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Lawrence Herzog’s brief article on the Varscona Theatre (the last listing on this web page) says that it was opened on July 6, 1940, and was designed by the architectural firm of Rule, Wynn, & Rule (John Rule, Gordon Wynn, and Peter Rule) in a Streamline Modern style. The Varscona Theatre was demolished in 1987.
The 1912 remodeling project designed by architect Walter J. Saunders is mentioned in several issues of Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer. An entirely new stage house, measuring 43 x 74 feet, was built. Early reports mention the stage house and the rebuilding of the balcony in reinforced concrete, at an estimated total cost of $30,000, but the announcement of the letting of the contract, in the issue of July 13, 1912, mentions only the stage house and gives the cost as $16,800. It’s possible the balcony rebuilding was abandoned, but the seating capacity would still have increased when the original stage space was incorporated into the auditorium.
Though it gives the address of the proposed theater as 211 Wyoming Avenue, this item from The American Contractor of May 14, 1921, is probably about the State Theatre:
“Theater (M. P.): Abt. $75,000. 2 sty. 40x156. 211 Wyoming av., Scranton, Pa. Archt. Leon Lempert & Son, Cutler bldg., Rochester, N. Y. Owner Comerford Amusement Co.. M. E. Comerford, Regent Theater. Scranton. Gen. contr. let to Breig Bros., Scranton.”
According to an item in The Film Daily of May 13, 1936, the Arverne Theatre then had considerably more than 300 seats:
“Adds Arverne Theater
“Stanley E. Glauber has added the Arverne Theater, Arverne, L. I., to his circuit. House seats 1,100.”
“Stanley E. Glauber has added the Arverne Theater, Arverne, L. I., to his circuit. House seats 1,100.”
I suspect that a careless typesetter added either an extra 2 at the beginning or 0 at the end of the figure for the cost of the Arvern’s sound system.
In 1927, according to a footnote in Kyle Dawson Edwards' Corporate Fictions: Film Adaptation and Authorship in the Classical Hollywood Era, it could cost as much as $25,000 to install a Western Electric sound system in a big theater. However, the price declined rapidly, and by 1929, as noted in Aubrey Solomon’s The Fox Film Corporation, 1915-1935, Western Electric had developed a less expensive system for smaller theaters, priced from $5,500 to $7,000.
In 1930, with the economy in steep decline, it was probably possible for the operator of the Arverne to have one of those systems installed for a fraction of that price. Prices would have declined even without the depression, and with Western Electric eager to keep skilled staff employed while the company weathered what they still expected to be a brief economic storm, they were probably willing to do some pretty deep discounting.
The Arverne Pier Theatre did show movies for a while. It was mentioned in The Moving Picture World of July 5, 1913, as one of several houses in which Al Lowe had installed Kinemacolor equipment.
The modern address of the lot the Jewel Theatre was on is 1220 Pacific Avenue. The current building is occupied by Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture, by John Chase, says that the Jewel Theatre operated from 1908 to 1920 on the ground floor of a three story building that housed the Masonic Lodge on the upper floors.
A 1979 book called The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture, by John Chase, has the answer. The text of the results of a Google Books search (only a snippet view of the book itself is shown) says of the Masonic Temple Building that “[f]rom 1908 to 1920 the bottom floor housed the Jewel movie theater.” As the Grand was in operation in 1910 and 1911, if 161 Pacific was occupied by the Jewel at that time, The Grand had to have been in the building at 280 Pacific.
Edward Prince mentions in his diary that he attended the Grand on September 15, 1910, and the Jewel on September 29 the same year, and then the Grand again on January 7, 1911.
161 Pacific was the address of the Jewel Theatre, listed in the 1916 and 1918 directories. Perhaps the Jewel was originally the Grand, and the name was changed and the Grand moved to 280 Pacific. The Grand in the photo must be the one at 280 Pacific, though, as it had no second and third floors for the Masonic Temple to occupy.
The other explanation would be that the theater at 161 Pacific was never the Grand, but always the Jewel, and the author of the photo’s caption conflated the two theaters.
The text with the photo CSWalczak linked to in the first comment on this house said that the Grand Theatre was on Pacific Avenue opposite the end of Walnut Avenue, but that conflicts with the address of the Grand in the 1918 city directory, which was 280 Pacific. If the Grand was on the east side of Pacific at Walnut, it would have had an odd number and it would have been in the 100 block, like the Jewel and Princess Theatres, which were both on that block.
Even numbers were on the west side of Pacific under the old system, and 280 would have been some distance south of Lincoln Street. The Unique Theatre was at 199-205 Pacific, just south of Soquel opposite the end of Lincoln Street. I’m not sure just how far south the Grand would have been. It would depend on whether or not the 200 block ended at Cathcart Street or continued south to Elm Street.
However, as I noted in my previous comment, it’s possible that there were two houses called the Grand Theatre in Santa Cruz at different times. If that was the case, then the one in the photo, which was dated circa 1915, must have been the first, and the description of its location would then probably have been accurate.
The historic address of the Jewel Theatre was 161 Pacific Avenue. A bit farther up Pacific, at 145, was another movie house called the Princess Theatre. Both were listed in the 1916 and 1918 directories, but no longer listed in the 1921 directory. The lots that once had those numbers should appear on Sanborn maps from the period.
If this theater was called the Unique in 1905, and was the same house as Swain’s Theatre, which was listed in the 1908 Henry Guide, then it must have been called the Unique both before and after being called Swain’s.
The Cameo Theatre is first listed in the 1928 edition of the Film Daily Yearbook, but with no seating capacity given. However, the Cameo is mentioned in the Santa Cruz Evening News of December 15, 1925, which said the new house was to open that night. The Cameo boasted something called an Orthophonic Victrola, a Leatherby electric piano, and a soundproof cry room where parents could take squalling children and still watch the show. I think this is the earliest instance of a cry room I’ve yet come across.
