State Theater

726 James Street,
Shafter, CA 93263

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According to the 1945 edition of Theatre Catalog, the State Theater was to be designed by architect Vincent G. Raney. The State was part of the Panero Theater circuit in the early-1960’s.

Contributed by Ken McIntyre

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 4, 2008 at 4:18 am

From the photo of this theatre at CinemaTour, it looks to be 1930s moderne in design. That, and the fact that Shafter has never been a very large town and has thus probably never had multiple theatres built during a given decade, makes it likely that the item from Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of March 5, 1937, cited on this card at the California Index refers to the State.

The card does say the theatre was being built for a Mr. Panero, and that it would be 50'x150', which would just about accommodate the seating capacity of 550 cited above. My guess is that the State is the theatre designed by the Bakersfield firm of Franklin & Kump in 1937. Viewing the theatre’s address on TerraServer (1994 aerial photo) or on Google Maps' satellite view (a more recent picture) it looks as though they both put their markers off a bit, by about half a block. I think the State must be the building adjacent to the alley in the next block northwest of the markers.

kencmcintyre on February 4, 2008 at 4:29 am

Joe, it says photo, but doesn’t that look like an architectural drawing?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 4, 2008 at 4:40 am

It’s probably not a drawing, either, technically speaking, but a scan of a photo of a rendering. I think we should all agree to blame CinemaTour for the confusion.

kencmcintyre on February 4, 2008 at 4:44 am

Agreed. Meeting adjourned.

GaryParks on July 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I just updated the Google streetview, and it now shows, unquestionably, the former State. It was built exactly as in the architectural rendering shown on CinemaTour. This rendering appears in the 1945 Edition of Theatre Catalog, in a section on theatres to be built Postwar. The architect was Vincent G. Raney. The theatre exterior is missing the vertical and box office today, and there is a small sign (likely a former readerboard) atop the canopy, but other than that, it appears today the same as in Raney’s rendering. The theatre was designed with 550 seats, and the 1949 Film Daily Year Book confirms this. The lobby is shown in the floor plan as circular, with a lounge off to the Right (behind the little glass block window).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

If the State Theatre was indeed built post-war, then it must have been a replacement for an earlier theater. There is a reference from July 24, 1945, indicating that Frank Panero was then operating theaters in Delano, Wasco, McFarland, Sanger, and Shafter.

A list of new theaters in California from the September 21, 1936, issue of The Film Daily includes a Shafter Theatre at Shafter. I now suspect that the 1937 theater project that I cited in an earlier comment was never carried out, and Panero waited until after the war to build a new house there. But it’s possible that the Shafter Theatre was the house he was operating in July, 1945.

Roddkay on September 5, 2013 at 8:09 pm

I’ve noticed all sorts of conjectures about Shafter and it’s theaters. My mother landed in Shafter with two infant boys and a husband who deserted his family. She had to get work to keep three people alive. She cooked for a childcare operation in the Women' Club. As a 4 year old, I went exploring and found the projection room where the Panero Brothers ran evening movies. The 1937 project has to have been the SHAFTER theater built on Central Avenue. This theater had general seating in the front half, a raised section called the Loge, and restrooms in a basement below the Loge.

At the end of the War, the State Theater was built. I know this because I lived in Shafter until I left home at the age of 14 to become a world-class apple picker in Northern California. I used to sneak out at night and on Sunday afternoons to go to the movies since my mother thought the theater was the devil’s home.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 6, 2013 at 1:25 am

Roddkay: Information about Shafter’s theaters has been hard to find. It’s good to hear from someone who knew them firsthand. Thanks for your contribution.

I found a 1947 directory for Kern County, and it lists the Shafter Theatre at 148 Central Avenue. However, the directory has the State Theatre listed at 634 James, while its current address is 726 James. Shafter must have changed its numbering system sometime after 1947, which means the Shafter Theatre might have been in what is now the 200 block, between James Street and Munzer Street. Is that where you remember it being?

Roddkay on September 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

It has been so long ago that I don’t remember the street numbers. The address for the Shafter Theater is probably right since it is in the right location. I have no idea why the number for the State Theater has two locations. Maybe like the Arabian Nights, the building has been jumped from one location to the other. The correct address for this building is 634 James St.

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