Sash Mill Cinema

303 Potrero Street #35,
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Unfavorite 2 people favorited this theater

Sash Mill Complex

This little theater was located a block off River Street on the opposite side of Mission Hill from the main section of downtown Santa Cruz. It was converted in the early 1970’s from a former window sash mill structure, built of steel and corrugated metal. In front was a redwood and glass cafe, called the CineCafe. The theater was entered to the right of the Cafe through a small lobby with twin staircases which gave access to the two-aisled theater, which featured a stadium seating section in the rear third of the auditorium. The ceiling was the exposed steel beam structure of the old sash mill space, with exposed ductwork. All of this was painted black. The walls were textured drywall, painted cobalt blue. There were four cast iron and stained glass wall sconces, which appeared to have been salvaged from an old theater, although the stained glass portions appeared to be a 1970’s interpretation of Art Deco sunbursts. The seats were salvaged from theaters of the 1920’s or 1930’s, and the aisle standards were of two different designs—an Art Deco sun ray motif and the other a Baroque design with bare-breasted maidens supporting the arm rests. The screen was adjustable to fit various formats. There was no curtain. Rainy nights made for a cozy experience, as the drops falling on the metal roof could be heard during quiet parts of a film.

The theater began as an art/foreign film venue, but spent the late 1970’s through the late 1980’s as Santa Cruz’s beloved repertory cinema. As such, it was operated by Nickelodeon Theatres. For many of these years, this was Santa Cruz’s home for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The Sash Mill Cinema closed in the mid-1990’s.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

GaryParks
GaryParks on April 12, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Here is some further commentary on the Sash Mill Cinema which is outside the realm, perhaps, of the basic theater profile above.

I first saw a movie at this theater in 1978, which was a revival of the Egyptian film, “The Night of Counting the Years” (1969), based largely on the late 19th Century discovery of a secret cache of royal mummies and how a member of the local family who was using the illicit sale of items from the tomb as their bank account reveals the secret of the tomb to the Antiquities Service. (An aside: When in Egypt in 2005, I met a member of that family, the Abd-el-Rassouls. He did not want to be photographed)

A few years later, I began attending the Sash Mill fairly often, and by keeping their latest repertory calendar on the refrigerator (as most artistically-minded families in the Santa Cruz area did), I was introduced to many staples in the legacy of classic cinema. Amazingly, I never saw “Rocky Horror” there, although I remember coming out of several Staturday Night shows and seeing the RHPS crowd lined up in their makeup, lace, leather, heels, capes, etc., waiting to go in. Many were people I knew from high school, but I was not part of that crowd, which mostly consisted of kids from the drama and choir department, an insular group which I didn’t feel welcome in at the time, having yet to discover my Inner Thespian/Musician/Performer personality. I wouldn’t see “Rocky” until 2001, at Oakland’s Parkway Theater! Since 1982, I have kept a record of all movies I have seen theatrically, as well as the theater where I saw them and the people I saw them with. Looking over this record, I can see what a truly wonderful education I was getting in cinema during those years, and it shows what a fine venue the Sash Mill was. Most were double features:

1982
“The Philadelphia Story” and “The Mad Miss Manton"
"The Europeans” and “Tess"
"North By Northwest” and “Strangers on a Train"
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
1983
"Auntie Mame” and “A Thousand Clowns"
"Some Like It Hot” and “The Misfits"
"Things to Come” and “Metropolis"
"Stage Door” and “Bringing Up Baby"
"Gone With the Wind"
"The Maltese Falcon” and “Double Indemnity"
"Fiddler on the Roof” and “My Fair Lady"
"Little Women” and “Anna Kerenina"
1984
"2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Forbidden Planet"
"My Favorite Year” and “The Stuntman"
"Strangers on a Train” and “Stage Fright"
"Around the World in 80 Days"
"The Wizard of Oz” and “The Yellow Submarine"
"Gone With the Wind"
1985
(at this point I had moved to Oakland, and only attended the Sash Mill on occasional visits home)
"Rope” and “Frenzy"
"The Golden Age of Looney Tunes” (numerous WB shorts)
“Stormy Weather” and “Let the Good Times Roll"
1986
"The Bitter Tea of General Yen” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
"Aida"
1987-1989
No visits to the Sash Mill
1990
"The Ten Commandments"
1991
No visits
1992
"The Tune"
By this time not only was I no longer living in the area, but the Sash Mill was no longer a repertory cinema. Little did I know that it would soon close.

Thanks to this theater for a large part of my early cinematic education, and wonderful memories of relaxing in those funky old theater seats with family, friends, dates, or classmates.

