Fox Pasadena Theatre

75 W. Colorado Boulevard,
Pasadena, CA 91105

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Here is a photo of the 1925 Tournament of Roses parade, with the Pasadena Theatre at right. The bottom line of the partly obscured marquee reads “VILLE” (probably the last half of VAUDEVILLE.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2011 at 6:31 am

Here is a 1927 photo showing the original facade of the Pasadena Theatre, prior to the remodeling by Clifford Balch.

mattnhormann
mattnhormann on July 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Thanks, Joe. Amazingly, the Star-News also notes that composer John Philip Sousa performed at the theater with a full orchestra.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 14, 2011 at 6:48 am

Thanks to mattnhormann for digging up that splendid photo. I always wondered what this theater looked like inside before the Balch-designed remodeling— and what it looked like as a theater, as when I first saw it, it had already been converted into the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.

mattnhormann
mattnhormann on July 13, 2011 at 11:46 pm

According to the Pasadena Star-News, Clune’s Pasadena Theatre opened in March 1911, and one of the first performances was a minstrel show put on by the Pasadena Elks Lodge, which featured actors in blackface.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 8, 2009 at 3:44 pm

This reader’s complaint to the LA Times in May 1948 sounds like what I’ve complained about in the last ten years or so:

I notice that during the past several weeks in the Pasadena area, the Fox West Coast Theatres chain has been running a plug movie for cigarettes. The movie stresses how the manufacturer uses only the very best of everything in making their product and, generally summed up, is a good waste of close to 15 minutes.

I believe that this is asking a little too much of the public. Supposedly the movie theater is a place of recreation. I don’t mind wading through a small commissary to get to the aisles, but to have to sit through 15 minutes of absolutely nothing is too much.

How many thousands of dollars Fox West Coast is getting I don’t know, but I believe that if the indulgence of the audience is expected, then Fox West Coast should lower their admission prices accordingly.

Ed Parr
Altadena

Patsy
Patsy on October 23, 2005 at 9:00 pm

Since the Fox Pasadena Theatre is listed in Pasadena I’m sure anyone posting on this theatre link is also aware of the Raymond Theatre in Pasadena. The Raymond is in it’s 11th hour so anyone who would like to show their support to save this historical theatre please come to a Final Design Review hearing on Monday, the 24th at 7 (All Saints Church, Sweetland Hall 132 N. Euclid). To learn more about the Raymond Theatre and its past/present history go to www.raymondtheatre.com

posted by Patsy on Oct 23, 2005 at 8:36pm

MichaelPage
MichaelPage on February 8, 2005 at 3:27 am

I stumbled across this site while searching for info on the old Pasadena theaters. Also, it just so happens that the other day I was driving down Colorado trying in vain to remember which trendy outlet used to be the Salvation Army! a

I live within walking distance from Old Town and the old Fox, so I’ll amble over and take a look-see.

I grew up in Pasadena (1964-1987) and recently moved back; I too am sickened by certain things.

By the way, those old houses

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 24, 2004 at 7:31 am

I just took a look at the recent aerial view of the block at Terraserver, and I can see that they have cut a new alley from Colorado Boulevard back into the block. There used to be only the one alley opening onto Colorado, right next to the theatre building. It also looks as though some of the buildings along Fair Oaks have been demolished and replaced with newer construction. I think it was part of the developer’s original plans to do this with much of the block, saving only the old fronts of the existing buildings. Many of them were small, and would have cost a fortune to retrofit for earthquake safety, and the space inside them would not have been very flexible.

I hope to get back to Pasadena some day. From what I’ve been able to piece together from web sites, the aerial photos at Terraserver, and a few first hand reports of what has been done in recent years, the changes are radical and extensive. I’d really like to take a look at it myself. I’d especially like to see the inside of the Fox, to see if there is anything at all recognizable about what remains of it.

ejaycat
ejaycat on December 23, 2004 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for your respsonse, Joe. I didn’t start exploring Old Town Pasadena until the early 1990s, when revitalization was already in full-swing. The Whittier Narrows quake totally didn’t enter my mind; I guess that quake definitely would’ve affected these old buildings. What is now a three-story office building with Laemmele Theatres and Gordon Biersch restaurant on the ground floor fronts Union Street, though the businesses themselves face what is now a plaza, on one side of which is the old Fox Theater (now the Crate & Barrel and The Gap). Part of this newer office building is “encased,” that is, the shell of an old one story brick building is used as part of this building, in fact this part houses the Il Fornaio restaurant. The office building has a thin veneer of red brick to try to blend in with the older buildings.

If you’re ever in Pasadena, you should come check out Old Town, just to see how it’s changed since your last visit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 23, 2004 at 7:34 am

EJ:

The last time I was in the neighborhood was 1986, so I don’t know anything about the changes since then, other than what I’ve been told about, or have seen at the Old Town web site. But in 1986, almost every building on the block from Fair Oaks to DeLacy and from Colorado to Union was empty, and had been for many years. The area north of Union had already been demolished to make way for the big parking garage of Parsons Engineering Company.

