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I have come across more information about this theater. Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 8/19/1938, says that Edward Goral had received the contract from the Edwards Company to remodel an existing building at 1629 E. Valley Boulevard, Rosemead, to accommodate a movie theater designed by S.Charles Lee.
That the theater was built in a pre-existing building makes it more likely that the structure itself still exists, and was merely returned to retail use after the theater closed sometime in the early 1950s. The address would be different now, due to the change in the numbering system used in Rosemead.
Charles Goral was the same contractor who added the Annex to Edwards' Alhambra Theatre (later Alhambra Twin) in 1940.
The exact address of this theater was 330 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, California, 71776.
I only saw one movie at this theater, a couple of years after the place opened. It was my first experience with a multiplex, and I was not impressed. The sound from the auditorium next door kept bleeding through the wall, the picture was grainy and a bit blurred, despite the smallness of the screen, and the sight lines were bad due to insufficient rake to the floor. The building was entirely without character, and could have as easily housed a drug store as a theater. The only thing good I can say about the place is that it was still fairly clean, and the popcorn was decent, if rather expensive.
This could be one of two theaters proposed for Downey in the mid 1920’s. If it is at the northwest corner of 2nd Street, then it is probably a theater built for a Mr. John Baker and designed by Architect and Engineer Henry Carlton Newton and Clifford A. Truesdell, Jr. The plans were announced in the Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of 5/30/1924.
SB&C of 5/15/1925 announced another theater proposed on Downey Avenue (then called Crawford Avenue), this one for a Mr. L.R. Matthews of Downey. No exact location is given for this project.
According to the magazine “Southwest Builder and Contractor” of 5/9/1924, the construction cost of the Alexander theater was $216,000. That was a considerable sum for a suburban theater in those days, even if that figure included furnishings and equipment.
A later issue of SB&C, on 9/3/1948, tells that there had been a fire at the Alex Theatre, causing an estimated $150,000 loss.
I noticed that discrepancy. I’m fairly sure that the theater was still operating in the 1960s. Also, while the street is called Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena and in the Eagle Rock district of Los Angleles, it is still called Colorado Street in the City of Glendale.
Bard’s Glendale was opened in 1925. The architect was Kenneth A. Gordon, who also designed Warner’s Egyptian Theatre in Pasadena (later called the Uptown.) The owner of the theater building, who leased it to the Bard Circuit, was M.G. Khodigian. The construction firm was J.H. Woodworth & Son, whose offices were at 200 E. Colorado Street, Pasadena.
Incidentally, although I never attended a movie here, I remember seeing the Glen Theatre listed in the L.A. Times' movie section for many years. At no time do I recall it being called the “Villa Glen.” I am wondering if some mistake has been made here. Please note the comment by user barton, above. Could it be that the names of two different theaters have been conflated?
This was the second theater in Glendale to bear this name. It opened in 1920. According the Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 2/13/1920, the architect was Alfred F. Priest. The cost of the theater was $60,000.
SWB&C issue of 6/26/1924 announced a $20,000 dollar extension at the rear of the theater, for a larger stage and the addition of dressing rooms etc to accomodate stage productions.
SWB&C issue of 7/7/1939 annouced the remodeling of the theater, by then operated by Fox, to include a concrete floor, acoustic plaster, carpets, a plastic veneer ticket booth and new poster cases. The architect for this remodel was (not surprisingly) Clifford A. Balch.
Construction of the El Monte Theatre was announced in the publication Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 2/3/1939. The theatre was being built for Arthur Sanborn, then the owner of El Monte’s Rialto Theatre (later renamed the Valley Theatre and operated by the Edwards Theatre Circuit) and the architect was Earl T. Heitschmit.
I remember seeing this theater when it was still the Iris, and still sporting the splendid neon marquee, and the simple, elegant facade which was its perfect backdrop, provided by Lee’s excellent design. I’ve never seen a picture of the theater as it originally looked, but the Lee design was so good that I’m sure I’d forgive the owners for making the change. Not so with the Fox remodel of the 1960s. The skinny, plain and yet oddly fussy bogus arches, and the bland plastic marquee, are typical of the weak designs of that decade. Very few of the theater renovations in the 1960s were in any way forgivable. There was just no energy in them.
