, a search at either site using the address 125 W. Mills Avenue will get you pretty close- a couple of doors east on TerraServer and about a block east on Google Maps. The theatre building is then pretty easy to spot in the satellite view, given that the entrance is tucked into a corner, and that the long lobby section leading at an angle back to the main building is fairly distinctive.
These days, if a movie has a “sneak” it’s usually part of it’s publicity package, but in the 1920s sneak previews were genuinely sneaky (unannounced), and intended as a way to audience-test a movie before its release, so last-minute changes could be made. The Tower opened on October 12th, after The Jazz Singer had already been playing for several days in New York (it opened there on October 6th), and by that time the main reason for having a sneak preview would have passed.
In any case, if the preview did happen, it would have been before the Los Angeles opening of the movie at the Criterion on December 28th, so, assuming the event got mentioned in the press, there’d be about ten or eleven weeks of newspapers to sift through to find the evidence. But I suspect that the story of a Jazz Singer preview at the Tower is most likely apocryphal.
William C. Pennell was also the architect of the Strand Theatre, built in 1921 at Vernon and Broadway. Though the L.A. library’s California Index contains multiple references to Pennell having been the partner of prolific theatre architect L.A. Smith during 1920, I can find no confirmation that they ever collaborated on any completed theatre project. They were hired to design a large theatre on 6th Street in San Pedro, but that project apparently remained unbuilt.
Earlier in his career, Pennell had been in partnership with another, even more famous, Los Angeles architect, John C. Austin. During the early 1910s they collaborated on numerous projects, including several churches and a few schools with auditoriums. Their partnership had ended by 1917, when Pennell was mentioned in the press as having opened a new office. Austin went on to participate in the design of numerous Los Angeles landmarks, including City Hall, the Griffith Planetarium, and Shrine Auditorium. Pennell remains so little known that almost all the references to him in the California Index are in citations of his partners, Smith or Austin.
To correct my comment immediately above, the architects name is spelled Pennell. The only other theatre of his design that I know of is the Fairfax. Though Pennell is cited multiple times in the California Index as the partner of prolific theatre architect L.A. Smith during the year 1920, I can’t confirm that there were any built theatres on which they collaborated. They were hired to design a large theatre on 6th Street in San Pedro in 1920, but this project seems to have remained unbuilt. I’ve never found any reference indicating that Smith had anything to do with the design of the Strand, built in 1921. the Pennell-Smith partnership was apparently brief.
The City Planning Department’s information for the parcel on which the Strand was located is a bit vague. The assessor’s report includes the address 4401-4413 S. Broadway and 316-336 W. Vernon, and claims there are five buildings on the property, but it gives the date of construction (1921) and size (29,017 sq.ft.) of only one of them. The 2004 urban areas view photo at TerraServer shows five distinct rooftops arranged in an “L” shape along the two streets. There’s no indication which of the buildings is the one surviving from 1921, but odds are that it was part of Pennell’s original design.
The 1921 news report I cited in the comment above did say that the project was to be built on the corner of Vernon and Moneta (Broadway.) The arrangement of the buildings currently on the property suggest that the theatre’s auditorium probably stood inside the “L”, where a parking lot is now located. I can’t tell from the satellite view whether or not the former theatre entrance was in the part of the building surviving from 1921.
It turns out that the other movie touted in the theatre’s poster case with “Sally” (in this photo), “Clancy at the Bat”, also dates from 1929. Apparently “You-Are_Here” got the theatre’s opening date right, and Cinema Treasures has it wrong. But Metzger and his partners must have been among the pioneers of double features if they were running them in 1929.
This is one of more than 70 cinema projects which have been designed for National Amusements by the Boston-based architectural firm Beacon Architectural Associates.
The most recent version of Showcase Cinemas Revere is one of more than 70 cinema projects which have been designed for National Amusements by the Boston-based architectural firm Beacon Architectural Associates.
To see Beacon’s description of the project on their website, click on “portfolio”, then “commercial”, then “Showcase and Multiplex Cinemas”, and click through the various projects until you reach the page for this one.
