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The Turnpike Drive-In was nearing completion when Boxoffice published this article about it in their issue of March 3, 1958. The indoor theater, though planned from the beginning, was built after the drive-in had opened. The architect for the entire project was Drew Eberson.
Just so the above iteration of a local legend won’t spread misinformation outside Colusa, the 1962 film “To Kill A Mockingbird” was set in the fictional Southern town of Maycomb (“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it…” being the opening line of the narration), and the exteriors, like the rest of the movie, were shot at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
A stage version of “To Kill A Mockingbird” was first presented in 1970, but I don’t think the play has ever been filmed. There are many things to see in and around Colusa, but Boo Radley’s house is not among them.
The only interior shot of the Stamm I’ve been able to find is one of the lobby that appeared in an ad for Gulistan carpets published in Boxoffice of February 5, 1949.
The opening of this 1,100-seat Art Moderne theater was noted in Boxoffice of December 18, 1948. I’ve been unable to discover the name of the architect.
There were two theaters called the Rita in Vallejo. The first was the one taken over by Ray Syufy and his father, William Syufy, in 1940, and was their first theater. The second Rita was the one Syufy had built in 1948. I’ve been unable to find out what became of the first Rita Theatre.
A card in the California Index indicates that the Strand was located in the Oxnard Masonic Temple. It cites an April 14, 1933, Southwest Builder & Contractor item saying “Claude A. Spaeth, manager of the Strand Theatre, Oxnard, is having plans prepared for remodeling the theater on the ground floor of the Masonic Temple Building.” The cornerstone of the Masonic Temple was laid in 1901, according to a Los Angeles Times item of January 17 that year.
The Bellwood Drive-In was designed by Michael J. DeAngelis, according to Boxoffice of February 5, 1949.
Boxoffice of July 22, 1950, said this house was being built to replace the Glen City Theatre which had been destroyed by fire the previous year. It was to have 1,100 seats. The architect of the Fox Theatre was Carl Moeller.
The West Theatre was one of the Central Valley houses operated by Arthur Fukuda. In 1939, he sold it to Frank and Louise Uanero. A few years later, when Fukuda was sent to an internment camp after the war began, the other theaters he operated were taken over by Robert Lippert, but I’ve found no information about what became of the West Theatre after 1939.
Judging from the surname Uanero (apparently a rare Spanish name, even though it sounds vaguely Japanese) the house might have gone from catering to Asian audiences to presenting Spanish-language movies. The valley farm towns have long been cosmopolitan places where many languages are spoken.
Boxoffice magazine makes a single reference to a theater in West Delano, operated by the Paneros during the post-war period, but I don’t think it was the West Theatre. I found a single 1939 reference to the Paneros operating the Delano and Star Theatres at Delano, and many references to them operating two theaters at Delano before they opened the Sierra in 1948.
The Danz Family Photograph Collection at the University of Washington lists a photo (the photo itself is not available online) from the preview for the grand opening of the Northgate Theatre. Among the people in the photo, according to its description at the UW web site, are the architect of the theater, John Graham, Jr., and the decorator, A.B. “Heinzberger” (clearly meant to read Heinsbergen.)
The March 7, 1966, issue of Boxoffice reported that Jack Grossman’s Holiday Theatres chain had just opened its latest hardtop, the Airport Theatre.
Jack, do you have any information about the Cascade Theatre in New Castle, which was supposed to be the first theater operated by the Warner brothers? I keep coming across different dates for the opening. picture.
Google street view shows the word “Theatre” displayed at the top of this building, with the words “100 channels” in smaller lettering just below. The marquee has the words “Books” and “Videos” on it. There’s a banner hanging at the top of the facade, too blurry to read in street view, but it looks porn-related. I think Cinema 19 is still in business at this location as some sort of video porn shop. It’s still all over the Internet as Cinema 19 Theatre and Adult Bookstore, but I can’t find any reviews describing it. There are also a number of Internet listings for a Wilton Cinema Inc., at the address 1224 19th Street.
Boxoffice of March 10, 1945, has a thumbnail biography of Mrs. John Carnakis in its “Twenty Year Showmen” feature. It says that the Carnakis family began operating the Star Theatre at Taft, California, in 1912, then in 1915 moved to Bakersfield where they opened the C&S Theatre, and four years later built the Virginia. That would give a likely opening date of 1919 or 1920, rather than 1925 for the Virginia. It’s unfortunate that Kern County doesn’t have its building records online so we could find the actual year of construction for this building.
The Carnakis’s son, Manuel, was on the Bakersfield City Council in 1945. Issues of Boxoffice from the 1950s mention that he was later on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, and served at least one term as Mayor of Bakersfield. He is mentioned in Boxoffice as late as the issue of February 25, 1963, as operator of the Virginia Theatre.
