Showing 151 - 175 of 272 comments
Patsy—The theatre opened without a blade sign and remained so until 1929 when that monstrous ugly 4-story contraption was added to the facade.
Since this posting site is for the search for a new manager at the GST, we should carry this or any theatre history conversation on the Cinema Treasures page for the Monterey State Theatre (which I cannot get to right now because the Cinema Treasures theatre locator page is overloaded—again.)
The Wurlitzer pipe organ mentioned above is privately owned (by me)
and is not the property of the theatre. The instrument has been used from time to time for various theatre events.
It is a carpet/linoleum store now. Alisal Street was originally Alisal Road.
Alisal Street still converts to Alisal Road when it gets out into the country side. When the Alisal Fox was built, Salinas and Alisal were two seperate entities—one incorporated, the other not. Old timers still speak of East Salinas as “The Alisal”.
It is entirely likely that, when the Alisal Fox opened, it WAS on Alisal Road.
If you know where to look, you can still see bits of the polished terrazzo stone in the sidewalk that was once the entrance to the Alisal Fox.
We gained access into the building about 1995 or so and climbed all about the upper reaches of the former theatre. The streamlined neon lit coving is still above the drop ceiling complete with the neon Franceformers still in place. Remains of an old restroom was also seen at about the cross-over level.
The interior was absolutely spectacular for a 1940s era theatre. Highly stylized art deco plaster lions guarded the proscenium. It is a shame this theatre was lost. It was a spectauclar Skouras style theatre. Up until the late 1960s, a large “skate” tower stood above the entrance to the Alisal Fox. That was demolished when the interior was converted to retail use. Some time later, an addition was made to the building beyond the stage area that just about doubled the size of the building.
Actually, none of the facade is original. The building facade now looks more like a theatre than when it was a theatre. Along the north wall, next to the Kinko’s Copy Store, windows have been cut into the second floor level concrete. The former Vogue building stands between John and Winham streets on Main Street.
It was described above as “simple streamline”. That was being very kind. It was easily the least memorable of the downtown theatres. I was last in the Vogue, in 1973 and remember it well…I remember the theatre far better than whatever film we were watching!
The theatre did not become Cinema 7 until about 1975 or so. It was always a single screen. The theatre was owned by RTC Theatres of Hayward who also (at the time) owned all the other downtown Salinas theatres and still own the Fox.
It is too late. That poor theatre “got it” back in the late 1950s when the stagehouse was chopped off and the interior covered over with blase' 1950s plaster. The best one could hope for is for the wonderfully preserved facade to remain as part of a new building.
I have found out that the Symphony Theatre Kimball pipe organ was removed in the 1950s and essentially broken up for parts. For several years the console sat backstage at the Hinsdale Theatre with an electronic organ built into the Kimball console’s shell.
From the information I got tonight, the console is possibly/probably in storage in Indiana Harbor.
Yes, I have seen that photo of the facade.
I’ll send some e-mails out to some folks who might know what became of the organ. Even though the pipework complement was not huge, Kimball 4 manual consoles like that do not grow on trees. In fact out of all the Kimball theatre organs built, they only produced (6) “horseshoe” 4 manual consoles and (1) 5 manual (for the NYC Roxy Theatre.)
As I recall, the Symphony Theatre had the smallest 4 manual W.W. Kimball pipe organ built. It was 10 ranks. The console is pictured in Vol. I of the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ by the late David L. Junchen.
Too bad Mr. Jones did not test some Kool Aid additives later that evening. So much for off-topic.
No it is not. The Fox Theatre Visalia, or just Theatre Visalia and the 1930 Fox Theatre are two entirely different structures. The Theatre Visalia was taken over by FOX in the late 1920s.
The theatre was a converted armory and the poor old thing looked like it. Fox wanted a bigger and better building in Visalia and built the “new” Fox, the present Fox in circa 1930. When the new theatre opened, the old Theatre Visalia was demolished. Its site is still a parking lot.
This entry should really only say “Theatre Visalia” NOT Fox Theatre Visalia as there was the present Fox and a much later Visalia Theatre. This entry here is for the Theatre Visalia.
The organ is superb. It bears little tonal resemblence to its Fox days. The obvious reason for this is the size difference/accoustic environment of the two theatres—FOX 4700 seats vs. the El Cap at around 1500.
The crew taking care of the organ at the El Cap. did a wonderful job of bringing the organ’s voices together for a fine Wurlitzer ensemble.
If in the area, the El Cap and the organ are a MUST SEE-MUST HEAR. The organ will be presented in a short concert for people attending the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society (LATOS) “Wurlitzer Weekend” early Saturday morning January 14, 2006 with organist Jelani Eddington at the console.
