Washington Theatre

845 E. Washington Boulevard,
Pasadena, CA 91104

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Showing 1 - 25 of 51 comments

DavidZornig on August 25, 2016 at 7:10 pm

1940 photo added courtesy of William Haupt III‎.

AndrewBarrett on April 24, 2014 at 10:27 pm

“The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by David L. Junchen, page 628, lists a “Pasadena Theatre” in Pasadena, California, as having a three manual Smith theatre pipe organ.

No other details, such as # of ranks or installation date, are given.

I could not find a “Pasadena Theatre” listed on this site right now (April 2014) but the “Pasadena Photoplay Theatre” (listed on its own page) has a fairly close name. However, according to Lost Memory, this “Pasadena Photoplay Theatre” apparently had only about 350 seats, and most three-manual theatre organs had at least ten ranks.

The largest known Smith organs were both 4 manuals and 16 ranks, so that this organ in question was probably between 10 and 14 ranks, or so.

That is quite large for a little 350-seat theatre, since most theatres of this size either had a photoplayer (such as those made by American Photo Player Co, or Wurlitzer) or simply a person playing the piano, or, if an organ, nothing larger than about six or seven ranks (and thus, two manuals). Thus, I think it is unlikely that the “Pasadena Photoplay Theatre” is the same theatre mentioned in the book.

Does anybody know more about this instrument, or a larger “Pasadena Theatre?” in Pasadena?


NOTE: I think that the Washington Theatre is about the right size to have had such an organ, so is a possible candidate for the actual place of installation of this organ, and I’m putting this here for the time being until proven otherwise.

marion142 on August 16, 2013 at 12:56 am

Chuck1231, If this had been listed as Cinema 21 I wouldn’t have looked at it and would have wondered why the Washington Theater wasn’t listed. My friends and I used to like that theater because admittance was half the price of the fancier theaters. We saw a lot of movies there that we would not have otherwise been able to see.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on August 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

kencmcintyre on April 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm

This one is still listed as renovating? Last item was a year ago.

Timetraveler on April 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Please see here for an update on the Washington Theatre and be sure to see the comments which also have quotes from recent and archival articles about the theater’s redevelopment.

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 9, 2010 at 6:33 pm

The claim in the opening paragraph of the Pasadena Star-News item quoted by DB above that the Washington was “…the Southland’s first multi-use project….” is odd considering that multi-use buildings were commonplace in cities everywhere (including Southern California) long before 1924 and only became rare after priggish zoning laws began restricting them (which was not long after the Washington was built.)

Even more disturbing is the later revelation that the writer got this odd misconception from the director of Pasadena Heritage. One would expect the head of an organization devoted to historic preservation to have more knowledge of urban history.

Kids these days! And get off my lawn! </cranky old guy rant>

bkazmer on March 19, 2010 at 4:43 am

Here is one from 1924
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drb on January 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm


[quote]Preservationist try to restore old Washington Theater by seeking historic designation

By Janette Williams, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/16/2010 08:53:49 PM PST

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In a move to save the deteriorating Washington Theater-built in 1924 as the Southland’s first multi=use project (stores, offices, housing and the theater)-preservationist groups are applying to have the theater put on the local landmark list. (SGVN/Staff photo by Walt Mancini)

PASADENA – It was 1925, movies were silent, flickers were the latest entertainment sensation, and the Washington Theater opened its doors at Lake Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

It was never one of the lavish movie palaces that came later on, but it has its own historic distinction. The elegant Spanish Colonial Revival building designed by Altadena architect Clarence Jay is recognized as the first mixed-use structure of its kind in Pasadena, and possibly the Southland, according to Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage.

“There were four different uses in one building,” she said. “It had retail stores along the front, a 900-seat theater, offices – probably theater offices – above the shops and then housing in the back.”

But for the past 20 years or so, the empty, deteriorating and often-vandalized building’s fate had caused concern among preservationists.

Now, Pasadena Heritage and the Pasadena Neighborhood Coalition are banking that their nomination of the property for listing as a city historic landmark will help promote its long-term survival.

It has been declared eligible by city staff, and the City Council is expected to consider its listing next month, said Vicrim Chima of Pasadena’s planning department.

The property is tied in with the city’s earliest commercial history, Mossman said, and its place in a prominent corner of an emerging shopping and retail center in the 1920s is enough to support its historic designation.

But since its heyday, the property has had a “checkered history,” Mossman said.

In the 1960s the Washington Theater became Cinema 21, then closed in 1990 and never reopened as a theater. It was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Attempts in the early 1990s to run it as music rehearsal studios foundered when tenants complained of the noise, said Gina Zamparelli, who had managed the establishment at one time.

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Washington Theater entrance, with a painting mural of a Mayan theme at its door entrance. (SGVN/Staff photo by Walt Mancini)

Reusing old theaters is a tough proposition, said Zamparelli, a theater consultant whose efforts to preserve the Raymond Theatre in Old Pasadena failed.

“It’s not as easy to make money in theaters as it used to be, but it could be used for performing arts, film location shoots, conferences,” she said. “You have to vie for many uses – anything you can potentially get going, do it.”

Zamparelli said she met with owners Gagik “Gary” and Jacqueline Buickians of San Marino a few years ago, after they acquired the property from Norman Fuhrman, who bought it in 1980. She said the couple had talked then about making it a movie theater again.

Jacqueline Buickians did not respond to several requests for comment on possible designation, or any plans for the property.

