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I need to correct myself here. When Mr. Wesley Andrews (known to all of us a Andy) purchased the Aztec, he had a business partner named Charlie Smith. Together they formed the A & S Theatre Corporation. The only other theatre they had was a little 16mm x-rated house called the Little Art at the SE corner of 3rd and “E” streets. I can’t believe I forgot about Charlie. Well, Andy was a larger-than-life type of person (literally and figuratively) and tended to eclipse others. The omission was completely accidental.
I visited the website indicated above by Mark Krefft. They’re claiming that a million dollars has already been spent on this house. !!!??? I don’t think so. No way. Like I said, I was in the movie theatre business for 29 years; I know what a million dollar theatre looks like, believe me. This house? There’s just no way. Where did that 1.2 million dollars that was left over after the initial purchase disappear to? There’s nothing in this house; it’s an empty shell. A million dollars? No way.
The Russo’s company in later days was called Eldorado Enterprises. They were a very famous name in the San Diego movie theatre circles. They also owned the Aztec, Balboa and Casino theatres downtown. They eventually sold the Aztec to Mr. Wesley Andrews. Walnut Properties bought the Casino and purchased a lease on the Balboa. Their sister, a Mrs. Weatherby, owned the Tower theatre on West Broadway (now long gone). They also owned the Tower Bowling Alley (also on West Broadway and also long gone) which had a little tiny theatre that used a rear screen projection system. I think it was called the Guilded Cage Theatre or something along those lines; it was all so long ago. Walnut bought the projection equipment from the Campus and I was the guy who removed it. The 4000 watt Orcon lamphouses and rectifiers were taken to the Star theatre in Oceanside and were still there the last time I worked that theatre in April of 1994 but are probably long gone now. The Simplex projector heads, Simplex sound heads and Simplex heavy-duty pedestals (and boy were they heavy; solid cast iron) were moved up to a theatre that Walnut was building in Goleta called the Roxy, which may or may not still be there.
I worked for Walnut Properties at the Cabrillo and Pussycat (just Pussycat, not Pink Pussycat) theatres from 1972 to 1974. I went to work for Mr. Wesley Andrews at the Aztec from 1974 to 1978. In the summer of 1978 I went back to work for Walnut Properties as their chief projectionist for the San Diego district (and later for the whole state) and held that position until 1989 which is when Walnut quit running most of their theatres. In 1989 I went to work for Mr. Terry Wiggins, who leased several of Walnut’s theatres including the Aztec, Casino and Bijou (listed at this website as the Roxy), as his chief projectionist. I held that position until April of 1994 which is when Terry went out of business.
While the lengthly article above is interesting there are some corrections that need to be made.
Paragraph 2: “Up in Smoke” ran several times, but hardly what one would call endlessly.
Paragraph 3: Prints could not just be casually changed from one theatre to another. Express permission had to be granted by the booker. The first booker for Walnut was a Mr. Ben Ohre (spelling?). After he died the firm of Jannopoulis-McCallum took over the job. No movie could ever be shown or moved withour their permission.
Paragraph 4: None of Walnut’s downtown projection booths really had any nooks and/or crannies; for the most part, they were too small.
Paragraph 6: While Walnuts early projection equipment was indeed Simplex, we changed over to Century in the late 70s and early 80s.
Paragraphs 8&9: As noted above, prints could not be moved without the express permission of the booker(s).
Paragraph 10: None of Walnut’s houses ran cult-type films. The Strand in Ocean Beach ran “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for many years but was owned at that time by Great Western. The only time I remember running “Phantom of the Paradise” was when it was a relatively new movie at the Cabrillo. Mr. Miranda didn’t like running cult movies as the “cultists” were too hard on the theatre and our houses didn’t need any more wear and tear than they already had.
Paragrahp 11 The Cabrillo and Aztec used to run as what were then called “Grind Houses”. The admission was cheap, we ran 3 features and changed twice a week. We used to open at 9:30A and close at 5:30A and the janitors had 4 hours to clean up and then we were back on screen. The Cabrillo dropped that type of operation during the late late 70s and the Aztec dropped it in the early 80s. We also changed the hours of operation in that we began opening at 12:00P instead of 9:30A and closed at 5:00A instead of 5:30A. The Pussycat always opened at 12P and also changed their exit time from 5:30A to 5:00A.
Paragraph 14: If the Aztec shut down at 4:00A to throw out an unruly customer then there was only one hour of business time left and the management would most likely have just gone ahead and closed down for the night. Mr. Miranda and Mr. Tate did not like over time. As time went by, we started closing the theatres at midnight and the “grind house” hours were forever gone.
Paragraph 16: I did my smoking on the roof of the Casino. There was a little window in the projection booth that opened directly onto the roof. The smoke dissipated much faster and the cops were happier.
Paragraph 17: The Aztec never ran “Pink Flamingos” or “Polyester”. Those movies ran at Landmark’s Guild theatre on 5th Avenue up in Hillcrtest.
Paragraph 19: The Russo family and their Eldorado Enterprises ran the Balboa until Mr. Tate purchased a lease from them in the mid 70s. The Russos also owned the Aztec, the Casino and the Campus Drive-In. Fox Theatres went out of business in the very late 60s or the very early 70s. The Russos/Eldorado Enterpirses ran the above mentioned theatres for many years. Their manager was a Mr. Sorenson. Aslo, the waterfalls in the Balboa were strictly ornamental and had nothing at all to do with the air conditioning.
