Sash Mill Cinema
303 Potrero Street #35,
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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.
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