One previous attempt about two years ago to have the Washington designated a local historic monument – which covers interiors and exteriors – fell through when the Buickians decided not to go ahead, said Dale Trader, who made the nomination. Historic landmark designation covers only the exterior.

Trader, a member of the preservationist Pasadena Neighborhood Coalition, said the Washington Theater property could be important in positioning its Lake-Washington Village neighborhood as an arts and culture district.

Plans could include live-work and retail space for artists and artisans, affordable housing, and art galleries to bring 24-hour life and activity to the area, he said.

The theater, he said, could become a “niche” movie venue on the lines of the Silent Movie House, a regional draw that could show “noir” or classic movies and host film festivals or other arts events.

“Some people are skeptical. They don’t think old theaters can work,” he said, citing the recent closure of South Pasadena’s historic Rialto. “But it all depends of the programmer…and if they show something audiences want to see on the big screen in the company of other movie-goers.”

Mossman said preservationists hope to convince the owners that tax benefits and possible access to redevelopment area funds, plus the more flexible exterior-only designation, makes listing good business sense.

“They have faced many challenges, including most recently the economy,” she said. “But bringing the theater back on line would be a great boost to the whole area.”

626-578-6300, ext. 4482[/quote]

kencmcintyre on December 12, 2009 at 7:59 pm

From the LA Times on 5/16/66:

PASADENA-A disturbance involving more than 70 juveniles at a movie theater resulted in the closing of the theater Sunday evening. Police were called to the Washington Theater, 845 E. Washington Street, after the manager informed them that the juveniles were turning over cigaret machines, dumping ash trays and had started a fire in a wastebasket in the men’s room. There were no arrests.

kencmcintyre on April 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm

There is a 1983 photo on this site:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm

From the July 31, 1937 issue of Boxoffice Magazine: “A thirty-day shutdown has been ordered for the Washington Theatre, Pasadena. Crown City Theatres, operating the house, has planned a $20,000 improvement budget, which will include a new floor, marquee, seats, and other items.”

That was a considerable sum for 1937.

Montero113 on July 22, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Washington Theatre (latest on the Pasadena City website)

841 East Washington Boulevard
(Northwest Pasadena Plan Area, North Lake Redevelopment Plan Area,

North Lake Specific Plan Area)

Adaptive reuse of an historic cinema building into a mixed-use development consisting of retrofitting the building, rehabilitation of the residential and commercial spaces along with providing subterranean and surface parking.


Gary & Jackie Buickians


Gary & Jackie Buickians


J Lou Architects

Project Approvals

None to date


The developer is reviewing the Owner Participation Loan Agreement (OPLA)

Case Manager

Lola Osborne

Last Updated 03/20/2008

kencmcintyre on May 29, 2008 at 11:36 am

Was Cinema 21 the last incarnation? If so, it should be listed as such.

kencmcintyre on April 28, 2008 at 9:10 pm

When I was out front, an intoxicated man kept walking back and forth yelling on his cell phone. This was before lunch time. He was telling some girl that he didn’t need to give her a dollar for bus fare as he had plenty of other girlfriends with cars. I assume that’s not indicative of the neighborhood as a whole.

Urania8 on April 28, 2008 at 9:05 pm

If you want to complain to the city about the current condition of the theater here is the link:

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I certainly wish the owners the best but I live in this neighborhood. If it is to be left in it’s current condition than I just assume tear it down. If the owners wish to work with the community I suggest they put in some good faith work. Personally I am frustrated and have no other outlet.

kencmcintyre on April 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm

I stopped by the theater today. From the outside, it looks pretty dismal. I will post some photos later.

Urania8 on April 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm

My husband and I are huge fans of seeing movies in theaters but I have SERIOUS concerns about this project. If the above comments are true about the water damage and mold and considering it’s current state of disrepair then I think it’s fate should be STRONGLY reconsidered. It looks like it’s been abandoned. Damage has gone unrepaired and is now decorated with graffiti. It’s a drag on a neighborhood so courageously fought for. I know we would all love to save these places because of cherished memories. But the place does not equal the memories themselves. It barely resembles the charming pictures of yesteryear. If this wants any support from me there needs to be some good faith action by the current owners by cleaning up the place first.

ejhdigdug on April 16, 2008 at 12:41 pm

As a local resident I would love to have this theater restored. It’s close enough to walk to, I go to a lot of movies and if it had a Starbucks I would go there practically every day. Not to mention how great I think it would be for the neighborhood. But I’ve been hearing about this development for a long, long time now. I’ve gone from being hopeful to believing this is a scam. A theater with “…new Starbucks, a Ben and Jerry’s and office space..” now sounds like something they came up with to pacify the local residents. Something needs to happen with this building, I’m tired of the scam, I’m going to start calling the city to complain about the neglect with the building. Especially with all the squatters that sneak in on a regular basis (thanks to a car that dorve into the building over a year ago)

Patsy on March 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm

bbtommix: While in Pasadena make sure you tour the Gamble House located at 4 Westmoreland Place if you are into architectural design besides theatres. http://www.gamblehouse.org/

bbtommix on March 4, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Does anybody have any updates, I was plannig a trip to pasadena this weekend and was just wondering if it still showing movies

JoeLBC on January 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I am actually working on the project

Timetraveler on July 6, 2007 at 8:33 pm

As of July 2007, the owners of the Washington Theatre are applying for National Register status for the building in order to be eligible for available historic preservation federal funds and tax credits. We wish the owners well and hope that the project will eventually begin after three long years of waiting.