Bill Robinson Theatre

4219 S. Central Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90011

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The Tivoli Theatre was part of a long lost section of movie houses in South Central Los Angeles. It was opened prior to 1926 when it was listed with 450 seats. In 1931 it become an African-American theatre and the seating capacity had been increased to 873. In 1939 it was renamed Bill Robinson Theatre. It was still open in 1960.

The building was demolished in 1971 following damage from the Sylmar earthquake.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 10, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Soboba was the original name of the theatre, probably named after the Soboba band of Luiseno Indians. There is also a Soboba Hot Springs in the area. The name Sabada has no local associations that I can find. It seems most likely that the FDY was in error.

My source for the opening date and closing year, as well as the correct name and the building’s destruction by fire, is the California Index at the L.A. Library website. Here are two cards citing the L.A. Times:

View link

View link

I’m not sure if the Soboba was the same theatre as the San Jacinto, but it seems likely. In the 1950s, San Jacinto was still a very small town and it was rather isolated. I doubt it would have supported two theatres.

The photo to which Lost Memory linked above confirms that the theatre ran movies. The marquee advertises the 1946 film Murder in the Music Hall with Vera Hruba Ralston and William Marshall.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 10, 2007 at 6:04 pm

You can see that the theater is already gone in this 1987 photo:
http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics30/00034842.jpg

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on July 10, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Oh Bill Robinson, where have you gone…lost in San Jacinto.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 10, 2007 at 7:35 pm

L.A. library’s index cards use the American dating system, with the month first.

I’ve been unable to determine if the Soboba theatre was on East or West Main Street.

Koo-koo-ka-choo, Mr. Robinson,
We’ll get back to you eventually.

losangeleno
losangeleno on September 14, 2008 at 9:52 pm

As a small child, my family took me to the Robinson Theater to see Ben Hur. It was our neighborhood theater. As a young boy, I got a job cleaning and stacking bricks that were the remains of the demolished theater. Both the Robinson Theater, and the Dunbar Hotel were our pyramids of Giza, monuments of a civilization that had long since become passed away.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 14, 2008 at 10:01 pm

When was it demolished?

losangeleno
losangeleno on September 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm

The Robinson theater was located on Central Ave, between 43rd St. and 43rd Pl. on the west side of the street. Directly across the street from the Los Angeles Sentinel news paper, Civic meat market, and Lucy’s Supermarket.

losangeleno
losangeleno on September 15, 2008 at 12:14 am

Here’s an old theater on the corners of Central and Jefferson Ave. that’s standing.

View link

I’m sure it hard to have been built around the same time as the Robinson to the north and the Lincoln theater to the south. All three within a few miles of each other, all on Central Ave.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 19, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Los Angeleno: The theater on Central at Jefferson is listed at Cinema Treasures as the Florence Mills Theatre. It is the oldest of the three theaters you mention, having been erected in 1912, and known to have been operating as the Globe Theatre in 1914.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on October 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Advertised in the LA Times in January 1960. Double feature on 1/22/60 was “Sad Horse” and “Sound & The Fury”. Admission was fifty cents.

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