Tumbleweed Theatre

Five Points (El Monte), CA 91732

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Tumbleweed Theatre

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The Tumbleweed Theatre was designed by architect S. Charles Lee for a client with limited capital who needed the theater for film-buying purposes. This particular client said he would accept anything, even a barn, as long as it had a projection booth.

So, Lee designed the exterior of the building to resemble a barn surrounded by a farmyard. Above the marquee stood a wooden tower topped by a windmill. The auditorium had an open-beamed ceiling with wagon-wheel light fixtures and murals of mules and cactus. The creative design was simple and inexpensive, yet captured the mood of the theater’s isolated location.

The Tumbleweed opened in 1939 and was demolished sometime before 1970.

Contributed by Grant Smith

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

kencmcintyre on August 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Any idea when Five Points became El Monte? The 1963 motion picture almanac lists the El Monte and Starlite drive-ins in El Monte, and the Five Points Drive-In in Five Points. Was there another town in CA named Five Points? I’m scratching my head.

kencmcintyre on August 27, 2007 at 7:52 pm

I see. Close to Fresno. Thanks.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2007 at 6:10 am

My comment of October 20, 2005 above contains and error of fact. Architect Clifford Balch was not the father of William Glenn Balch, but his (considerably) older brother. This is not related to the Tumbleweed Theatre, but since I have no way of editing the older comment I wanted to point out the error so as to reduce the chances of it being perpetuated.

What does have to do with the Tumbleweed Theatre is the current classification of its style as “Oriental” at the top of this page. Oriental is no more accurate than was its earlier classification as “Atmospheric”.

The Tumbleweed had an American farm-style windmill out front!

Wagon wheels were featured as part of the decoration!

The walls were decorated with cartoons of such icons of the American west as an Indian on a pony, cacti, and a burro harnessed to a Mexican carreta! Not to mention the fact that the chandeliers repeated the wagon wheel motif!

While it is true that the plant after which this theatre was named is native to the steppes of Asia (and is also known as Russian thistle), there was nothing else about this theatre that was characteristic of the east, far or near. I still say that the style of the Tumbleweed could best have been described as Rustic.

kencmcintyre on October 3, 2007 at 7:48 am

Here is a July 1952 ad from the LA Times:

Here is a 1955 ad:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

The sign giving the admission price as 30 cents dates this photo to the 1950s. Until the Federal tax on theater tickets was repealed (I can’t recall the exact year, but it was in the early-to-mid 1950s), the Tumbleweed’s sign said 25 cents. Tickets had actually cost 30 cents with the tax, and when it was repealed Edwards simply added the nickle to his admission prices.

BobHarlow on January 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

It must be 1955 since they are showing “We’re No Angeles”

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Here is a January 1955 ad from the Covina Argus Citizen:

kencmcintyre on March 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm

No real address for this one, I guess.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 27, 2010 at 12:23 am

The Tumbleweed was a couple of doors west of the address which now belongs to El Pollo Loco in the Five Points Shopping Center, which is at 11928 Garvey Avenue, El Monte, CA. The theater was probably about 11918 Garvey, which is now part of the parking lot. I’m not sure if the Zip code is actually 91732, as El Monte has at least four Zips.

Also, this particular Five Points is just a small neighborhood around an intersection, and that isn’t its official place name. The only place in California officially called Five Points is in the northern part of the state.

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