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I saw my first movie there. It was huge, and right in the middle of town. Santa Maria has very little sense of history unless there is money in it. I’m surprised the Santa Maria Inn hasn’t been turned into condos.
My parents used to own a rental house right across the street from the Hi-Way. I always wanted them to move into the rental so we could live closer to the drive in. They were showing pornos there in the mid to late 70s and that might have had something to do with my parents laughing at me. It’s not like we would have been facing the screen or anything…
Actually the Elmo would be southeast of the Fremont and Obispo. Today there is a bank on that site.
Anyway, there is an article about the demise of the Obispo here: Obispo Fire
The Palm is powered by solar panels. Which is kinda neat.
I remember standing in a long line as a kid to see Airport there. It was also pretty large, about as large as the Fremont in San Luis Obispo. In the early 70s it was pretty inexpensive for kids to get in. I know I was able to have a lot of allowance left over after my Saturday morning jaunt to the Cinema.
They had a pretty eclectic selection of films there over the years. They would have film series on different themes during the summers and, of course, kiddie flicks. So many great memories of the Cinema…
Here’s a nice shot of the front of the marquee at night. View link
According to “San Luis Obispo: A history in Architecture” by Janet Penn Franks, The Elks Club moved into a larger building in November, 1912. I contained a ballroom and the Elmo theater. The theater hosted vaudeville acts before it added movies. “Resembling a turn-of-the-century opera house, the Elmo had carpeting , upholstered red-plush seats on the main floor, two-tiered box seats trimmed with gold piping in the "dress circle,” and a balcony. The stage curtain depicted a path winding its way through stylized trees and flowers to a turreted castle. In later years the Elmo ran silent movies until the 1920s when the projectionist hung a sign on the marquee that read: “Elmo now talks.”
In 1996 the newly re-united rock group Yes performed 3 nights in the Fremont. You can see the concert, and the theater, on their Keys to Ascension DVD. Not exactly the best concert film I’ve ever seen, though they played excellently. Just horribly and annoyingly edited. The concerts also spawned two 2 disc live cds as well.
On page 63 of the same book.
“Inside this 1,060 seat theater, 100 foot murals covered the walls. The ceiling held ultraviolet bulbs that created a "black light” effect on the patterned carpet, which was woven with fluorescent thread. When the house lights dimmed and the ultraviolet lights were turned on, the carpet looked like a painting on glass, drawing oohs and aahs from the delighted moviegoers."
That must have been pretty cool! The murals are still there and the ceiling looks amazing despite a little water damage in some spots. I’ll have to check out the carpet next time I go! I think it’s just kind of ordinary though.
continuing with the above…
“When the rally moved to the theater, attractive, uniformed usherettes wearing wide-legged trousers and brass-buttoned jackets showed guests to their seats. The celebrities then took the stage to welcome the crowd. The Memorial Day fundraiser brought in $778,000 in bond pledges, and all theater proceeds went to the local USO. Built in 1941, the Art Deco Streamline Moderne-style Fremont Theater was designed by theater architect Charles Lee.”
Quoting from “Images of America, San Luis Obispo: A History in Architecture” by Janet Penn Franks.
“The 1942 Memorial Day grand opening of the heralded Fremont Theater attracted Hollywood celebrities and local residents who gathered to support our troops, watch stars Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine in the preview screening of "This Above All”, and celebrate the birth of San Luis Obispo’s “theater of tomorrow.” Opening night was glamorous and exciting – San Luis Obispans crowded the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of stars like Carol Landis, Constance Bennett, John Carroll, and Charlie Ruggles. The actors and actresses arrived by bus to sell war bonds at a rally that began in from of the courthouse across the street from the Fremnt."
In the mid – late 70’s they ran, almost always, foreign films with subtitles. Mostly Indian if I recall correctly. I drove by the Meralta and the Culver on the bus every day on the way to school. They were about 2 blocks apart in the downtown area of Culver City.
I used to have friends who lived just over the fence on the right side of the Studio. They had a deck with the speaker set ups so they could watch the movies. I always envied them, but they were kind of tired of it all. They probably had more fun spying on the crowd with their binoculars.