Tumbleweed Theatre

11928 Garvey Avenue,
El Monte, CA 91732

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 19, 2015 at 8:47 am

The location of the Tumbleweed Theatre should to be changed to El Monte, California. Although local residents called the small section of El Monte in which the theater was located Five Points, so named for the intersection of Valley Boulevard, Garvey Avenue, and Cogswell Road, the only place in California that was ever officially called Five Points was, and is, in Fresno County.

The approximate address of the Tumbleweed Theatre was 11928 Garvey Avenue. A free-standing El Pollo Loco restaurant has been built at that address (Bing Maps bird’s-eye view) in the parking lot of the Five Points Shopping Center, and it is almost exactly where the theater was in this 1939 photo.

kencmcintyre on May 5, 2009 at 2:08 am

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

BobHarlow on January 22, 2009 at 1:00 am

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

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 22, 2009 at 12:46 am

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 Until the Federal tax on theater tickets was repealed (I can’t recall the exact year, but it was in the early-to-mid 1950s), the Tumbleweed’s sign said 25 cents. Tickets had actually cost 30 cents with the tax, and when it was repealed Edwards simply added the nickle to his admission prices.

kencmcintyre on October 3, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Here is a July 1952 ad from the LA Times:

Here is a 1955 ad:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2007 at 2:10 pm

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 December 3, 2005 at 4:33 am

It looks like an airplane hangar.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 14, 2005 at 10:56 am

Though the style of the Tumbleweed is designated above as “Atmospheric,” it was not a true atmospheric theatre. The ceiling did not depict a sky, but was a structure of open trusses and exposed rafters, as can be seen in this photo from the S.C. Lee collection at UCLA. The style of the theatre, both inside and out, could be more accurately described as Rustic.

kencmcintyre on October 20, 2005 at 9:52 pm

My mistake. Apologies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2005 at 10:32 am

ken mc: What you have there is an aerial view of the El Monte Drive-In on Lower Azusa Road. The Cinema Treasures entry on the El Monte Drive-In mistakenly attributes the design to William Glenn Balch. W.G. Balch and his father, Clifford Balch did design the Starlite Drive-In in South El Monte, but both the Tumbleweed and the El Monte Drive-In were designed by S. Charles Lee.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 20, 2005 at 6:57 am

Great photo Ken mc, but the Tumbleweed Theatre was not a Drive-In.

CHILAOGAL on October 12, 2004 at 1:32 am

I also remember the theater. My dad and his twin brother both worked as ushers there. Some nights they would leave the back door unlocked and their friends would come in and all of them would spend the night sleeping on the floor. Including my mom who wasn’t my mom until later. I remember going to it as a small kid. I have a great picture of it if anyone is interested.

dongumaer on October 11, 2004 at 2:58 am

Several years ago, Mr. James Edwards told me the story behind the Tumbleweed Theater. It was the first theater he ever had built. When he approached a contractor to build him a theater with $2000, the contractor told him that for $2000 he could only build him a barn. Mr. Edwards had the barn built, added a screen, seats and projectors and made it into a theater. How’s that for ingenuity?

JamesHoback on October 14, 2003 at 7:03 pm

What happened to the beautiful photo that used to be on this site?

JamesHoback on January 9, 2002 at 3:00 am

Theater had a “crying booth” which I had to set in with my mother one time to see Bambi because no other seats were available. There was a train ride next to the theater. Does anyone have information on this train ride, or perhaps a photo?