Rancho Theatre

534 Bear Mountain Road,
Arvin, CA 93203

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BearMountain
BearMountain on October 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

My family moved to the Arvin area in mid-1948. I remember going to an old theater and seeing “Frankenstein”. The new theater, the Rancho (I don’t remember “El Rancho” being the name) opened shortly thereafter in 1949 or early 1950. It was a palace to us! My sisters and I went often. I think, but am not positive, that the old theater converted to showing Spanish language movies after the Rancho opened. I think that one of the shops in the street front stores was a toy store. They had a large fire ladder truck in the window which I wanted very badly.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 21, 2008 at 2:01 am

OK, Boxoffice does it again. Their November 12, 1949, issue carries another article about this theater, on the occasion of its opening. Jim Banducci is still the owner, but the architect is now William Glenn Balch rather than his brother, Clifford. Seating capacity is given as 874,and the name of the house is simply Rancho Theatre. The article also says that Banducci was the owner of the Arvin Theatre in Arvin.

Here it gets odder. I checked the California Index and found that Clifford Balch designed the Arvin Theatre, according to Southwest Builder & Contractor of April 23, 1937. Then, the July 21, 1939 issue of SwB&C says that the Arvin Theatre had been destroyed by fire. Then, on August 11 that year, SwB&C published what the California Index card refers to as “plans for the Arvin Theatre, Arvin.” Apparently they re-hired the guy who had designed the place that went up in flames.

So, the architect of the Rancho (or El Rancho) Theatre was either William Glenn or Clifford Balch, and it opened in 1949. And the Arvin Theatre, apparently desgned twice by Clifford Balch, is missing from the CT database.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 21, 2008 at 1:32 am

I think the name of this house must have been called the El Rancho. Here’s a blog post by a guy who grew up in the area and used to go to the theater in the 1950s. He calls it the El Rancho.

It’s possible that Clifford Balch designed this theater. Boxoffice Magazine of November 27, 1948, has an item saying that Clifford Balch was preparing plans for a theater in Arvin, for James Banducci. The item mentions a theater called the Arvin already existing. (One comment on the blog post above is from a user who says he has a photo of the Arvin Theatre in 1937.) Without more information, I can’t be sure the El Rancho was a new house built about 1949, or just the Arvin Theatre renamed.