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The Esquire Theatre in the photos dates from late 1969 or early 1970. It was built for Video Independent Theatres to replace an earlier Esquire Theatre which had been destroyed by fire on March 9, 1969. The new Esquire was the subject of an article with several photos in the Modern Theatre section of Boxoffice Magazine, February 16, 1970.
Boxoffice does not state explicitly that the new theater was on the same site as the old one, but it’s strongly implied by a quote from a Video Independent executive saying that the new house had only 500 seats, compared to the old Esquire’s 1100, partly because the new house was on one floor while the old theater had had a balcony.
The new Esquire was designed by Oklahoma City architect Larry Blackledge, son of Kenneth Blackledge, president of Video Independent Theatres of Oklahoma. Larry Blackledge & Associates designed a number of other theaters for Video Independent.
The Penn Theatre is featured in the November 20, 1967, issue of Boxoffice Magazine, in an article with several photos. The Penn’s 700 seats were arranged in a continental style, with no aisles interrupting them. The Boxoffice article says that architect Larry Blackledge “…handled the project for William J. Cavaness & Associates, Oklahoma City architects.”
Larry Blackledge was the son of K.C. Blackledge, president of Video Independent Theatres. Both Cavaness and Blackledge designed other theaters independent of one another.
Over on the Monterey Theatre page, ronp posted an excerpt from a 1990 interview with James Edwards, in which Edwards says that the Monterey, and not the Cameo, was his first theater. I’ve heard both theaters mentioned as his first by various people, but I guess I’ll take Jimmy’s word for it.
The May 27, 1968, issue of Boxoffice Magazine announced that the Tacoma Mall Theatre had opened on May 16. Among the celebrities attending the opening were Rudy Vallee, Tippi Hedren, and Troy Donahue. The article was accompanied by a small photo of the exterior of the theatre.
The similarity of the Tacoma Mall Theatre to the slightly earlier (and larger) Lakewood Center Theatre, and the fact that both were built by the Forman family, owners of both Forman United Theatres and Pacific Theatres (operating the Lakewood Center,) would lead one to expect that both houses had been designed by the same architect. Indeed, the Tacoma Library photos linked in comments above do attribute the Tacoma Mall to architect George T. Nowak, who was the architect of the Lakewood project. However, the Tacoma photo is the only source I can find saying that Nowak designed this theater.
The problem is that I’ve also found a source (but again only one) attributing the house to a different architect, that being a Boxoffice Magazine item of August 5, 1968, which mentions in passing that architect Ben Meyer, designer of United Theatres' new 112th Street Drive-In at Seattle had also designed the circuit’s new Tacoma Mall Theatre.
I think the Boxoffice item might be in error, but can’t be positive, and I don’t know the Tacoma Library’s source for the claim that Nowak designed the house. I suppose it is possible that the similarity of the two theaters stems from requests by the Formans that two different architects provide pretty much the same design for the different theaters (perhaps getting Mayer to do a less costly knockoff of Nowak’s design for Lakewood.) Maybe somebody can come up with a third source that will confirm one or the other of the sources I found.
While a couple of earlier items in Boxoffice attribute the design of the Lakewood Center Theatre only to architect George T. Nowak, an illustrated, multi-page article about the house in the May 20, 1968, issue of the magazine names both Nowak (George T. Nowak & Associates) and architect Mel Glatz of Mel C. Glatz & Associates as the architects of the theater. The article also says that the decoration of the house was handled by the Heinsbergen studio.
While the Wilshire-Doheny Plaza complex in which this theater is located was designed by Maxwell Starkman & Associates (see my comment of June 29, 2008, above), the February 23, 1970, issue of Boxoffice Magazine attributes the design of the theater itself to George T. Nowak, who was also the lead architect of the original, single-screen Lakewood Center Theatre.
The River Oaks was one of many Houston theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit by the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley. Most of them are gone. It would be nice if this one could be kept going, even in its triplexed state.
The Santa Rosa was one of several post-war Houston theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit by H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley of the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley.
The Garden Oaks was one of several post-war Houston theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit by H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley of the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley.
The Fulton was one of several post-war Houston theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit by H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley of the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley.
The Broadway was one of several post-war Houston theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit by H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley of the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley. The very similar Santa Rosa was another.
The Arcadia Theatre suffered a major fire some sixty five years before the conflagration that finally destroyed it. The Arcadia was partly destroyed by fire in the early 1940s, and the auditorium was gutted, but the house was rebuilt.
The rebuilt Arcadia of 1941 was designed in the Art Moderne style by the Dallas firm Pettigrew & Worley. Partner John A. Worley published an article about the project in the June 21, 1941, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. There were numerous photos.
The Broadway opened in 1939, and was one of many theaters designed for the Interstate Circuit during that period by the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley. H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley were members of the Advisory Board of Boxoffice Magazine’s Modern Theatre Planning Institute. The Broadway was featured in an illustrated article in Boxoffice’s issue of November 11, 1939.
As the name suggests, the style of the Rustic Theatre was Rustic. In fact, it was built with logs. A photo of the house appeared in the November 11, 1939, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. Owner R.H. Goff claimed that the bark on the building’s log walls contributed to the quality of the sound in the auditorium. Boxoffice said the house had 480 seats.
I know the official website for the Lakewood attributes the design of the theater to John Eberson, but I think they are mistaken. The February 4, 1939, issue of Boxoffice has an article about the Lakewood saying that it was designed by Dallas architect H.F. Pettigrew. One of the theater’s decorations even graced the cover of that issue of the magazine’s The Modern Theatre section, and the description of it on another page also attributes the Lakewood to Pettigrew.
