State Theatre

104 E. Ocean Boulevard,
Long Beach, CA 90802

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Andrew: I believe the State opened as a two-a-day vaudeville house, and as such would not have needed an organ. Two-a-day houses all had fairly large orchestras. The State was operated by Loew’s for its first two years and was advertised as Loew’s State Theatre.

It’s possible that the Smith organ was installed not in the auditorium but in the lobby, to entertain patrons waiting for the show to begin. More than a few big theaters had lobby organs. The State might have had another organ installed in the auditorium at a later date, after movies became its primary fare.

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on October 1, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Update (after I’ve checked out the wonderful Los Angeles Movie Palaces webpage on the theatre on Google):

The above-cited entry in Mr. Junchen’s book, citing a 2/4 organ installed at this theatre MUST be incorrect, as to either the theatre name, city name, or size of the organ, since there was apparently only ONE State Theatre in Long Beach (right?!?), and it was 1,800 seats, MUCH too large for a four rank organ!!!

If this entry is really true and really referring to this particular State Theatre (and not a smaller one elsewhere in Long Beach), the organ’s sound would have been lost somewhere between the front and back of the building, with only the front rows of seats hearing the organ (if it was installed near the screen), or only the back rows of seats hearing it (if it was installed near the projection booth, which was quite rare for theatre pipe organs, but not unheard of).

I love small theatre organs (3- through 7-rank), but believe that they sound their very best in a small, resonant house, not a large, cavernous one!

Thoughts?

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on April 24, 2014 at 8:05 pm

According to David L. Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 628, The State Theatre in Long Beach had a two-manual, four rank Smith organ installed at some point. Mr. Junchen’s incomplete opus list for this firm offers no further details on the instrument, not even a date.

Does anybody know more about this organ, and where it is today?

BillCounter
BillCounter on April 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm

The site Card Cow has several nice vintage postcards featuring the State Theatre building:

From the beach:
View link

A closer view looking north on Pine:
View link

Looking east along Ocean Dr. — West Coast Theatre in the distance on the left:
View link

Looking east — closer view – 1936 postmark:
View link

From the water — 1932 Memorial Auditorium on the right:
View link

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on September 2, 2010 at 6:26 pm

In Joe Vogals post of 1-18-05 he aked about a photo Christain had posted that looked like the rooftop sign said Loews State, I noticed that too,never saw a reply,was this theatre known as Loews State at one time?

trooperboots
trooperboots on December 18, 2009 at 6:26 pm

The ornamental tile work along the top of the Jergins Trust building are still in storage by the city of Long Beach. They are at a storage facility on San Francisco Street. Here are photos of the relics here…
View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

This is the beach side of the State in 1940, from the LAPL. Most if not all photos show the street side, which admittedly was where the theater entrance was:
http://jpg1.lapl.org/00077/00077455.jpg

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on February 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

My dear friend JOSEPH MUSIL has an amazing collection of 35mm slides, especially of ALL the Long Beach theaters.

If you wish to see them screened in the beautiful surroundings of his fabulous Strand Theatre in his SALON OF THE THEATRES in Santa Ana, Ca., I suggest you call him: 714-667-6959 for an appointment.

Interestingly, Mr. Musil headed the restoration of Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and was manager of the Fox Theatre, Long Beach… Please remember there will be an admission fee. The password is “Simon” and the show will be most memorable!!!

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm

You can see the State’s marquee in the 1974 film “Gone in 60 Seconds”:
http://tinyurl.com/2rsm6a

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 11, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Here is the location today. The condo complex has been advertised for the past year, but no construction to speak of as yet:
http://tinyurl.com/ypzzx5

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 7, 2007 at 9:48 am

Here is a 1934 photo. Stock car races were being held at Mines Field, which later became LAX:
http://tinyurl.com/2cmwab

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm

There is apparently some interest in reopening the tunnel once the current construction is completed. As I understand, the tunnel is structurally sound, just a little musty after being sealed off for several years. I don’t think there would be any stores, it would just be a pedestrian walkway underneath Ocean to the east side of the street. My source was someone who works in the Breakers building on the intersection of Pine and Ocean.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 31, 2007 at 12:07 am

Try the USC archives. Many Long Beach photos. Most are not here as there is no theater in the picture.

Here is a 1943 ad from the Long Beach Press-Telegram:
http://tinyurl.com/2c82bb

LaneCurtis
LaneCurtis on August 30, 2007 at 9:37 pm

I Remember going to all the old theaters when I was stationed in Long Beach from ‘68-'72. I went back there for the first time since a couple of years ago. I stood on the corner of Ocean and Long Beach Blvd dumbfounded. The only thing I recognized was, the Arena and the Breakers Hotel. I miss the old downtown Long Beach. Does anyone have any pics of Ocean Blvd from that era. Especially the North side. Thanks

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 12, 2007 at 1:35 am

The first photo is from V-J Day in August 1945. The other photos are of the arcade underneath Ocean and are undated:
http://tinyurl.com/2kof54
http://tinyurl.com/35exoo
http://tinyurl.com/2mvdbn
http://tinyurl.com/2k9snk
http://tinyurl.com/3cysbf

William
William on July 23, 2007 at 4:46 pm

In ken mc’s picture from Jul 7, 2007. You can seen the sizes of the buildings for the United Artists Theatre and the West Coast Theatre and the Imperial Theatre next door to the West Coast.

Neurosturgeon
Neurosturgeon on July 23, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Ken –

Thanks for the great picture. I can remember going to the State only twice. Once with my mother to see “When Comedy Was King” and again in the late sixties to see a double bill of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “That Touch of Mink,” both in re-release with some friends.