I have heard that, in 1953, the young Carol Burnett worked the ticket booth of the Iris, after a stint as an usherette at the Warner theater up the Boulevard. I’ll bet she could tell some interesting stories about the place.
I remember the promotions they used to do at Saturday matinees. Our neighborhood theater, the Garvey, would sometimes have drawings from the ticket stubs, usually with just small prizes, but sometimes more valuable things. I never won anything myself, but my older sister actually won a bicycle in one of those drawings.
Things like that kept the theaters packed on Saturdays. Even at only ten cents a ticket for kids, the Garvey probably took in seventy or eighty dollars from ticket sales on a typical Saturday afternoon, and two or three times as much from sales of candy and popcorn and drinks, where the profit margin was much higher. They could easily afford to give away a few prizes- at least until television took away too much of their audience.
I finally realized that the earlier picture of the Pasadena theater wasn’t on a web page, but in a .pdf file I picked up from the L.A. Library web site. It is Record #2 of 4 on this page:
The file is a scan of an old advertisement for West Coast-Langley theatres, and it has four small (and rather blurry) pictures of the Raymond, the Strand, the Florence and the Pasadena, from before 1930. West Coast-Langley appears to have been an independent chain of local theaters affiliated with West Coast Theatres, the precursor of the Fox West Coast Circuit.
I’ve been rooting through my browser history files and, so far, no luck. But I did find a piece published by Westways Magazine which has a nice 1940 view of Colorado Boulevard at DeLacy. Here is Google’s cache of it:
Thanks for that interesting bit of information. I lived not to far from Montebello myself in those days, (though I only went to a movie at the Garmar once, in the early 1960s) and I always wondered where the name came from.
Did you ever attend Montebello’s other theater in the 1950s, the Vogue, on the north side of Whittier Boulevard a mile or so east of the Garmar? I was there a couple of times, and remember only that it was a tiny place, probably built in a converted retail space, and the back rows of seats were on risers so that you had to step up from the aisle to reach them. I think there was only one aisle, so it was almost like the small theaters in a modern multiplex.
The Vogue hasn’t been posted on Cinema Treasures yet, and I was thinking of doing it, but it would be better if someone who had a clearer memory of the place did it.
Because the name was in cursive script rather than block lettering, I once mistook the remains of the capital “C” and the small “l” next to it for an “O”, which is what led me to the surmise that the first word of the theater’s name might be “Orange.” I only discovered that it was one of Clune’s theaters a few nights ago, when I ran across a reference to the 1930 remodeling by Cliff Balch.
I did find a photograph of the original facade, but failed to bookmark the page (rats!) so I’ll have to hunt for it again. The exterior turned out not to be Victorian, nor even particularly ornate, but a fairly simple design, probably influenced by the Chicago style of the late 19th-early 20th century.
I remember seeing foreign films at the Clinton several times in the early 1960s. It wasn’t as tidy (or as pretentious) as the Cinema, a mile or so up Western Avenue, but had a very laid-back atmosphere, and the audiences were more bohemian. In fact, the Clinton audience always seemed to me a bit more knowledgeable that the audiences at the better-known art houses. I had some interesting conversations in the lobby. It was actually a very good place to see a movie.
Thanks. I have a few more things to say about the Alhambra when I get the time. I probbably saw two or three dozen movies there in the 1950s and 1960s.
A seating capacity of 600 seems awfully low. The main auditorium was quite large- at least 70 feet wide, maybe 80 feet, and there must have been at least 35 rows of seats. The loges were large, but the majority of the seats were standard theater size, about twenty inches wide.
The second auditorium (Annex/Single Bill/Gold Cinema) by itself must have had 200 or more seats. I never saw a movie in there, but I remember taking a look inside during the years it was dark. It was much smaller than the main theater, but still a decent size.
The only theater in Alhambra that was larger was the Garfield, built a year or two later than the Alhambra.
An article in the L.A. Times of 2/6/1887 announced the plans for the Burbank Theater, on Main Street between Fifth and Sixth.
As for the photograph, that is certainly the Burbank much as I remember it from the early 1960s, though I think this picture must be later- probably the 1970s. I used to pass by the theater frequently in those days. The simple streamiline/art deco front with big louvers shading the upstairs windows must have been put in place in the 1930s or 1940s.