I just checked the Santa Cruz directories again, and the Grand is not listed in the 1916 edition. In 1918 it is listed at 280 Pacific Avenue, but in 1916 that address was the address of James Morgan’s hat works. Was the Grand Theatre that Edward Prince attended in 1910 and 1911 in the same location as the one listed in the 1918 directory, or was that a different house?
Also, in the 1921 directory 280 Pacific is the office of real estate agent G. L. Watkins, so the Grand had gone again by then. I’ve checked the FDY’s from the late 1920s (1925 through 1929), as mentioned in our description of the theater, but I don’t find the Grand listed an any of them. Maybe it never reopened after closing sometime between 1918 and 1921. Only the Unique and New Santa Cruz are listed until 1928, when the Cameo makes its first appearance.
Edward E. Prince, who lived in Santa Cruz from June 21, 1910, to December 16, 1911, mentioned attending local theaters in his diary. He attended both the Unique and the Jewel Theatres on September 24, 1910, and saw the Jeffries-Johnson fight pictures at the Unique on November 5 that same year. He didn’t mention the Unique in his 1911 diary.
Edward E. Prince, who lived in Santa Cruz from June 21, 1910, to December 16, 1911, kept a diary in which he mentions attending theaters in Santa Cruz. He mentions the Jewel Theatre by name on September 24, 1910. He also saw the movies at the Unique Theatre the same day.
The diary of Edward E. Prince, who lived in Santa Cruz from June 21, 1910, to December 16, 1911, has entries mentioning the Grand Theatre. He attended the Grand on September 15, 1910, and on January 27 and October 2, 1911. He mentions missing a chance to win a prize of five dollars that was given away by the Grand on December 16, 1910, because he had to work.
The Grand Theatre was listed in the 1916 and 1918 editions of the Western Directory Company’s Santa Cruz County Directory, but was not in the 1921 edition. It apparently reopened for a while later in the 1920s, but didn’t outlive the silent movie era.
The Jewel Theatre was listed in the 1916 and 1918 editions of the Western Directory Company’s Santa Cruz County Directory, but not in the 1921 edition.
The Unique had another name before Mack Swain bought it around 1906-1907. It was called the Alisky Theatre, and was operated by Charles W. Alisky, who also had an eponymous theater in Sacramento.
The Unique Theatre was listed in the 1916, 1918 and 1921 editions of the Western Directory Company’s Santa Cruz County Directory, so the name change from Swain’s Theatre was made before 1916. This page has a photo of Pacific Avenue dated circa 1910, and shows the Unique Theatre at right.
I haven’t found either the Alisky or Swain’s Theatre listed in Julius Chan’s guides, but the 1907-1908 edition of Henry’s Official Western Theatrical Guide lists Swain’s Theatre as a 700-seat, ground floor house with a stage 20 x 41 feet. It also lists the Opera House (800 seats) and the Casino Theatre (1,500 seats.) Cahn’s guides list the Santa Cruz Opera House in 1899-1900, 1906-1907, and 1913-1914, and the Casino Theatre in 1913-1914, though with only 1,000 seats. I’ve been unable to discover what became of the Opera House and the Casino Theatre. They are not listed in the city directories.
The April, 1976, issue of Esquire had an article about the Sash Mill Cinema on pages 76-77, according to a card in the L.A. Public Library’s California Index. The magazine isn’t available online, but there must still be original copies out there somewhere.
CSWalczak: The 3D Film Archive says that the Cycloramic screen was introduced in 1949 for a revival of a big screen projection process from the 1920s called Magnascope. The page features this trade journal advertisement for B. F. Shearer featuring the Starke Cycloramic Screen. As the Rio was built in 1949, the timing was right for it to have been a Cycloramic house. B. F. Shearer was the leading theater supply company in the west for decades, and probably supplied the furnishings and equipment for the Rio.
Cyclorama is, of course, also the name of the large, white, usually concave backdrops that have been used in stage theaters since the 19th century.
The current Google street view is out of date. Construction on the Cinemark Mall St. Matthews project had not yet begun when it was made. This June, 2012 article from WDRB.com says that the theater was to replace the old Dillard’s department store building (Dillard’s had moved to a new location in the mall several years earlier.) I’ve set Street View to show the former Dillard’s, and hope that when Google updates it will show the theater.
This more recent article from WDRB has a photo of the completed theater.
I have uploaded to the photo section three photos of the Montgomery Theatre that were published in 1911.
CinemaTour probably got the address from the FDY, and I’m sure that this is one of those cases where the FDY made a mistake and never corrected it in later editions.
In Google Street View, the building at 2501-2503 Portland looks like an old frame house that had a storefront added to its corner at some point, and then later the building was partly covered with a facing of red brick. It looks way too old to have been built as late as the 1950s, and it certainly couldn’t have held a theater. The theater in the photo wasn’t on a corner, either, which is where 2501 is. The theater has houses close to both sides of it.
The clincher is this post by Charlie Porter on Rootsweb. He remembers going to the Norman Theatre in the 1940s and 1950s, and says that it was on Portland Avenue near 22nd Street. It was still being run by members of the Wentzell family at that time.
In this 1949 view from Historic Aerials, the Norman Theatre must have been in the large, oblong building on the north side of Portland a few doors down from 22nd Street. Everything on that side of the block has since been wiped out for a freeway and its ramps.
This multiplex now operates under the name Baxter Avenue Filmworks. Here is their web site. Apex Entertainment also operates the Village 8 Theatres. Louisville’s discount movie house.