Most of the block had by that time been bought up by a single developer, who may be the same one who eventually did the renovations, I don’t know. But when I first began to frequent the area, about 1960, it was fairly run down but still lively. The Fox had closed only a few years before, and had become the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, which also occupied the retail store on the corner of DeLacy. There was a fire door between the theater lobby and the corner store, and that was kept open all the time. The theater was still recognizable as such, though openings had been cut in the wall between lobby and auditorium, at about window height. The balcony was still there, but the stairs were roped off. The stage and proscenium were still there, too.

The rest of the block along Colorado had a number of thrift shops, a well-known used book store called Broughton’s, which was right across the alley from the theater, a large barber college, a couple of other shops I can’t recall details of, and, on the corner of Fair Oaks, in what had once been an Owl Rexall Drug Store, there was a low-priced lunchroom which seemed to change owners and names every couple of years. The best incarnation of the place was called The Family Barbecue Pit, owned and operated by a local African-American family. It was the best barbecue place in the San Gabriel Valley. The upper floors of the buildings along the block were either offices or apartments, and most of them appeared to still be occupied, even into the early 1970s.

Going up Fair Oaks, there were more thrift shops, a barber shop, a dive bar, and on the corner of Union, an unclaimed freight outlet, crammed from floor to ceiling with old trunks, suitcases, and shipping crates of all shapes and sizes. I think there was an old hotel above one of the buildings- the one with the bar in it, I believe.

I don’t have as detailed a memory of the Union Street side of the block, but I think it was mostly small workshops and warehouses, and maybe an automobile repair garage. Few of the buildings along either side of that block of Union Street had been built for retail uses. They were mostly one story brick buildings. I don’t remember any parking lot there at all in the 1960s.

The interior of the block did have real alleys in it. I was only in the one alongside the theater and the one behind Colorado Boulevard, once, when I was helping a friend load some boxes of books he had bought at Broughton’s into his car. As I recall, it was fairly tight back there, but I think that at least one of the buildings on the Union Street side must not have gone all the way back to the alley, because I remember being able to see the side wall of the theater’s stage house unobstructed.

I don’t know exactly where the plaza and the Laemmle building are, but I know that the block was solidly built up in those days, mostly with two story buildings except on the Union Street side. The last time I saw it was, of course, before the Whittier Narrows earthquake, which I know did some serious damage to many buildings in the area, so I can easily imagine some of the old buildings along Union Street being knocked down by it. I’m sure they were all unreinforced brick, and had wooden truss roofs, and few interior walls, or none at all in some cases. That particular type of building is pretty weak in an earthquake. If they were knocked down, their brick might have been used in the new construction, helping any new buildings to blend in with the others. But I don’t know for sure.

ejaycat
ejaycat on December 21, 2004 at 6:36 pm

Hi Joe, though this is a little off-topic, I was wondering if you could describe what the immedidiate area surrounding the old Fox Theatre looked like prior to its becoming the One Colorado complex. The walkways that run through this complex are named alleys, and I’m wondering if back then, these were actual alleys that you could drive through. Plus, I’m wondering if what is now the big plaza or courtyard that makes up part of Hugus Alley was once a parking lot or something. Also, I’m wondering if the site of what is now the office building/Laemmle Theaters/Gordon Biersch was once a parking lot, or if it contained an old building.
Thanks,
EJ

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 30, 2004 at 9:35 am

More than a few pictures are lurking in .pdf files that can be found through the California Index, rather than the photo database. I just found two large files with programs from the Mason Opera House, c1903. They are full of ads for shops and restaurants of the era- few photographs of them, but lots of drawings, and bits of information that give an interesting glimpse into the way Angelenos lived then. I think the search terms that brought them up were “Opera House”, “Los Angeles”, and “Mason”.

ejaycat
ejaycat on November 28, 2004 at 2:12 pm

Ah, thanks, Joe, for the instructions. Yeah, I was gonna say that your previous link didn’t work. Very interesting pictures!

I discovered some years ago the wealth of old pictures on the Los Angeles Public Library website. I still go onto it just to search old photos. I like looking at how things have changed or haven’t changed in Los Angeles.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 28, 2004 at 1:29 am

I have found that my link to the West Coast-Langley ad above doesn’t work. (L.A. library won’t let anyone in the side door of their web site, apparently.) You have to go the the main page:
http://www.lapl.org/
hover your cursor over “Library Resources” and sellect “Regional History” from the drop-down menu. Then on the next page, click on “California Index.” That will give you a search page. In the three search boxes enter “theaters” (you MUST use the plural) “Pasadena” and “Langley.” The link to the PDF file with the ad in it should be record #2. Whew! I don’t know why some web sites choose to make direct linking impossible.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 24, 2004 at 9:49 pm

ejay:

