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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.
The Rodgers Theatre is presently in the process of renovation for the purpose of being turned into a community center. Assistance is apparently being provided by the City of Corning, the Corning Community Center and lots of volunteers.
Passing through Dunsmuir in October 2014 I was pleased to see the California has had some renovations (apparently more still in progress) and is showing classic movies (looks like public domain titles, presumably on DVD) on weekends with more extensive multi-media use to come. They also have a website and a Facebook page. I posted some new pictures on the Photos page here, great to see those old movie titles up on the marquee! Good luck to those folks who are bringing back to life this lovely old theatre in this lovely small town!
I got that image from one of the image search engines (Google and BIng are my usuals) but I don’t see it on either now. I probably was searching for “Richmond movie theater”“, "downtown Richmond CA” or “Macdonald Avenue Richmond CA”. The other photo doesn’t ring a bell at all with me. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.
The curtain definitely added to the movie theater experience in the old days. I loved the way it closed at the end of the shorts program (news, cartoon, trailers, etc.) and then opened again at the beginning of the main feature and closed again at the end, perfectly timed thanks to an added curtain cue at the bottom right side of screen. A nice bit of showmanship that helped in a small way to make going to the movies a special experience.
Proper curtain opening and closing seems to be mostly a lost art in the few theaters that still have curtains. Projectionists in the old days were trained never to let the audience see the white screen. You dimmed the lights, started the projector, opened the dowser and then opened the curtains on the first images to hit them. Some theatre owners and projectionists preferred opening after the studio logo faded out. Same thing when the movie ended, curtain closing timed to end with final fade out, again no white screen visible to your audience!
Nowadays common practice seems to be open curtains all the way and then start the show on the naked screen. Same thing when the movie ends, curtains close after the final fadeout (although now with the amazing amount of credits nobody is usually left in auditorium to even notice!) The only theater in the San Francisco Bay Area where I see it done the old way (and I think the right way) consistently is at David Packard’s great Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto.
Showmanship in theaters has been generally been dead for decades though and there is no reason to believe it will return. That totally annoying 20 minute pre-show commercial marathon masquerading as entertainment was the final nail in the coffin I think.
This familiar looking by now Century/Cinemark big box multiplex is Richmond’s one and only mainstream movie theatre in 2014, not an impressive statistic for a city of 100,000+ people. Reviews on Yelp (3 out of 5 stars) indicate that it’s had more than its share of the same problems that plagued the now long closed Hilltop Mall theaters nearby, mainly rowdy and inconsiderate patrons. A local told me to avoid Friday and Saturday nights for sure.
Recent news stories indicate that after about a year and a half of operation this cozy little cinema is struggling. That’s too bad because it’s the only place in the area to see non mainstream product. Classic films (DVD I suspect) are featured on Thursdays (with free admission!) and newer independent and foreign product Friday through Sundays.
The Magic Lantern’s website is http://themagicklantern.com
The Pablo had it’s grand opening on July 2, 1943. Popular Republic cowboy star Wild Bill Elliott appeared at the opening in person as well on the screen in “King of Dodge City”. The Pablo was the fifth and final Robert L. Lippert theatre opening in the Richmond area in the previous year and a half. Prior Lippert openings in the area were the Grand, Studio, Times and V (formerly the Point in Point Richmond).
The Pablo changed hands at least twice, in 1949 and 1952. I believe it closed not too long after the final change of ownership in 1952. I vaguely remember reading an article in the Richmond Independent about that time regarding the final owners, a couple from Oregon as I recall, who felt they had been deceived by the previous owners regarding the condition of the theatre and it’s revenue potential. I believe they sued to recover damages.
The San Pablo Auto Movies opened on July 29, 1953 with a dual projector 3-D presentation of Paramount’s “Sangaree” with “Roar of the Crowd” (in flat 2-D) as the second feature.
This was a very nice drive in with nice facilities and a big wide CinemaScope screen, easily the best in the Richmond-San Pablo-El Cerrito area when it opened.
Regarding the SF Embarcadero they apparently now do have a counter to buy a ticket from a live person. It’s just to the just to the right of the bar as I recall. I’m not sure if it’s been there since re-opening after the remodel or not as I was just there for the first time recently.
I had mixed impressions of the remodeled theatre. The deluxe recliners with power footrests in the smaller “screening rooms” are very nice as are the leather seats & spacious leg room in the other auditoriums. What I didn’t like was there was not only no screen curtains (admittedly not unusual nowadays!) but no screen masking either. In one of the auditoriums there was blank screen space on all four sides of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio film! That’s unacceptable for a premium ticket prices and reserved seats policy I think.
I’m also NOT a proponent of reserved seats in movie theaters and I doubt I’ll be back unless there is something playing there that I really want to see and it’s not playing anywhere else. Frankly I liked the old Embarcadero with unreserved seating much better.
Here is a paraphrased summary of news about the Colfax Theatre as reported in several articles from the Colfax Record dated between January 2013 through January 2014.
“The Colfax Theatre stopped showing movies in August 2008 and with rare exceptions was dark until the end of December 2012. It was still owned during this time by Wendell Jacob who had purchased, renovated and operated the theatre starting in 1986. Jacob later gifted the Colfax to his granddaughter, Emma Mae Jacob, on her 13th birthday. with a provision that she could take over the business when she turned 18. Declining business caused the cessation of mainstream film showings in 2008.
On December 31, 2012 Jacob sold the theatre to Gary Tomsic, a former TV cameraman and film producer with 40 years experience in his field. Tomsic’s plans for the Colfax included a mix of independent films and live performances as well as expanded concessions. He spent most of the year 2013 doing renovations and preparing for the grand re-opening.
Ironically on December 31, 2013, a year to the day after taking over ownership of the Colfax, 64 year old Mr. Tomsic was found unresponsive and pronounced dead in his Colfax residence. Police reported there was no evidence of foul play."
The theatre’s website in reporting Mr. Tomsic’s death currently states “Details about the future of the Colfax Theater will be posted here soon.”
Only time will tell if the community and/or another entrepreneur will step in to fulfill Mr. Tomsic’s vision or come up with another viable plan for re-lighting the Colfax. A realtor’s sign was posted on the front of the vacant structure when I passed through town and stopped to take a few pictures yesterday (March 14, 2014).