Paragraph 20: As mentioned above, the Pussycat on 4th Avenue was never called the “Pink” Pussycat; just the Pussycat. A very early manager was Mr. Greg Vasic of the “F” Street bookstore corporation. He later became the longest lasting of Walnut’s district managers. He quit in the very late 70s or the very early 80s to concentrate on his own business which later made him a very rich man.
Paragreaph 21: When Mr. Wesley Andrews bought the Aztec in 1973, the Russos completely emptied the basement out. All of those one-sheets (which is what they’re called, not posters) started collecting on January 23, 1974 which is when Mr. Andrews reopened the Aztec. Others were added to the pile when the Cabrillo and Pussycat were torn down and also when Mr. Tate brought down a huge truck load from the Los Angeles area theatres after Walnut bought the Aztec from Mr. Andrews. As far as I know, the Aztec basement was never used a lunch area for the employees as it was just too filthy. The last person to operate the Aztec was Terry Wiggins and all those one-sheets were still there when we walked out for the last time in April of 1994.
To ken mc: The theatre you saw on the East side of Ocean Blvd. was probably “The Movie”. It was an x-rated house and was also owned by Walnut Properties. The State Theatre I remember very well indeed. It can also be seen in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”. It was a beautiful old Fox house. The last movie I watched there was “The Boyfriend” starring Twiggy (anyone remember her?).
The Palace was owned, in its' last days, by Walnut Properties (who employed me for many years) and managed by a very wonderful lady named Ada Johnson. It was quite a place to say the least. The grind houses pretty much disappeared with the advent of video tape.
I was in the movie theatre business for twenty-nine years. I looked in the doors of this theatre and I’m pretty sure that nowhere near $1.6 million worth of work has been done in, on or to this theatre.
I was by this theatre just this past Monday (26JUN06). It still isn’t open. I wonder what happened to all the money?
The Loma was a beautiful, beautiful house. I enjoyed many movies here over the decades. There are so many beautiful houses that are gone now. For that matter, San Diego is gone too. The San Diego that I grew up in and knew and loved was an inexpensive, laid-back, easy-going town. The San Diego that exists now is an expensive, stress-filled monstrosity which has been invaded and sacked by hordes of rootless barbarians from the outside. I’m surprised they haven’t managed to destroy the weather. Weep for the real San Diego, those of you who remember it.
I watched many movies at the old Loma. A beautiful house.
Hello again Brooklyn Jim
I’m not in San Diego any longer. I left in December of 2000. The city was taken over by outsiders and is no longer the San Diego I knew and loved. The old Fox Theatre is now Copely Symphony Hall. I always found that a very strange choice because the Fox, as a movie theatre, was notorious for bad acoustics; it cost a lot of money to straighten that out too. They should have used the Balboa for a symphony hall as the acoustics there are perfect. I think Landmark’s Hillcrest Theatre(s) is on University Avenue somewhere between 5th and 10th. I used to do work for Landmark at the old Guild Theatre on 5th and did some work for them at the Park (now closed; formerly the Capri and, before that, the Egyptian). Go to this link to see some old San Diego houses: View link
P. S. to Brooklyn Jim
I just found a picture of the Roxy in Pacific Beach at the San Diego Historical Society website. Here is the link:
I hope you can get to it.
I wish I could help you there, but I can’t. Sorry. I left San Diego in 2000 and am now completely out of touch. I haven’t heard the Roxy in Pacific Beach mentioned, except for here, in decades and didn’t even remember that it was in Pacific Beach. In 1972 I was a rookie projectionist at the old Cabrillo Theatre which used to be at Horton Plaza (the real Horton Plaza) on Plaza Street (which no longer exists) and we cross plugged for the Roxy (not important, just a little ‘70s San Diego trivia).
Dear Broklyn Jim
You have the wrong theatre. This theatre was in 5th Avenue in downtown, just a couple doors South of “G” Street. The Roxy you’re remembering was in one of the beach towns but I can’t remember if it was Mission or Pacific Beach.
Thank you Joe Vogel.
Oops, I meant 2000, not 200.
I retired from the movie theatre industry in December of 200. Someone please help me out of my ignorance and tell me what “2Twenty” means.
By the way Steve, what you did was not a dog-and-pony show. It was very important. You obviously won the battle and I’m very glad you did.
Thank you for those kind words Steve. The Balboa will always have a very special place in my heart.
There was another Electric Theatre in San Francisco on Market Street. I don’t know if it’s still there or not. The last time I saw it was in the 1980s.
Also, just for the record, Edwards had an excellent engineering department which took a back seat to no one.
I spent almost thirty years in the movie theatre business as a projectionist and a technician. Edwards was the last outfit I worked for and I was with them for five years. I too miss the old days of the title drapes. When I was a trainee in November of 1972, a white screen was something that was never to be seen. I was always trained that a screen should be covered with either a drape or a picture. My how things did change!! I would like to say that, in my opinion, Edwards built the very best of the multi-screen cinemas.
My Aunt and Uncle lived in Berkely. I saw “Five Easy Pieces” in this house in 1970 just before I graduated from high school.
I maintained the projection and sound equipment in this theatre beginning in the early ‘80s when it was purchased by Walnut Properties (along with the Crest, Star and Towne). The projection booth was very tiny and the only access to it was up a straight iron ladder. It was a little hard to get up that ladder with a heavy tool case. There was a dry cleaning plant next door and the booth always reeked of dry cleaning fluid.