Boxoffice of January 31, 1953, said that the Virginia had reopened at Christmas after extensive rebuilding occasioned by the earthquake which had struck Kern County in the fall of 1952. The theater had actually continued in operation for some time after the quake, but inspectors then found concealed damage that could have caused the roof to collapse, so the house was closed for repairs. After reopening, the item said, the Virginia was operating from noon daily, and was enjoying full houses as the only nearby competitor, the Fox circuit’s Rex Theatre, was still closed.
I’ve been unable to find the Paris Theatre mentioned in Boxoffice, but the Cinema 19 is mentioned once. The December 9, 1974, issue says that the house was part of the 10-theater Amber Theatres chain of adult theaters, operated by 33-year-old Nancy Lindsey. Other houses in the chain included the Cine Cienega in Los Angeles, Fine Arts in San Bernardino, Ritz in Ontario, Roxy in Long Beach, Cave and Cinema in Hollywood, Yale in Santa Monica, and Corbin in the San Fernando Valley. The chain had recently taken over the Highland in Los Angeles as well.
Does anybody know what became of the Mermac Theatre at West Bend? Long operated by August Berkholtz, owner of the West Bend Theatre, it was a ca.1913 house, remodeled in 1938, and fitted with CinemaScope in 1954. After that it vanishes. here’s an article about the remodeling in Boxoffice of October 15, 1938.
Jerry: The scan is a bit blurry, but Boxoffice Magazine of October 15, 1938, ran an article about the conversion of the Grand Opera House into the RKO 23rd Street, and it has a pair of before-and-after photos showing the foyer and the auditorium.
Do Jim’s files cite a specific source for the demolition date of 1962? The Google satellite view of the area shows the corner lot covered mostly in asphalt with two lighter concrete sections that might be former building pads, though only one of them is large enough to have held the Vista, and that one fronts on Haley Street, not California Avenue.
Of course the building might have been given a California Avenue address if that side of its parcel had been its parking lot, even if the theater’s entrance was closer to Haley Street. If that was indeed the location of the Vista, and it was (as I suspect) a quonset structure, then there were three large quonset hut buildings in a group at this corner.
The classification of the Vista (and now the Virginia as well) as African American theaters remains puzzling. People of Mexican ancestry have long been Bakersfield’s largest minority population, and though the San Joaquin Valley has been fairly cosmopolitan for ages I don’t think the percentage of the population that was of African American ancestry in the Bakersfield area approached double digits until recent decades.
Although Manuel Carnakis was a well-known public official in Kern County (Bakersfield City Councilman, Mayor of Bakersfield, and member of the County Board of Supervisors) there’s very little about him on the Internet. Aside from the multiple references in Boxoffice, most mentions of him appear on sites about powerboat racing. He was a boat racer himself, and he is credited with being the driving force behind the development of Ming Lake, a Kern County Parks and Recreation Department facility dedicated in 1959 which has become a popular venue for boat racing events.
The October 30, 1937, issue of Boxoffice said that the new Harris DuBois Theatre had opened the previous Wednesday. The architect of the Harris DuBois Theatre was Victor A. Rigaumont. A photo of the marquee appears in an ad for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Boxoffice of October 15, 1938.
The Rex might have been finished off by the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake. An item about the nearby Virginia Theatre in Boxoffice of January 31, 1953, said that the Virginia had reopened just before Christmas, but that the Rex was still surrounded by steel scaffolding while engineers continued to inspect it. Perhaps the damage to the Rex turned out to be too costly to repair.
Boxoffice of April 17, 1948, had said that Fox West Coast had renewed its long-term lease on the Rex and several other theaters. The length of the lease was not mentioned. I haven’t found the Rex mentioned in Boxoffice after the 1953 item.
I’ve found the Cherokee Theatre mentioned in Boxoffice as early as the issue of January 6, 1940. It was operated by the Cherokee Amusement Company
I’ve found mentions of other theaters in LaFollette as well. According to the May 22, 1937 issue of Boxoffice, W.H. Parrott was operating the Capitol and Novelty theaters there, and planning to build a new theater in the town. Parrott is mentioned in later Boxoffice items as president of the Cherokee Amusement Company.
An October 30, 1937, item said that H.A. Johnson and A.J. Anderson would open their new A&P Theatre at LaFollette on November 1. I’ve been unable to find any other mentions of an A&P Theatre. I haven’t found anything about the opening of the proposed new theater of Parrott’s Cherokee Amusement Company, either. It’s possible that Parrott’s announcement was merely intended to intimidate Johnson & Anderson into not building their theater, and when that failed Cherokee eventually bought them out and took over the A&P, either before or after it opened. If that’s the case, it must have become the Cherokee Theatre.
