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The Hilltop Drive-In opened on the 4th of July 1963 with a double feature of “Follow That Dream” and “Sergeants Three”. The original owner and operator was the Jeha Family who also ran the Park Theatre in El Sobrante. It was later acquired by the Syufy circuit who also ran the Rancho Drive-In in San Pablo.
The Tower opened on November 7, 1940 (by coincidence only one day after I was born!). It celebrates it’s 75th anniversary on November 7, 2015 with a special program starting at 10 AM which concludes with a screening (most likely via projected DVD) of the first movie that played at the Tower, “Too Many Girls” with Lucille Ball, Richard Carlson, Ann Miller and Desi Arnaz (according to Leonard Maltin this was when Lucy first met Desi in real life!).
From the (San Francisco) Examiner October 24, 2015
“The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a project to demolish the concrete building, constructed in 1912 as the Grauman’s Imperial Theater, and build a 90-foot-tall, eight-story building with about 90 residences and 8,500 square feet of retail space.
“An auditorium takes up about half the building’s footprint, where there is also a vacant theater and three small retail spaces along Market Street. Significant interior and exterior alterations have occurred since the structure was built, preventing the building from qualifying for the California Register of Historical Resources.”
Under the management of new owner and eight year Colfax resident Jim Dion, the Colfax reopened in December 2014, primarily as a live music venue although they have also shown some films since the re-opening.
It’s nice to see that all the hard work of previous owner, the late Gary Tomsic, was not in vain and the Colfax is now open and in good hands once again!
The Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center (formally the State Theatre) reopened in October 2014 with the planned improvements as detailed in the post above this one completed. Six year old seats formerly installed in Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre were also purchased and installed.
In February 2015 the Dewitt Theatre got a reprieve from demolition when Costco abruptly pulled out of it’s agreement to build a store on the Dewitt complex which includes the theatre. Costco’s pullout was reportedly at least in part in response to battles with proponents of keeping the theatre where it is.
I don’t believe D-150 was ever installed at the Alhambra although it possibly was planned to do so. United Artists Theatres did build a D-150 house in the Sacramento suburbs (Carmichael) named Cinema 150 (later Crestview Cinema), very similar if not identical to it’s identically named D-150 theatre in Santa Clara CA. That Carmichael theatre opened in September 1966, rarely if ever showed anything in D-150 or 70mm, and has long since been demolished.
The Alhambra did have 70mm (Norelco DP70) capability and showed a few films in the 1960’s including “My Fair Lady” in that format, but all on it’s flat screen.
The beginning of 2015 finds the future of the Magick Lantern uncertain. The previous owner has apparently removed the seats, the tiered platform that supported the seats and the projection and sound equipment and left, possibly searching for a new location as was indicated on the old website when the theatre closed.
Meanwhile a grass roots group of determined people is attempting to raise funds to buy equipment, operate as a non-profit organization and re-open the theatre (possibly under a different name) in it’s original location.
Best wishes for a great 2015 to all at Cinema Treasures, one of my absolute favorite websites! So nice to see the blog back so soon too, thanks to Janine and THS! See you all at the movies!
Great news indeed! Welcome to Janine and all at THS, an organization that got me seriously interested in movie theaters decades ago. I can see nothing but positive things for us all from this relationship!
The Uptown, the furthest east of Richmond’s Macdonald Avenue theaters and the final one to be built during World War II (or on Macdonald Avenue ever!) was opened by the San Francisco based Nasser Brothers circuit on December 15, 1944 with a pair of relatively “oldies”, “When You’re In Love” from 1937 and “Cowboy and the Blonde” from 1941. Architect O.A. Deichmann of San Francisco designed the Uptown.
With the exception of the Fox (former T &D & California, future United Artists) the Uptown became Richmond’s largest capacity theatre with 1200 seats. It was a large, spacious, comfortable theatre that featured low admission prices, second run double feature programming and great triple feature and seven cartoon Saturday matinees. It soon became a personal favorite of mine.
The Uptown closed in 1956 or early 1957. I vividly remember walking by the theatre the day after it closed (a surprise to me). They were already taking equipment out and the manager was standing there with tears in his eyes…as much as I loved movies and the Uptown, I felt like crying too!
Thanks for that info from Film Daily Joe!
The 1914 City Directory for Richmond shows several other theaters in addition to the Richmond on Macdonald Avenue. Since film exhibition was still in it’s infancy then I suspect most or all were rather small storefront/nickelodeon affairs. Those theaters are: Central Theatre 507 Macdonald Ave., Vim Theatre 509 Macdonald Ave., Jewell Theatre 1106 Macdonald Ave. and Majestic Theatre 1106 Macdonald Ave (same address as Jewell).=
I’ve also found ads in the Richmond Independent during the same era (the 19-teens) for an Isis Theatre (“formerly the Helm”) at 11th & Macdonald.