Total seating for this multiplex is listed by the architects as 4530.
The 2003 rebuilding of the Showcase Cinemas in West Springfield was one of more than 70 cinema projects which have been designed for National Amusements by the Boston-based architectural firm Beacon Architectural Associates. I haven’t been able to discover the architect of the original buildings.
Thomas Tally’s off-and-on relationship with the Kinema/Criterion must have had a long run. I find numerous references in the California Index to a situation in 1935 in which it appears that Tally lost control of the theatre then regained it. However, in 1929 the house was clearly under Fox management, as on February 7 of that year The Times reported that its name would be changed to Fox Criterion (this was the period when William Fox put together the chain he would control for only a few years.) If Tally had hold of the place in 1919, then he must have lost it at least twice, altogether.
There were movie theatres on Broadway before Thomas Tally opened Tally’s Broadway Theatre at 833 S. Broadway in December, 1909. In fact, his own Tally’s New Broadway had already been operating at 554 S. Broadway for several years (the confusing name “New Broadway” might have been chosen to differentiate the house from earlier Tally theatres on other streets; I can’t find any evidence that Tally had had any earlier theatre on Broadway.)
The L.A. public library claims that this photo, depicts the interior Tally’s at 833 S. Broadway. That room looks too small to contain the nearly 900 seats the theatre was supposed to have had, though. I think it might be a picture of the narrower 554 S. Broadway Tally’s (the library’s photo database contains numerous errors, unfortunately.) In any case, most of the interior shots I’ve seen of L.A. theatres from that period look much the same as this photo, showing coffered ceilings and a bit of restrained classical detailing, so even if this photo isn’t of the second Broadway, that theatre probably did look a lot like it, or like the Hyman, or Woodley’s Optic.
The later Broadway’s facade was also rather plain in comparison to that of the Kinema (I’ve been unable to find an interior shot of the Kinema, but according to the contemporary descriptions the inside had the same French Renaissance style as the outside.) Also, even at 1700 seats, the Kinema would have had nearly twice the capacity of Tally’s Broadway.
The one other theatre I know of that might lay claim to the title of first purpose-built movie palace in Los Angeles is Quinn’s Supurba, the ca.1914 theatre on Broadway (the building was eventually demolished to make way for the Roxie). I’ve been unable to find out much about the Supurba, but the photos of it show an ornate facade, and the Roxie, on the same footprint, had some 1600 seats, so the Supurba might well have been both fancy enough and large enough to qualify as a palace, though not on the scale of the Mark brothers 1914 Mark Strand Theatre in New York, the approximately 2500 seat house usually considered the first movie palace in the U.S.
The Strand, however, had a stage large enough for vaudeville (the Supurba may have had one as well), so the Marks were clearly hedging their bets. The Kinema had only a vestigial stage, seven feet deep (see KenRoe’s comment on December 14, 2004 above). I don’t know if there were any other theatres of the Kinema’s size built in that era that had no provision for the staged “prologues” which had, by 1917, become a standard part of movie presentations in the country’s movie palaces.
Pre-opening publicity gave a seating capacity of 2500 for the Kinema. The Times article on the occasion of the grand opening probably used that number because the paper had used it in earlier articles about the project. Owners often exaggerated the size of their proposed theatres. There are later articles that gave lower seating capacities for the Kinema/Criterion. One 1928 article in Exhibitor’s Herald gave the seating capacity as 1680. In fact the house was probably always in the 1700-1800 range.
“Arrowsmith” with Ronald Coleman and Helen Hayes was released in the U.S. on December 26, 1931. ;p
The town name, Mojave, is mispelled twice at the top of this page. It should be Mojave in all three instances.
Lost Memory’s link above apparently supersedes the link I put up on February 19, 2006. Although the old link still works, LM’s new link contains all the same information, plus more, and larger versions of the old link’s photos to boot.
Also, the new link presents what is purported to be photographic evidence of a ghost at a urinal. How cool is that?!