GaryParks
GaryParks on April 12, 2008 at 12:56 pm

For those who keep track of such things: Over the years I asked various staff and management at the Sash Mill if they knew where the seats and wall sconces came from originally. No one ever seemed to know.

jeanfilkins
jeanfilkins on May 1, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Ah, the Sash Mill… probably my favorite revival house. Not the most comfortable seats, but real butter on the popcorn and some amazing baked goods for sale at the concession stand (the cafe was pretty good, too). Movie selection was wonderful— like Gary, I remember their schedule fondly (it was fun to map out your movie going when the new one came out). This was just before VCRs were common, and when you were addicted to “old movies” as I was as a kid, it was heaven to see classic films uncut on the big screen. (It’s still a thrill for me, but now I have to drive an hour to get to the Castro!)
I was a film major at UCSC in the early 80s and the Sash Mill was sort of a third faculty member (there were two film profs. in the department at that time). I remember a Michael Powell evening which began with “The Red Shoes” and ended with “Tales of Hoffman.” I spotted Bruce Kawin (who taught film studies/history for a year or two) in the audience and was chuffed as I had a bit of a crush on him. By the second hour of “Tales of Hoffman,” my friends were so bored they went out to the lobby for coffee. I stuck it out, not wanting to lose face with Bruce (as if he’d have a clue who I was!— one of the nameless hundreds in The Film Experience). Then I succumbed to the Technicolor and the music and Robert Helpmann… hours went by… when I finally staggered out of the theater after midnight, my friends told me that Bruce Kawin had left hours ago. Sigh.
Another spine-challenging evening was a triple feature of early Bond films— great stuff when you’d only seen them on TV, splintered by commercials on a teeny tiny screen. Warner Brothers Cartoons, Robert Altman rarities, Howard Hawks festivals… the Sash Mill was good, very good.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on May 1, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Ah, the Sash Mill. How much you are missed. Like Gary, most of my friends and I would also have a Sash Mill calendar on our fridge or in our rooms, with the shows we were going to see circled so we didn’t forget. I never kept a diary of the films I saw there, but it would easily be in the hundreds (and that’s not including all the times we watched or performed RHPS).

The snack bar for the theatre was cozy, had a great selection of traditional and non-traditional snacks… and a little black and white monitor secured over the snack bar, with a tinny little speaker next to it, so you didn’t miss a moment of the movie should you absolutely need to get some stuff during the presentation. Now there’s something you won’t find in very many theatres today.

I will have to disagree with Jean, however, about her statement “This was just before VCRs were common.” By the time I graduated from Aptos High in 1985, everyone I knew had a VCR, a couple of us worked at video stores, and it was rare if we weren’t going to the Sash at least once a week (again, not including RHPS). Well into the 1990s, when we were buying and renting our laserdiscs at Lenz Arts, we were still going to the Sash on a consistent basis. I was living in Los Angeles when the Sash finally closed in 1994, so I didn’t get to go to the last show, but I know a lot of thirty and fortysomethings who miss the place dearly.

For the record, the address for the Sash was 303 Potrero St #35, Santa Cruz CA 95060

shanadavid
shanadavid on December 20, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Does anyone know the status of the Sash Mill? Is it available for lease? Any idea of who to contact? Please feel free to email me at if you’ve got some more info. Thanks a million.

Titus77
Titus77 on June 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

I lived in SC twice between ‘Jan. '86 and Aug. '87. The Sash Mill was the ultimate art house. I have 8 or 10 calendars I’d be happy to scan and post here.

Edward Havens
Edward Havens on October 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Please do, Titus. I wish I still had all my Sash Mill calendars.

lateafternoon
lateafternoon on October 31, 2011 at 9:30 pm

We second that, Mr Havens. Please, please, please Titus77 scan and post those posters, we will go insane otherwise. We were just laughing about the crazy double-bills from the Sash Mill. Chinatown and Blade Runner perhaps? Much thanks in advance, N and N

Jamesmnix
Jamesmnix on December 19, 2013 at 10:01 pm

After the Ramones gave a concert in Santa Cruz one evening the cinema showed a late night screening of Rock and Roll High School. After the end of the film the Ramones themselves came out on stage in the cinema and gave away a tee shirt. Now that’s a movie house.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The April, 1976, issue of Esquire had an article about the Sash Mill Cinema on pages 76-77, according to a card in the L.A. Public Library’s California Index. The magazine isn’t available online, but there must still be original copies out there somewhere.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater