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Having been on the salvage team at the Midtown before its gutting, I can confirm that this was the exact design of the 1920s EXIT signs there. By the time we were in there, all of them but one were badly damaged, except two. One of these was obstructed by what appeared to be a gas line, and the other was unobstructed, and we removed it. Light glowed through the letters, and up onto the wall from the “bowl” of the plaster fixture.
Note that this is a different Strand, the theatre once called the Empress, and later, the St. Francis.
My friend, theatre historian Jack Tillmany, tells me that he saw “Bell, Book, and Candle” at the Regent on April 12, 1959. He still has a record book of the movies he’s seen, where, and when.
According to Jack Tillmany’s extensive, and carefully researched, listings of theatre opening dates, the Ritz opened on Sept. 7, 1949.
During demolition, during preparations to salvage the “Grauman’s Imperial Theater” stained glass window in the lobby, we went down into the under-stage basement several times, and saw the body outline on the floor, and there were dozens of bullet holes in the fire door at the opposite end of the basement room. we took photos of the room, but nothing extraordinary showed up in our images. With the noise of the Bobcats and backhoe above us, there was no real sense of creepiness, let alone terror. It would have been interesting to have been in the same space when the theatre was abandoned—before demolition began.
The theatre has been closed for several years now and does not appear well cared for. the two retail spaces flanking the entrance are in operation.
The vertical sign on this theatre was heavily influenced, in color and general design, by the late 1940s vertical of the Millbrae Theatre, Millbrae.
Thanks Ken, for this photo! I saw it from my car when it looked like this, but I had no camera with me. So glad this brief moment in the theatre’s existence was captured on film.
The photo was originally taken by San Jose journalist and photographer, Shirlie Montgomery.
I remember riding by the Sono-Marin at night with my folks, and not saying a THING as I tried to catch what was on the screen as we whizzed along.
I have been by the Avenal a couple of times in the past year, and it seems that they are no longer showing movies, just hosting occasional events for the town, such as meetings.
The top part of the tower was preserved, and mounted onto the new library building, which has been completed. I do not know if any other features of the theatre were incorporated anywhere else in the new building.
I’m actually quite impressed with this design idea. Not all neighborhood theatres can remain theatres, and this concept preserves more of the interior than most such projects.
This is truly a baffling image! Someone has digitally added Fox-Skouras style ornament to a vintage photo of the interior of the Columbia Theatre. I have never heard of a Skouras remodel being done that far East, but I suppose it’s not impossible. Montana has at least one. Question is—is this someone’s recent photographic pipe dream, or did this remodel actually happen?
Note also the remnant of terrazzo sidewalk in the entry, and to the left of the entry, more stainless steel cladding, with a window, where there was once a little pizza stand, “LUX PIZZA,” which served patrons both on the the street and entering the theatre.
I can’t help but wonder if any bits of the extensive recollections from my father of attending this theatre when he was a young boy in the 1920s—which I wrote down, and have been added to the theatres archives—have made it into the tour spiel at the Palace.
Fox West Coast Theatres renovated the theatre and reopened it in 1947. It had originally been built in the late 1930s, and was an independent operation known as the Beach.
So wonderful to see a Quonset theatre being restored! There were legions of these built after World War II. Trade magazines heralded them as a wave of the future for people wanting to establish new theatres without spending a lot of money. And indeed, for a time the Quonset theatres were a big success, nationwide. Today, there are a scant few remaining, and ever fewer in operation. In California, I only know of the Rio, in Monte Rio, that is operating as a movie theatre.
This is not the correct Strand. This photo is of the theatre that opened as the Empress, was renamed Strand, and spent most of its life as the St. Francis.
This photo is not of the theatre presently called the Strand. The photo above is of the Strand that was originally called Empress, and later, the St. Francis. At the time this theatre was the Strand, the Strand for which this page is devoted was going by another name. This confusion is quite common.
This is a mid 1980s view of the auditorium, with Joe Musil standing in the balcony. He designed the Farewell to the Fox event. Later, he would go on to design the refurbishing of the Crest in Westwood, the El Capitan in Hollywood, the Fine Arts in Los Angeles, and his final project, the Village in Coronado.
These figures were originally part of mural panels in the grand lobby. They had to be removed because of complete seismic retrofit of the lobby structure, which was housed in a former nickelodeon, built of brick.
A short paragraph from an early theatre operators' trade magazine shows the name of the theatre as Katherine, not Catherine.
Sad. In repainting the exterior, they remove all the remaining original neon, and retain the cheezy, plastic, 1970s MEXICO letters.