Bill Robinson Theatre

4219 S. Central Avenue,
Los Angeles, CA 90011

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docchapel on July 25, 2015 at 6:43 am

Worked this theater briefly during a revival, and ran a bunch of “Hammer” Horror Films that were popular in the lated sixties. The theater was like the Rio, and didn’t stay open very long on its second go round.

kencmcintyre on October 25, 2008 at 3:12 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 19, 2008 at 8:45 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.

losangeleno on September 14, 2008 at 9:14 pm

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.

losangeleno on September 14, 2008 at 7:26 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.

kencmcintyre on September 14, 2008 at 7:01 pm

When was it demolished?

losangeleno on September 14, 2008 at 6:52 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 10, 2007 at 4:35 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.

kencmcintyre on July 10, 2007 at 4:17 pm

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

kencmcintyre on July 10, 2007 at 3:04 pm

You can see that the theater is already gone in this 1987 photo:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 10, 2007 at 2:42 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.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 10, 2007 at 8:49 am

Joe & LM; The 1941 edition of Film Daily Yearbook lists a 738 seat Sabada Theatre, San Jacinto. The 1943 edition of F.D.Y. lists the 738 seat San Jacinto Theatre. In 1950 & 1952 the San Jacinto Theatre, Main Street, San Jacinto has a seating capacity of 612.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 9, 2007 at 8:17 pm

Lost Memory: The pueblo style theatre in San Jacinto was called the Soboba. It opened on September 9, 1927 and closed in 1951. The building was destroyed by fire in December of 1968. Here’s another photo, dated 1936, before the movie-style marquee was added.

kencmcintyre on July 9, 2007 at 6:21 pm

I would say the style is Art Deco, based on the marquee at least.

kencmcintyre on June 10, 2007 at 7:08 pm

There are apartments on the site now.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 3, 2007 at 1:11 pm

There is a small photo of the marquee of the Bill Robinson Theatre on this page at the Western States Black History and Research Center website. It’s part of a large collection of photos and memorabilia assembled by the late Mayme A. Clayton. Eventually there’s to be a library to house the collection, but so far only a few pictures have been digitized for display on the website.

I’m not sure which of the two locations of the Bill Robinson is depicted in this photo, but it is labeled as having been taken c1942, so it’s more likely to be the former Tivoli Theatre at 4219 Central Avenue than the former Casino Theatre (which is not yet listed at Cinema Treasures) at 4319 Central Avenue.

kencmcintyre on June 3, 2007 at 10:06 am

Advertised in the LA Times on 1/22/50. Address given was 4319 S. Central. Features were “Battleground” and “It Happened in Harlem”.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 10, 2006 at 2:41 am

This theatre would have been near or adjacent to the historic Dunbar Hotel, located at 4225 S. Central Avenue. In the days when the major Los Angeles hotels were segregated, the Dunbar was the place where most African-American celebrities and entertainers stayed when making appearances in the city. Central Avenue was the location of many night clubs and restaurants, as well as several movie theatres. The Dunbar Hotel building survives, having been renovated and converted to residential apartments a number of years ago.

Another interesting tidbit about the theatre: a biographical sketch of actor and singer Herb Jeffries (“The Bronze Buckaroo”) mentions that in 1938 he was one of the performers featured in an all-black radio show which originated from the Bill Robinson Theatre on Central Avenue and was broadcast over station KFOX.

juancarlos3 on December 4, 2004 at 6:32 pm

Senor Robinson era gran jugador americano de la bola es bueno que él hace el teatro nombrar después de que él las demostraciones mucho respecto.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 4, 2004 at 5:32 pm

The lively entertainment district which once thrived on Central Avenue was entirely gone by the 1970s. The neighborhood had grown very poor by then, and had been deserted even by the chain drug stores and markets. A few historic buildings remained, but the place was dispirited and dangerous. It’s probably best that you didn’t go exploring there at that time.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 4, 2004 at 5:08 pm

I’m sure you are correct to say and I agree that is a mis-spelling of Circle.

I’m sorry to say this is an area of LA I am not familiar with and have only passed through it on the Metro. So my knowledge is limited to say the least! I wish I had done some research when I first went to LA in the mid 1970’s, but then the allure and glamour of Hollywood enticed me there instead.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 4, 2004 at 4:52 pm

I notice that, directly under their listing of the Casino, the have a theater called the “Cirole.” I wonder if that could be a misspelling of “Circle?” There was definitely a Circle Theater in Los Angeles in that era, also designed by Smith, located at 60th and Moneta Avenue (later renamed South Broadway.)

And, on the subject of coincidence, before I got your reply here, I had minutes before made a comment about the Circle on the Cinema Treasures entry for the Aloha Theater, at 60th and Broadway, which may in fact have been the Circle.

As for the address coincidence on Central Avenue, many of the neighborhood theaters built in Los Angeles in that era were of a fairly standard form, with a couple of shops either side of the lobby entrance, and sometimes a door to an upper floor of offices or apartments. A great many theaters built at intersections thus had addresses ending in a number in the teens, so the odds of two theaters a block apart on the same side of a street having a number ending in 19 were probably one in five.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 4, 2004 at 4:20 pm

There was a silent move theatre named Casino. It is listed on Sadly this is an ongoing research site (like Cinema Treasures) and the Casino hasn’t been fully researched yet. But it does give an accurate list and details of most silent movie theatres. In this instant click on ‘United States, then California, then Los Angeles’.

It seem a big coincidence to me that there were two different theatres, on the same Avenue, that were exactly 100#’s apart. (4219 or 4319. But coincidences DO happen, eh? Anyone got a 1920’s Film Daily Yearbook with full addresses please?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 4, 2004 at 3:43 pm

In the L.A. Library’s online California Index, I have come across many references to theaters designed by L.A. Smith in the early-mid 1920s, but the index doesn’t always reveal their later names, and usually doesn’t give the exact street address. I’ve been trying to match them up with theaters listed here, and have succeeded with a few, but there are more that I haven’t been able to connect. I think that some of them aren’t listed here at all, especially those on the south side of town. I wish I could get ahold of the periodicals from which the information was taken themselves, instead of just these scans of library index cards.

But Smith was a remarkably prolific architect in those years. I have seen references to at least two dozen theaters he designed between 1920 and 1926. Significantly, there is a reference to a theater at 43rd and Central which he designed , originally called the Casino, owned by an investor named J.V. Akey, and leased to West Coast Theaters. (This information all comes from the June 17th, 1921 issue of Southwest Builder and Contractor.) This has made me wonder if perhaps that is not a typo in the Film Daily Yearbooks from the 1950’s. It seems possible that whoever operated the Tivoli under the name Bill Robinson might have switched theaters, moving one block south sometime in the 1940s, and taken the name with them.

I remember the Bill Robinson being listed in the L.A. Times movie section well into the 1950s, at least, but unfortunately I was only ever familiar with the section of Central Avenue north of Washington Boulevard, so I have no memory of ever having seen this theater or others nearby, which were a mile or so south of Washington.