The Majestic was one of the downtown theaters owned and operated by Oliver Morosco, including the Burbank on Main Street and the Morosco on Hill Street. Morosco was L.A.’s leading theatrical impressario in the era, and operated a number of theaters in other California cities as well. The Majestic was opened in either 1905 or 1906. I don’t know if it ever showed movies or not. It may have been strictly a playhouse throughout its history.
It was most remarkable, especially considering the fact that Sennett spent $100,000 dollars on the remodeling. That was enough to build three or four good-sized suburban theaters in those days.
This has led me to wonder if maybe some disaster befell the Mission. Maybe it was destroyed by a fire, as was not unusual for early 20th century theaters. I wish I had access to the old newspaper files in Los Angeles, but living in a rather isolated community, I’m limited to the few resources available online.
But if the Mission was not destroyed or severely damaged by some mishap, then the syndicate which built the Orpheum must have paid a bundle for that site.
I am also wondering if there might be a glimpse of the mission or the Victory to be had in some of the old movies shot in downtown in those years. I know that the Majestic, which I think was just across Broadway, can be seen in at least one Harold Lloyd movie. It seems a likely possibility.
I don’t recall the exact year the Alhambra Place 5 was opened, but I believe it was 1984 0r 1985. It was part of Alhambra’s Central Business District Urban Renewal Area. Three square blocks of downtown Alhambra were demolished and rebuilt over a period of a few years in the early 1980s. This modern cineplex thus lasted no more than twenty years.
Pictures of the Alhambra Place have been posted at Cinema Tour:
I found it interesting that the arch motif used in this building, and in the Atlantic Palace 10 built a few years later, appears to have been designed to echo the arch above the entrance of the old Alhambra Theatre (which occupied the site of the Atlantic Palace until destroyed by an earthquake in 1987.) The old Alhambra was built in 1924, so it lasted more than three times as long as the Alhambra Place.
My mother lived in Culver City in the 1920s, her family having arrived at the end of 1921, when she was six years old. She remembers going to the Meralta Theater, both in its original (built in 1914-1915) location on the triangle of land where the Culver Hotel was built in 1924, and the theater which then replaced it, on Culver Boulevard. She remembers the owners/operators of the Meralta, Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta, who were sisters, as stout, dark haired women of Spanish ancestry. On Saturdays, the sisters would open the theater two hours before the matinee movie began, and one of them (my mom doesn’t remember which- they were so alike that she could never tell them apart) would play the piano, and the other would lead the crowd, mostly children, in singing the popular songs of the era.
The Cinema was indeed an art house in the 1950’s-1960’s. From 1963-1965 I was a frequent patron. The theater was unique among L.A.’s art houses at the time for not having the usual snack bar. Instead, there was a small self-service rack filled with imported candy and cigarettes, and a coffee urn. The theater had been recently remodeled, and the lobby had a very stylish, sophisticated look. I think the management was trying to create the atmosphere of a European theater. Almost all the movies shown in that period were European. The Cinema was in every way the equal of the Los Feliz or the Nu-Art at that time.
The last time I went to the Cinema was in the late 1960’s, to see “Don’t Look Back.” I got the feeling that the people running the place had dropped acid. The tidy, European atmosphere was gone, and the subdued colors of lobby and ticket area had been replaced with a sloppy coat of lurid, day-glo orange paint. The place went rapidly downhill after that, and was showing x-rated movies within a couple of years.
Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 9/19/1930 says: “Class A Theater (South Gate) …Architect George Burnett…Evan Jones associate… are preparing plans for a theater building to be built on Tweedy Blvd, South Gate, for A.W. Swanson…”
The same magazine, in its issue of 11/17/1936 says that the theater at the corner of Tweedy and San Gabriel is to be altered, with plans by architect Clarence G. Smale.
Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 5/15/1925, says that architect Evan Jones, 5158 Hollywood Boulevard, had prepared plans for a 2 story, class C theater and shops to be built on North Crawford Avenue in Downey, between 3rd and 4th Streets. The owner of the theater was Mrs. Ada B. Adams, and the theater was to be leased to Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta of Culver City.
Crawford Avenue was later renamed Downey Avenue. The discrepancy in address is accounted for by the fact that Downey has used both a local street numbering system and the Los Angles County street numbering system at different times. Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta also operated the Meralta Theatre in Culver City. The names of the theatres were derived from the combination of their surnames.