There was also a 600-seat Leach Theatre opened in LaFollette by Nolan Leach in early October, 1945, reported in Boxoffice of the 27th that month. It, too, passed into the hands of the Cherokee circuit, and was closed for a while. Boxoffice of June 5, 1954, said that the Leach Theatre had been taken over by Joe Martin, who had renamed it the Fox Theatre. That’s the only mention I can find of Joe Martin or of a theater called the Fox in LaFollette.
A November 27, 1978, Boxoffice item mentions the twin theater then being built at LaFollette. It was owned by Earl Carroll and Rob Woodson.
The Vista was opened by the Carnakis family, long-time Bakersfield theater operators who owned the Virginia Theatre there. The announcement of the opening of the Vista was made in Boxoffice of May 21, 1949. Boxoffice said nothing about the house being an African American theater.
More interesting is an item in Boxoffice of September 11, 1948, announcing the plans for the theater. This item said that the house was designed by Peacock & Belongia. This was the Milwaukee firm that had designed the prototypes for the Poblocki Sign Company’s quonset hut theaters. Architect Myles Belongia designed quite a few quonset hut houses in the Midwest, but this is the first I’ve heard of any theater of his design being built in California.
More interesting still is that Google Street view shows not one but two large quonset hut buildings adjacent to the lots on the corner of California Avenue and Haley Street, the location given in Boxoffice for the Vista. One of these, at 405 S. Haley Street, is now a church called Catedral de Amor. The other, at 1414 E. California Avenue, is occupied by an Elks Lodge (or was at the time the Google camera truck went by.) Somebody in Bakersfield must have been collecting quonset huts.
I’m wondering about the original source of the information that the Vista Theatre was demolished in 1962. Although it isn’t on the corner, the Elks Lodge building looks about the right size to have been a theater, though the building may have been altered at some time (it looks as though part of the quonset structure might have been replaced by an extension rearward of the boxy front section of the building.) I’m wondering if the source of the 1962 demolition date could have been mistaken and the Vista became the Elks Lodge.
I’m also a bit puzzled by the claim that this was an African American theater. Bakersfield is now a city of close to a third of a million, and center of a vast metropolitan area with a population of over a million, and its population is still less than 10% black. But in the late 1940s it was still a fairly small city of about 35,000 with a very small African American population. I doubt if that small population could have supported so large a segregated theater, and I don’t think the neighborhood around California and Haley is predominantly black even today, so this would have been an odd location for such a theater.
The West Bend Theatre opened November 16, 1929, to be exact (or so said Movie Age of December 7 that year.) Appropriately enough for a theater that ended up selling beer, the president of Community Theatres, Inc., the original owners, was named William Pabst.
The installation of the “Swiss” marquee at the Goetz Theatre was the subject of an item in Boxoffice of September 13, 1965. The item said that the marquee being replaced had been on the theater since its opening in 1931.
Plans for the Goetz Theatre Company’s new drive-in on route 69 were being prepared by architect Myles Belongia as early as June, 1952, as reported in the issue of Boxoffice published the seventh of that month. The start of construction was long delayed, and construction itself took nearly a year. Boxoffice of June 5, 1954, reported that the Sky-Vue Drive-In had finally opened on May 28.
Boxoffice of May 27, 1950, reported that construction was progressing rapidly. The new house was a replacement for a theatre destroyed by fire the previous year. The architect for the project was Myles Belongia.
Boxoffice of May 28, 1949, said that the Atlas Theatre in Milwaukee was being remodeled, and would have a new floor, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and a new front, among other changes. The architect for the project was Myles Belongia.
The architect field at top currently misspells Belongia.
Boxoffice of May 7, 1949, provides a page about the Airway, with photos. The house opened on January 18, 1949.
Myles Belongia had been a pioneer in using quonset huts for theaters, and had designed the Middleton Theatre at Middleton, Wisconsin, the first such theater in the state. It was opened in 1946.
The Poblocki Sign Company erected a number of pre-fabricated quonset hut theaters throughout the region in the late 1940s, and advertised its services as a design-build company in Boxoffice for several years. Architect Belongia’s relationship with the Poblocki company went back at least as far as 1937. In that year he was one of the partners founding a company called Porcelain Fronts, Inc., which specialized in theater modernization. Bernard Poblocki was another of the partners, according to the item about the company in Boxoffice of September 4, 1937.
Here is an ad for Poblocki and Sons in Boxoffice of May 24, 1947. It attributes the design of its prefabricated quonset hut theaters to the firm of Peacock & Belongia. The Peacock in the firm was, of course, Urban F. Peacock. I’m not sure how long the partnership existed, but it’s only ever mentioned in Boxoffice in the year 1947.