The Macdonald Theatre apparently came along after all of the above and was located at 1104 Macdonald Ave. Most of the other early theaters had closed by the 1920’s but the Macdonald seems to have kept operating through the twenties or a bit beyond. A 1927 ad in the Independent shows it the lone independent survivor, still competing with the T & D and Richmond for patrons.
11th & Macdonald seems to have been a quite active corner for movie exhibition in the early days. I’m very familiar with that corner since it was the main bus stop for the Richmond to El Sobrante bus when I was growing up in the 1950’s. It’s been a while (!) but I don’t remember anything that looked remotely like an old theatre building at that location so I guess all was demolished by then!
Great job Michael, thanks for all your hard work! Not that I don’t value every aspect of Cinema Treasures but the blog was the thing that brought me here every afternoon to catch the latest news about theaters around the country and around the world. Sometimes I’d even find news about a theatre close to home that I previously knew nothing about. Greatly looking forward to the blog’s return!
The Rancho Drive-In opened on August 3, 1950 with a double bill from Twentieth Century Fox, “The Gunfighter” and “The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend. I posted a scan of the newspaper ad for the opening on the Photos page.
I’m not sure why this photo is posted here unless it’s to show that in 1953 a Sav-Mor Drug store is now in the structure formerly occupied by the Crest and Studio. Before the Studio opened in 1942 a pre-supermarket era Safeway grocery story occupied the same space. This whole block of Macdonald is now a Kaiser Hospital and Medical Facility parking garage.
The structure that housed the State Theatre originated as the Richmond Theatre, opened by the Turner and Dahnken (T & D) circuit on March 16, 1912. West Coast Theatres purchased the T & D circuit in 1924 and Fox West Coast Theatres got their theatre chain started by purchasing West Coast in 1927.
On January 14, 1938 the Richmond was re-born as Fox West Coast’s State. The Richmond Independent reported that only the walls remained from the former structure “and even these have been reconstructed with huge steel girders as to make the theater virtually earthquake proof”. Everything inside was brand new and a new modern front, box office and marquee made the makeover complete. “Mountain Music” and “Wings Over Honolulu” was the grand opening double feature attraction.
The State closed in 1951, the second Macdonald Avenue movie theatre casualty (after the Liberty) of RIchmond’s post war downturn economy and most likely the increasing popularity of television.
Thanks Rocky, you’re absolutely right, 23rd Street it is!
The Grand Theatre opened at 23rd Street and Rheem Avenue on February 14, 1942, the first in the Robert L. Lippert theatre circuit and the first of four theaters Lippert would open in the Richmond area within the following year and a half. The Grand was the first of several new theaters opened during World War II to serve Richmond’s rapidly increasing population, much of it newly employed in the Kaiser Shipyards. The Grand cost $80,000 to build and was built and opened in an amazing 97 days.
Fox West Coast Theatres purchased the Grand from Lippert in 1944 and after a complete remodeling re-opened the Grand on August 13, 1944. It would remain a Fox West Coast house for the remaining of it’s movie showing days.
Notice on Magick Lantern’s website announces theatre is now closed but “we anticipate re-opening very soon under different and better circumstances! If you’re on our email list, we’ll keep you posted on al the details”.
Ah a big sigh of relief when I heard it was just the blog going on hiatus, even though I enjoy that too. Please keep the main site substantially as it is, absolutely the best source on the web for news, historical material and photographs on the classic and not-so-classic movie theaters we love…and occasionally hate! I would truly hate to think of all that administrator and member provided material go down the drain!
I’ve posted a couple of pictures of the current exterior condition of the old Tower, taken in October 2014, on the Photos page. A local merchant told me (so take this as hearsay) that the city would love to demolish the dilapidated theatre but the owner is a woman in San Francisco who is balking about the expense, saying she can’t afford it. The local merchant told me that she (the local) has been inside and it is in absolutely horrible condition, occupied at time by squatters, severely vandalized and with a ceiling in danger of collapsing.
Andy’s Theatre is no more, leaving Willows once again with no operating movie theater. The final operator’s Facebook page, still up in October 2014, indicates that the last movie showings were on April 29, 2012 so I guess the new owners could only hang on financially for six months. It seems doubtful this property will ever be used as a movie theatre again.
The Broadway Twin looked pretty depressing when I passed through town and took a couple of pictures (now in Photo section here) in October 2014. It’s been closed since 2012 according to a poster on Yelp. Lobby windows are soaped over, many missing letters on marquee make it impossible to see what the final message was.
I suspect the necessary switch to digital projection along with other problems associated with operating small town twin screen movie theater make it reopening for movies unlikely. Community center or other use? Maybe. Only time will tell.
In October 2014 the Weed Palace looked clean from the outside but apparently deserted inside. Wikipedia says Sylvia Massey, former proprietor of the famous Radio Star Studios closed down her operation there in 2012. A massive wildfire which devastated much of residential Weed in September 2014 reportedly narrowly missed the Weed Palace and rest of downtown Weed.
Nice to see that the State continues to flourish in 2014 with name musical acts, community events and even classic movie nights.