A small Wurlitzer pipe organ was once installed in the Bryn Mawr Theatre. The organ was reposessed by the Wurlitzer factory. Parts of this organ are in the Catholic Cathedral Wurlitzer pipe organ in Monterey, CA. The air regulator for the Bryn Mawr organ (Wurlitzer opus 616 style 109) has been in the Cathedral organ since its installation in 1936. In traditional Wurlitzer blue grease pencil the regulator reads “Bryn Mawr”.
The famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre opened in 1927 with a 3 manual
17 rank Wurlitzer organ. The organ was shipped from North Tonawanda, NY on 12/20/1926 and is known as Opus 1541. The organ chambers are above the auditorium, just in front of the stagehouse. The style 260-special organ with a “small” set of 32' Diaphone pipes installed backstage, the organ was removed from the Chinese Theatre in the early 1950s.
The organ was removed and seriously modified and reinstalled in St. Finbar’s R.C. Church in Burbank. In the early 1980s, the organ was either completely removed or again modified. The original Chinese Theatre Wurlitzer console is now playing the superb 20-rank Wurlitzer in the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto, CA.
The late theatre organist George Wright (who actually recorded some never-released recordings of the Chinese Wurlitzer) described the organ as having a very pleasing, but distant sound.
The elaborate cieling organ screen is dozens of feet from the actual chamber openings. The organ sound was transported via a large, smooth surface “tone chute”.
Like Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre (across and down Hollywood Blvd. from the Chinese), the Chinese Wurlitzer console was not on a lift
but sat in a fixed position in the orchestra pit. (The Egyptian Theatre Wurlitzer was the same Wurlitzer style 260 as the Chinese Wurlitzer but was installed in 1922.)
I suspect “Nabimbaphone” is fancy hype for a regular Marimba. (Or perhaps the marquee letter kid did not know how to spell?)
Once in a while, the very early Wurlitzer organs (1917 San Francisco California/State Theatre) would have a ventil-controlled repeating action “Marimbaphone” in addition to the regular single stroke/strike Marimba/Harp.
BTW, the St. Francis Theatre had an early 1917 3/17 Robert Morton organ. The last I heard, this organ was in storage in the Sacramento area. A photo of the St. Francis Morton console is in Vol. II of the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ by the late David L. Junchen.
Regarding the comment above by Adam Blankenship, the SF California?State Wurlitzer is NOT installed in the Fox Theatre Visalia. Only the 4 manual console from the SF Cal/State is in Visalia.
The remainder of this large, historic instrument was broken up for parts. Ron Downer of SF has some dramatic photos of the stage house walls coming down with the 32' Diaphones coming down as rubble as well. Between Ron Downer, Dick Villemin, and Ed Stout, most of the rest of the organ was removed and saved, but used as parts—not a complete instrument.
Dick Villemin restored the Cal/State console for his sister Ruth’s home Wurlitzer which she had in her home in Malbu. The rest of the organ was from the Palace Grande Theatre in LA via the Elmo Theatre in San Luis Obispo.
Mrs. Villemin-Dresser is to be commended for donating this wonderful organ to the Fox Theatre in Visalia. Shame on the Fox Visalia for NOT presenting this organ more often OR allowing better access to the playing of the instrument!
The building that formerly housed the Selma Theatre still stands, but has been massively remodeled into retail. The actual address of 1963 High Street no longer exists. The nearest numbers are 1967 and
1961 High Street. If you look at the rear of the theatre building, the stage loading door looks to still be in-place and now is used for the stores.
Ed Stout was more than correct about the “open toe” voicing of the organ. This was an average size organ trying to fill a large theatre with sound.
This organ has since been removed from the Fox-California Theatre in Salinas and is to now be installed in the 1922 Eberson Indiana Theatre in Terre Haute, Indiana. This will replace the similar, but much earlier Wurlitzer style 235 that once lived in the Indiana.
The organ will be installed by the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society.
The Loew’s Pitkin organ was a junior version of the larger Robert Morton organs found in Loew’s Jersey, Paradise, 175th Street, Valencia, and Kings. These “Wonder Mortons” were all 4 manual 23 rank jobs with large scales and heavy pressures.
The Loew’s Pitkin Morton was 3 manuals and 14 ranks. I have no idea what became of the organ, but I suspect it was broken up for parts.
A similar Morton organ was installed in Loew’s Fairmont.