I finally realized that the earlier picture of the Pasadena theater wasn’t on a web page, but in a .pdf file I picked up from the L.A. Library web site. It is Record #2 of 4 on this page:
http://dbase1.lapl.org/dbtw-wpd/exec/dbtwpub.dll
The file is a scan of an old advertisement for West Coast-Langley theatres, and it has four small (and rather blurry) pictures of the Raymond, the Strand, the Florence and the Pasadena, from before 1930. West Coast-Langley appears to have been an independent chain of local theaters affiliated with West Coast Theatres, the precursor of the Fox West Coast Circuit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 24, 2004 at 7:37 pm

I’ve been rooting through my browser history files and, so far, no luck. But I did find a piece published by Westways Magazine which has a nice 1940 view of Colorado Boulevard at DeLacy. Here is Google’s cache of it:
View link

ejaycat
ejaycat on November 24, 2004 at 5:33 pm

Funny you should say that, Joe, because I also thought that the first letter was an “O” and that the sign said “Olane’s.” I work in Old Pasadena. I’m currently at work as I type this, and I actually work on the 2nd floor of 35 Hugus Alley; I’m literally above the Il Fornaio restaurant, so when I look out my office window I can see the side of this old theater building.

It’d be great if you can find and post the URL with the pic of the original facade.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 24, 2004 at 4:49 pm

ejaycat:

Because the name was in cursive script rather than block lettering, I once mistook the remains of the capital “C” and the small “l” next to it for an “O”, which is what led me to the surmise that the first word of the theater’s name might be “Orange.” I only discovered that it was one of Clune’s theaters a few nights ago, when I ran across a reference to the 1930 remodeling by Cliff Balch.

I did find a photograph of the original facade, but failed to bookmark the page (rats!) so I’ll have to hunt for it again. The exterior turned out not to be Victorian, nor even particularly ornate, but a fairly simple design, probably influenced by the Chicago style of the late 19th-early 20th century.

ejaycat
ejaycat on November 24, 2004 at 3:57 pm

Ah, Clune’s! I’ve known for a while now that the old theater building has faded painted signs on one side and on the back upper part of the building, but looking at it now I realize that it does say Clune’s Pasadena Theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 21, 2004 at 7:49 am

The Fox Pasadena was originally Clune’s Pasadena. The earliest reference to this theater that I have been able to find on the Internet is from a 1912 edition of a regional magazine called The Rounder, in which there was an announcement of a play that was being presented at Clune’s Pasadena. Given the age of the theater, I would imagine that its original architectural style was probably a rather ornate late Victorian, or perhaps Art Nouveau. I’m hunting for a photograph of it.

While I have been unable to track down the name of the original architect of Clune’s, I have found that the architect for the simple, mission-style 1930 remodeling, (precipitated by the widening of Colorado Street at that time), was the ubiquitous Clifford Balch.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 31, 2004 at 7:19 am

For many years, beginning in the late 1950’s, this theater and the large retail store next door to it on the west, served as the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. That was what it was the first time I saw it, about 1960. At that time, the orchestra floor had simply been stripped of its seats, and the merchandise (mostly used furniture) was displayed there, leaning at an angle. A few years later, the back half of the orchestra floor was leveled by having a platform built over it at the level of the lobby floor, but the theater aisles remained sloped, to reach the lower part of orchestra floor. (The slope of the front half of the auditorium was slight to nonexistent, of course.) The stage and proscenium remained intact at least until the late 1960’s, which was the last time I was in the store.

This was a four aisle theater, with a large balcony. I don’t know what the original interior design was, but by the time I first saw the place it was rather plain, with white plaster walls. I suspect that it had been simplified at some time. I also don’t believe that the mission style facade was original to the building. This area was the main business district of Pasadena until the 1920’s, and Colorado Boulevard was narrow when this building was built. In the late 1920’s, the city widened the street, making it necessary to chop several feet from the front of each building. With the exception of a few small buildings whose Victorian fronts were moved back intact, every structure along several blocks of Colorado Boulevard was remodeled, most of them in the currently popular Art Deco, Mission, or Churrigueresque/Spanish Colonial styles.

I think that this theater probably had a more ornate style to begin with, and also began its life with a different name. When I first saw it, the outside of the stage house, visible from DeLacy Street and Union Street, had the peeling paint of a sign which was not entirely unreadable, but very nearly so, but I got the impression that the theater was at one time called either the Orange or the Orange Grove. If someone has access to old copies of Pasadena newspapers from the early 1920’s, (perhaps available at the Pasadena public library) they could check the advertisements for theaters at that time. I’m fairly sure that this very old building antedates the formation of the Fox theater circuit. It might even have begun life as a stage house.

Bigdom78987
Bigdom78987 on July 25, 2004 at 6:46 pm

When did this close? Where is it?

William
William on June 29, 2004 at 4:27 pm

It was still part of the Fox West Coast chain during the mid 50’s, but was no longer listed as of 1960.

ejaycat
ejaycat on June 27, 2004 at 7:41 pm

Interesting picture! I’m wondering when this building ceased to be a moviehouse. The building still exists, it’s just now all gutted inside and houses a Crate & Barrel, The Gap and a few other businesses.