7980 La Mesa Boulevard,
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Architects: Simeon Charles Lee
Styles: Quonset Hut
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.
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Recent comments (view all 17 comments)
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.
This opened on September 7th, 1948. I uploaded the grand opening ad here.
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.
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.
ZIP code is wrong. Should be 91942
@ 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 :(
I went to double feature matinees in the early 70’s every weekend during the summers (the place was air conditioned!)… saw MAROONED(1969), SILENT RUNNING(1972) & SOYLENT GREEN(1973) for 75cents there.
Remember the “Cry Room” in the back?
Between the years 1951 and 1960 I must have went to this theater over 200-400 times. Started as a lad when we moved to La Mesa in 1950. Use to line up for the Saturday cartoon marathons wrapped 100 or so deep around the corner of the movie house. Ended in 1959 when in high school I found the Drive-in’s.
Years 1956-59 me and my friend would go to the old Palarimos pizza (just a whole in wall) buy a large $1.00 pizza each and then go to the movie costing $.50 (as a kid was $.25). remaining $.50 of my $2.00/week\ allowance went for 2 plus gallons of gas for crusing around and to drive to school for the week.
Going on 74 this year and I look back longingly at those times.
I remember as a kid going to the Helix on saturday for a double flix @ .50. Would get a buck from my parents, a soda and and a tub of popcorn. If we got 1.25 it was a large slurpee up the street. Good old days with Steve and the gang.