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As the painter who did the accent painting around these ladies, it was my pleasure to revivify them for the public’s enjoyment.
Having heard Jack Tillmany’s stories of the Lorenzo under his tenure from the source, it is clear that Jack actually made a lot more money than he supposedly lost by not admitting kids under 16 without a parent. At the time he took the operation of the place over from UATC, it was a haven for wild teens and younger kids. Adults, by and large, had ceased going there. It had become, essentially, a babysitting facility. The doors had been removed from the bathroom stalls to keep kids from smoking in them. Once Jack started his policy, he put the doors back on the stalls, gave the place a thorough cleaning, and, since he had good dealings with distributors, got films with huge appeal—revivals, and titles that were more recent, but were favorites with proven track records. He would advertise as having Exclusive Bay Area Showings, and, indeed—it being the era before video, he did a fantastic business. People literally came from all over the Bay Area to the Lorenzo, because they knew they would experience good presentation in a clean, comfortable, and well-behaved atmosphere. NOTE: The photo of the vertical sign tower and marquee I posted is scanned from a slide I took in Summer, 1984, when the theatre sat closed.
Actually, one of the two original auditorium buildings made it into the early 1990s as a single screen. It was then twinned, with FXC Communications—a company run by (the late) John Bondi—a former Fox West Coast executive—doing the work and equipping the venue. Ever the showman, John insisted that both new screens be equipped with plush, red waterfall curtains.
As originally designed and opened in 1920, the Growers National Bank space was the tallest part of the development, in the center, with identical storefront wings on either side. The bank portion would eventually become the Campbell Theatre, but the ORCHARD CITY THEATRE was located, in 1920, in the left-hand wing of the complex, two doors down from the bank. Accompaniment to the silent movies was at first done with piano, either live or rolls, but in 1924, a Wurlitzer organ was installed. Today, the storefront wings survive, along with the bank/Campbell/Gaslighter Theatre portion. The left wing which once housed the Orchard City Theatre still sports its original white glazed brick facade, but the right wing wears a coat of smooth stucco, applied long ago. the one photo I have of the Orchard City (from the Jack Tillmany Collection) shows no marquee, just an indented ticket lobby, with poster cases and an octagonal box office.
Before its remodeling, this was the UA Pruneyard, a triplex, with large auditoriums which had open beam ceilings.
While the Fox Peninsula may be gone, the little Egyptian Revival fraternal lodge hall in the foreground on the right still stands.
An earlier post talked about a 1930s renovation of this theatre according to a design by F. Frederic Amades, and then listed other theatres he worked on. I would like to add that he also designed the Parkside Theatre (Fox Parkside) at 19th and Taraval.
Correction: Pacific Restaurant, not fish market.
Excellent tinted postcard of the rear auditorium wall, which has otherwise never been shown in a publication, to my knowledge.
We attended “The Amazing Spiderman 2” last weekend. This theatre is a dazzler! T
hey did it right. There is a seamless blend between old style and new presentation. No—the auditorium murals were not reproduced, which is disappointing, but there are authentically replicated old style Art Deco fixtures and features galore which would be at home in any movie palace of 1930. There is a waterfall curtain, comfortable seats, beautiful carpet, small, but beautifully-appointed restrooms, LED cove lighting…and even the theatre’s old Ten-O-Win wheel, which is displayed over the staircase landing. The staircase railing is a beautiful Deco custom design.
We saw “The Amazing Spiderman 2” last weekend there, and yes, this little theatre is a dazzler. They did it right! And…they even have a waterfall curtain! Not only that, but the theatre’s old Ten-O-Win wheel is on display over the staircase landing.
We stopped by the theatre this evening. It is about to reopen. All the neon, LED lighting, and interior were lit up. The effect is stunning. I strongly recommend that all who are nearby do so. We are looking forward to patronizing this theatre.
The Park has been completely demolished. I went to the demolition sale. A friend of mine and I bought all four of the metal sign fixtures which one held etched glass signs for the restrooms and the doors leading to the auditorium. Our plans are to restore these sign housings and I will create new etched glass, and these will be reused in another historic theatre we have in mind. Another friend of mine bought a pair of freestanding display frames which were stored in an alcove off to the side of the auditorium. This same friend tried to buy a pair of the original entry doors, but the sellers would not budge on price.
The familiar neon STRAND letters from the marquee are being refurbished at an offsite location, but will be back for an encore at the theatre.
Interesting to see that Gale Santocono did the work on the theatre’s remodel in the 50s. He also did the decorative work in the Seavue Theatre, Pacifica, and the Varsity, in Davis. Early in his career, he did muralwork for the San Francisco Fox.
Last year, I got a quick tour from the lady who owns the running gear store and cafe which operate in the former theatre. There is very little to see, theatrically, in the former auditorium, which is almost totally given over to retail area. Some textured stucco walls and simple pilasters clearly date to the movie era, as do several cast plaster bowl-shaped light fixtures. Backstage, there has been very little change over the years. The wooden stage surface is still there, and for the most part, the walls have never been repainted. The proscenium is walled-off from the rest of the building. The owner told me that the neon letters on the marquee are still operational.
Terry—The neon, so far as I can tell, is blue and white. I know nothing of how the auditorium interior will look, decoratively, but the lobby has a streamlined, cove-lit ceiling, and the staircase up to the second level has a nice, streamlined curve to it, with a corresponding railing. And the terrazzo pavement design in the entrance is first-rate.
Joe—Thanks so much for that glimpse into the Grand’s history.
I just heard from a friend who heard on Santa Cruz radio station KSCO that last night a driver crashed into the entrance of the Rio, taking out the ticket booth and plowing into the front doors. He then got out of the car and killed himself. More on this if I hear about it.
I recently was shown a photo of the Centre when it was new, and originally it had a two-sided readerboard which hung out over the sidewalk. Above it was a neon vertical sign, in the shape of an arrow pointing downward and toward the building. This whole assembly was mounted on the ribbed concrete “fin” on the Left edge of the facade, visible in the above color photo I took in 1982.
The facade of the Metro is essentially finished. It, and the marquee and vertical are repainted in two shades of taupe, and all the neon is back in place. Construction still continues inside. The 1920s ticket lobby ceiling in the entrance has either been preserved or carefully replicated. Through the new entry doors, one can see that the central one-third of the stenciled lobby ceiling has been faithfully replicated.
I would have to respectfully disagree with the above comment that “no significant preservation took place,” as preserving the vertical neon sign and incorporating elements from the old marquee onto the new are indeed significant. Also, the streamlined walls which house the poster cases have been exactly duplicated to match the configuration from the 1940s. But I will agree that what is on the site is essentially a brand new theatre, not a restored one.
Actually, Terry, if you look at the rendering, you can see that the existing marquee is off to the right, at the far end of the old office tower. It’s hard to see in the image because it’s seen from the back. The modern pavilion on the rendering is at the opposite end of the building from the old marquee and entrance.
Thank you, Ross. I have not run across such flamings in a very long time, but I applaud all efforts to keep this a place for civil information exchange. Thanks to Ken for keeping a vigilant eye, also.