I doubt that Boxoffice would have gotten the name of the architect of a recently-built theater wrong in one of its major articles. John Eberson is not mentioned in connection with the Lakewood in this article or any other article I can find in Boxoffice.
As a rule, I tend to trust print sources more than web sites, and period print sources way more than web sites. In this case I’m especially inclined to believe Boxoffice rather than the theater’s web site, as this theater was built by Interstate, and Pettigrew & Worley were practically Interstate’s house architects during the 1930s and 1940s. It would have been very uncharacteristic of the circuit to hire a New York architect for this one theater when their other projects during the period were being designed by Pettigrew & Worley.
The River Oaks was designed by the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley, according to an article by Helen Kent in the April 27, 1940, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. There were photos of both the River Oaks and the Alabama Theatre, designed by the same firm and built about the same time. Both were Interstate circuit houses.
H.F. Pettigrew and John A. Worley specialized in designing theaters, and were members of the Advisory Board of Boxoffice Magazine’s Modern Theatre Planning Institute. In addition to the Alabama, other Houston theaters designed by Pettigrew & Worley include the Broadway, Fulton, Garden Oaks, and Santa Rosa. They designed theaters all over the region during this period, primarily for the Interstate circuit.
The Alabama Theatre was designed by the Dallas firm of Pettigrew & Worley. An article featuring photos of both the Alabama and the River Oaks Theatre, designed by the same firm, was published in the April 27, 1940, issue of Boxoffice Magazine.
The various Life Magazine photos linked above do not depict the El Rancho Drive-In in South San Francisco, but the Rancho Drive-In in San Diego. The April 24, 1948, issue of Boxoffice Magazine published an article about the new Rancho in San Diego, with photos. It is unmistakably the same screen tower and mural seen in the Life Magazine photos. There are also easily recognized photos of the Rancho on a web page about San Diego drive-ins published by the San Diego Weekly Reader,
I just noticed that the link I posted to the San Diego Weekly Reader web page at 8:46pm last night no longer works. I suggest a Google search on “San Diego Rancho Drive-In” (but without the quotation marks) to find it (it’s the first result.) It’s way easier than trying to use the Reader’s internal search function.
The Life Magazine photos are definitely of the Rancho Drive-In in San Diego. The screen tower and its mural are easily recognizable in both the 1948 Boxoffice Magazine photos and the photos on the San Diego Weekly Reader web page. I don’t know how the editors of Life managed to displace the theater more than five hundred miles from its actual location.
A theater doesn’t get added to the database without going through the webmasters, so if they include the picture link as an official website they must approve of the practice.
There was a Neon Theatre at Neon, Kentucky, as far back as 1925, when it was listed in the July 11 issue of The Reel Journal. Later, there was a Bentley Theatre, the town’s only movie house, which was reported to have been recently destroyed by fire in the March 11, 1944, issue of Boxoffice. The Bentley might have been the first Neon Theatre renamed.
The Bentley was apparently rebuilt, as it was mentioned in a July 2, 1949, Boxoffice item which said that its operators, the Virginia Amusement Company, were building a second theater in Neon. The Bentley would show only westerns and second run movies when the new theater opened. Judging from the look of the building in the photos above, the new theater was probably the Neon.
Apparently the Life photos are of the Rancho in San Diego. The San Diego Weekly Reader has this web page about the area’s drive-ins, and the Life photos of the Rancho are among the illustrations. There’s considerable information about the Rancho there, too.
More photos appear in the April 24, 1948, issue of Boxoffice. It’s unmistakably the San Diego Rancho that Life mistakenly places in San Francisco.
I can’t find the Rancho in San Diego listed at Cinema Treasures yet, so the location for this page could just be corrected to San Diego. The only address I can find for it is Federal Boulevard at Euclid, San Diego, 92105. That would be just about 5100 Federal. Google satellite views show that the land has all been developed for other uses, so the Rancho Drive-In has been demolished.
I don’t think this drive-in was in San Francisco. The Life Magazine photo collection is pretty loose with its locations. Once caption on a photo of a theater in Ventura places it in Los Angeles, for example.
There was an El Rancho Drive-In in South San Francisco, already listed at Cinema Treasures, but I don’t think this is the same theater. The name on the screen tower is Rancho Drive-In, not El Rancho Drive-In.
There’s a possibility that the photo depicts the Rancho Drive-In in the east bay suburb of San Pablo. This Rancho Drive-In was mentioned in Boxoffice Magazine as early as 1951. I’ve been unable to find out if the Rancho in San Pablo was operating in 1948, and I can’t find any photos of it on the Internet, so I can’t be sure that the drive-in in that photo was the one in San Pablo, but I’m 99% sure there was never a Rancho Drive-In in the city of San Francisco.
The Clear Lake was opened by the Interstate circuit on April 20, 1966, according to Boxoffice of April 26. The May 9 issue of Boxoffice that year said that the Clear Lake Theatre would have 900 seats. It was the fourth of nine new indoor theaters Interstate expected to open in 1966.
I suspect that most or all of these theaters were designed by Irving R. Klein & Associates of Houston, but the only two I’ve been able to confirm in Boxoffice are the Parkview in Pasadena, Texas, and the Northshore in Houston. A photo of the lounge of the Clear Lake accompanied an article on the Parkview in the February 20, 1967, issue of Boxoffice, with a caption saying that it was a near twin of the Parkview’s lounge area. That suggests, but does not confirm, Klein’s participation in the Clear Lake project.
Photos of the Dolphin Cinema appeared in the February 20, 1967, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. The theater was designed by architect J. Douglas Henderson.
The June 20, 1966, issue of Boxoffice names the original owners of the Dolphin as Muzzocco and Gervanni, and said that the house would reopen under Odeon management on June 23. This issue gave the seating capacity as 775, but the 1967 item said 750.