Helix Theatre

7980 La Mesa Boulevard,
La Mesa, CA 91942

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Helix Ttheater 1952

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located in the La Mesa suburb of San Diego on La Mesa Boulevard at University Avenue. This theatre was built in 1948, opening on September 7, 1948. It was designed by architect S. Charles Lee. The Helix Theatre was a Quonset Hut style theatre. It had a car park which held 125 cars. After WWII, theatre owners were looking for ways to construct theatres cheaper. The Quonset Hut was one way.

Other theatres using the Quonset Hut design were the Fox Crest Theatre in North Long Beach, the Garmar Theatre (razed), Avo Theatre, Puente Theatre, Visalia Theatre, and Colorado Theatre. There are few examples of this theatre style remaining in the United States.

The Helix Theatre is one of those casualties, closing on December 4, 1976, and has since been demolished.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on April 19, 2008 at 12:22 pm

The Star Theater in La Puente, CA is one of the few quonset huts that are still around, although it too is on a short list to be demolished.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Here is an item in Boxoffice magazine, April 1950;

Contending it is impossible to continue operations profitably in view of the film rentals he must pay, Burton Jones has closed his Helix Theater in La Mesa. He has operated the 700 seat house there for several years.

Logan5
Logan5 on July 29, 2009 at 10:07 am

One theatergoer says he “saw ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Great Waldo Pepper’ there the last day it was open – December 4, 1976."
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jchapon5
jchapon5 on February 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I was one of the two projectionists at this theatre when it closed. What a great experience. The full time projectionist at the time told me we were going to get to show the movie “Soylent Green” to close out this grand run of this old and wonderful place. At the last moment they cancelled that and yes i do believe “Jaws” took its place. We showed “Jaws” so much i knew every scene and line of that movie by heart. The cameras were fun. Had to monitor the carbon sticks in them to make sure they did not burn down to far or….no picture. The change over from camera one to camera two was also interesting. We would get two signal marks on the main screen. The first mark was to get the camera that had the ready reel going and the second mark we watched for on the screen from the the booth was for the exchange from the camera with the used reel to the camera with the next sequenced reel. When the screen went white (no picture) a loud bell in the booth would go off to alert us. I did not need that bell, ha. You could here the boo’s from the patrons when that happened. Usually happened when a splice in the film broke more than a change over. Man, do i have some stories…………… When i was there at the end the theatre did not pack in 825 people very often but when it did or got close the place rocked. the reaction of the big crowd in there was magical. I got into acting because of that experience and am so very thankful for it.

rivest266
rivest266 on April 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

This opened on September 7th, 1948. I uploaded the grand opening ad here.

johnhermes
johnhermes on April 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I saw many, many films at the Helix as a kid and teenager in the 1960s. I remember coming around the curve of La Mesa Blvd. from El Cajon Blvd. and hoping not to see a giant line around the theater! Good times back then.

wschart
wschart on March 28, 2013 at 9:01 am

I grew up within walking distance of this theater. During the early 1950s there was a Saturday afternoon matinee, typically a couple of B westerns or the like. It cost two bits to get in, and with another quarter you could buy a box of popcorn and get a soft drink from a vending machine, the kind where acup dropped down. You had a choice of three favors, probably a cola, lemon-lime, or orange, but of course we all switched the selector back and forth to produce. “suicide”. There was always a line from the box office, located on the right, around the front and along the west side.

As I got older, I would go to the night time showings, still walking. I am not sure whether or not there were first run showings, but at the least there were current films above the B level. This continued through high school and probably a bit during summers when I was home from college.

arriano
arriano on August 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm

ZIP code is wrong. Should be 91942

jaylynn444
jaylynn444 on August 8, 2014 at 5:56 am

@ Arriano: The zip codes in La Mesa changed. I grew up in La Mesa in the 70’s & 80’s, and used to live walking distance from the Helix theater – my zip code used to be 92041, which no longer exists :(

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