My mother was very protective and didn’t like me going to theatres down on Ocean Blvd. She was happier if I went to the Crest or the Towne, because there were fewer sailors around.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 7, 2007 at 6:35 pm

I wish I could have seen it in its heyday.

trooperboots
trooperboots on July 5, 2007 at 6:49 am

Thanks for the beautiful memory of the State Theater, Ken. Very nice of you to post this!

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on June 26, 2007 at 8:33 pm

This 5/30/85 story in the LA Times states (no pun intended) that the State will be torn down in July 1985 and will be replaced by a luxury hotel. It’s still a big hole in the ground. Condos are supposed to be built there but nothing has gotten started:

By fate so fortunate he still blesses his Irish luck, 69-year-old Harold Fahey grew up a stage brat in the main theater of a young city brimming with oil and ambition.

His haunt was the State Theater, a major-league vaudeville and movie house his father opened within the new Jergins Trust Building on Ocean Boulevard in 1920.

During a 15-year period, ending in 1935, Hal Fahey spent every possible hour behind the State’s large stage, hanging out in the “green room,” where performers gathered before a show.

As a 12-year-old, he danced the Charleston with Babe Ruth and dreamed of being a ventriloquist at the knee of Edgar Bergen.

At age 17, he watched as fallen heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, devoid of theatrical talent, brought overflow crowds to their feet with his simple presence. And, also as a teen-ager, he secretly fell in love with a fresh-faced starlet named Ginger Rogers.

“I had seen a lot of actors and actresses by that time,” said Fahey, “but I liked her because she was such a sweet person, like a schoolgirl. We took her to the Pacific Coast Club one Friday night and really knocked the natives dead.”

In recent weeks, Fahey, a retired designer of bank buildings, has returned to the old theater several times, touring it and the 10-story Jergins Building with an architect’s eye toward restoration. The Jergins, with one of the city’s best locations at Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue, is scheduled to be razed in July and replaced by a luxury hotel.

“I am very sentimental about this theater,” said Fahey last week from inside the old State.

He was dapper in a cream-colored suit and florid tie, but the theater was a mess. The stage had been hacked in half and curtains were torn. Gone were the theater’s 1,800 seats, its bronze chandeliers and brocaded draperies. The angels with harps that had graced its ceiling dome were covered with gray paint. So few lights worked that it was difficult to see even the destruction that remained.

“I was against it being torn down,” said Fahey. “but now I realize that architecturally and in an engineering sense, it is not feasible to make it a safe and modern structure.”

That comment will not make him popular with local cultural preservation groups, of which he is a member, Fahey said. Preservationists have worked for more than a year to find a buyer to restore the Jergins but have been unsuccessful. Current owners have estimated that restoration would cost between $15 million and $20 million and that, in the end, the building would lose money.

Standing or not, the State Theater will continue to evoke the best of Fahey’s memories, he said. They are captured in old photos of home run kings, singing cowboys and movie stars. More than once, a small circus with lions, tigers and clowns was featured on its stage.

From the Orpheum in New York and the Pantages in Hollywood, the stars came to perform at the State by the hundreds.

Babe Ruth even slept in the Faheys' large First Street home while doing a week of appearances at the theater in the winter of 1927, the year he hit 60 home runs. “Every morning when I got up, he’d be there,” recalled Fahey, still slightly in awe. “I was going to an academy, and before they’d come to pick me up, we’d have breakfast together. He ate a ton. He was rotund and we had to bring in a heavier chair for him.”

Fahey’s father, William, who “made a million dollars” off the State and a few million more from investments in other theaters and movie productions, talked baseball with Ruth. And one evening young Hal danced for the slugger on stage.

“They’d have a simulated baseball stadium as a backdrop and Babe Ruth would be on stage in his uniform and with a bat. He’d just point laughingly and select 10 to 15 youngsters from the audience, and he’d ask them, `What do you do best?‘ ”

Some would sing. A little boy, with Ruth as his pitcher, walloped a ball, hitting the drummer in the theater’s 15-person orchestra. And Fahey, chosen by prearrangement with the stage manager, did a 10-minute Charleston. His father was furious, Fahey recalled with a smile, explaining that the old man had tried unsuccessfully to keep him out of the performers' way.

Ruth, who was paid $5,000 for his week of 45-minute shows, was “a womanizer and a liver-upper, but we never knew it,” said Fahey. “His driver would have him home by 10 o'clock.”

`Extremely Wholesome'

Of all who appeared, Ginger Rogers, promoting her earliest films, probably drew the largest crowd, Fahey said. “I can tell you exactly what she looked like without makeup. It’s as if she’s standing right here. She was freckle-faced and had pretty, bright eyes. She had red hair, though not naturally. She was sweet and clean and jolly, extremely wholesome. I was impressed.”

But Hal’s favorite was Bergen. “He came maybe eight times over 10 years. One time in the green room, he let me hold Charlie McCarthy on my lap and tried to teach me to be a ventriloquist. He loved children.”

But by 1935, motion pictures had raised stars' wages beyond the means of the senior Fahey, and the State’s six-act, 75-cent afternoons of vaudeville and movies were becoming a thing of the past.

The State eventually became a theater for movies only. Fahey, hooked by the entertainment business, worked with his father until the old man sold his theaters in 1950. Films were shown at the State by its various owners until it was closed in 1977.

Now, Fahey lives on Ocean Boulevard, near the house of his birth and a short bike ride from the family’s First Street home.

“I still ride by and think about it all,” he said. “There are so many memories.”

davidLBC
davidLBC on November 9, 2006 at 3:04 pm

Sorry, the picture with the waves is on the page for the Strand theater: /theaters/5074/
http://tinyurl.com/madt5