As a point of fact, the organs mentioned above exist as follows:
Loew’s Jersey Jersey City, moved and reinstalled in The Arlington Theatre Santa Barbara, CA
Loews' Valencia: Organ spent many years in a private home and is now slated to be installed in the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, CA
Loew’s 175th Street: Intact but unplayable, as far as I know.
Loew’s Kings: Broken up for parts. Organ was to have been installed in Town Hall NYC by ATOS, but, some mess took place and the organ broke up. Loew’s Kings console is in a private home in Wheaton, IL. Console now plays the Morton organ from Loew’s Fairmont.
Loew’s Paradise: Organ is to be reinstalled into Loew’s Jersey, Jersey City.
The 3 manual l0 rank style H Wurlitzer organ (1927: opus 1745)from this theatre was moved to Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, CA where it is played each Sunday. The organ was increased in size to around 20+ ranks by Blackinton Organ Company of San Diego.
I was just in King City yesterday to tune a pipe organ in a local church. The facade of the Reel Joy and its marquee are intact and doing well. The building is still used as an ethnic grocery store.
The Liberty Theatre originally contained a 3 manual 18 rank Robert Morton pipe organ. Since the Robert Morton Company began building piep organs in 1917, this organ must have been one of their earliest instruments.
Photos of the unusual console are published in the various Claude “Pop” Laval books on historic Fresno. The console sat on a lift in the orchestra pit. The console had two full stoprails and large, shorter, partial rails on the right and left bottom under the main stoprails. This is very unusual to find in three manual 17 rank instruments. The bottom manual of the console also contained two rows of stop combination pistons. I know of only one other theatre organ where there were two rows of pistons on such a manual—the 1929 6 manual Barton that was once in the Chicago Stadium.
Photos in the various “Pop” Laval books show the Liberty console in both the “up” position and down at the bottom of the orchestra pit. The theatre was massively remodeled in the late 1940s at which time the fly loft was cut off the top of the stage house.
Unlike later Robert Morton organs (and theatre organs in general), the stopkeys on the Liberty organ were all ivory colored and not in the later usual ivory, red, amber, brown, and black colors found on later Mortons such as Warnors Theatre in Fresno.
The organ had a huge traps and effects dept. used to accompany the silent films. The late Richard S. Villemin of Porterville removed the Liberty organ just before the theatre was massively remodeled in the late 1940s. There were pipe chambers at either side of the stage at stage level. The original organs screens have largely been covered over with later plaster. However, from behind, the original screens can still be clearly seen. The various sound effects mentioned earlier, were scattered about back stage, unenclosed. According to Richard Villemin, there were such unique effects as typewriter, tower chimes, owl hoots, thunder and so on.
Richard told me he stored the remains of the organ (the console was long-gone by the time he removed the rest of the organ) were stored in a barn in Strathmore, CA. I never did learn if this material was still stored there or not. Mr. Villemin passed away in October 1987, so it is now impossible to know what became of the remains of the Fresno Liberty Robert Morton pipe organ.
Under the stage, the major windlines to the organ from the organ blower space were still intact in the early 1980s. The painted-on, black paint-framed silent picture sheet was still in-place on the rear wall of the stage. The Liberty has what has to be one of the steepest balconies ever in the Fresno area. It was understood that the uppermost part of the balcony was not used onve movies came in full-time as the picture sheet could not be seen from the upper balcony. The projection room was on the main floor.
The $12,000.00 pipe organ mentioned above was a northwest-built William Woods organ of 2 manuals and 8 ranks of pipes. Billy Woods pipe organs were found only in northwest area installations.
This is simple. Come down to Monterey and see the Golden State Theatre there. www.goldenstatetheatre.com The GST is as close a twin to the Fairfax as you can get.
The Fairfax opened about 5 months earlier than the GST but the theatre auditoriums are remarkably similar. There are plenty of people around such as Gary Parks (who also contributes to the this list), myself, and others who know the work of the Reid Brothers quite well by now and would be ready and able to help.
Indeed, Mike. I have never seen any numbers to back this up, but I would suspect there were far more photoplayer style instruments than there were theatre organs. The theatre organ suffered badly enough, but, there are still a remarkable few of them still around and many of them going BACK into theatres were they belong. However, the photoplayer instrument was highly disposable when their use was no longer needed and out they went. I came across the piano portion of a Wurlitzer style YO photoplayer in a church in Porterville, California. The instrument had been in the Crystal Theatre in P-ville and was well-remembered by locals for the great music the instrument’s roll player produced on the tiny piano/organ. The pipe and percussion swell boxes were long gone, but the huge upright piano was pumping out church music in one of the Sunday school classrooms. What a waste.