Whittier Theatre

11612 Whittier Boulevard,
Whittier, CA 90601

Unfavorite 6 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 52 comments

Scaramouche on May 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

In the ‘60s and '70s the Whittier was still beautiful. It was an “atmospheric” theater, meaning the interior of the auditorium was decorated like a stage setting of a Spanish colonial village with stairways, windows, and balconies, and the ceiling had tiny lights like stars, with wispy projected clouds slowly drifting by. The lighting created an exotic, dreamlike scene, sometimes more entertaining than the movie. There was also a stage behind the movie screen, but as far as I know there hadn’t been live performances for decades.

I apologize if this comment has appeared twice. There is no indication that clicking on “add comment” has been successful.

bobhester on November 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm

kikibalt, did you ever see the movie The Van, that was filmed in the mid 1970s…it was filmed in the Whittier and La Habra era. One of the scenes is filmed in that carwash as you can see the Whittier Theater in the background. I went to La Habra High School and one scene is filmed at the A&W on Whittier Blvd, across from La Habra High School Do you remember the Bob’s Big Boy on Whittier Blvd, in Whittier? Used to cruise up and down Whittier Blvd and would occasionally stop to eat there.

kikibalt on November 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

In the early ‘50s I worked across Whittier Blvd from the Whittier Theater, at Miller’s Car Wash. Never into that theater though

JimMitchell on July 20, 2013 at 1:08 am

The Whittier was just down the street from what was variously called a reform school, youth correctional facility, and “School for Boys.” Hugh Bruen, who owned the theatre, had special showings before regular hours so boys could be brought in to see movies. Quite a nice excursion, I imagine. The Whittier was the nicest of the three theaters (Wardman and Roxy were the others) and was known around SoCal for its hacienda motif and the stars on the ceiling.

BrianNelson on January 15, 2012 at 2:21 am

The Whittier, in the 1940’s and 50’s was the “posh” theatre in town, and it was a real treat to go to a movie there instead of the Wardman or the Roxy: the night sky ceiling was glamorous and mystifying, and the courtyard felt like we were visiting one of the Missions instead of just being a few blocks from home. The building was on a bit of a hill and there were retail spaces around the corner on the right, as well as those on the street frontage: one of them was the beauty salon my grandma went to every Friday, and did that ever feel like a big deal to go with her :) The last time I got to attend the Whittier was when I was down for my grandpa’s funeral in 1982 and it still looked as wonderful to me then as it ever had, but that may have been nostalgia. I think my mom and I saw Indiana Jones that time, because I remember thinking that it was such a great place to be watching that particular movie. The next time I was back, the year after the earthquake, it was gone. Thank goodness the Wardman is still there.

bobhester on November 17, 2010 at 3:05 am

We moved to La Habra in December 1965. I remember going to the Whittier Theater to see the movie The Great Race in the spring of 1966. Coming from the midwest, I was awestruck by the Spanish architecture of the theater. Although I was only 13 at the time, I remember that theater as if it was yesterday – it made that much of an impression. I also went to many movies at the Whitwood Theater and at the Fashion Square Theater in La Habra. Fashion Square was unique for its time as it had four screens under one roof – a novel concept for that time. The Whittier Theater, however, was the most enjoyable theater I have ever attended.

dctrig on October 11, 2010 at 7:30 am

I saw the 1986 Disney movie “The Great Mouse Detective” at the Whittier. The interior atmosphere reminded me of the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

Too bad Whittier lost a great theater.

emgconcertguy on September 18, 2010 at 2:12 am

I remember coming here with my mom and sisters,we lived in Pico Rivera,this was a big deal back then because there were not a lot of walk-ins.One movie that stuck in my head was Halloween and several scary movies were shown here as double features.It was so cool because it was one screen so it packed a large audience, no matter what movie.I remember always looking up above and the ceiling had stars that glittered and the left and rightsides looked like real stairways into spanish homes. It was such a popular theater that they had guys acting like club bouncers picking people to go in by there looks I suppose,they let me and my mom in I guess he thought she looked nice,lol.It was something we did every weekend.None of these modern theaters will never compare to the Whittier Theater and others like it. Nice memories here.

elliott on August 7, 2010 at 5:30 am

I grew up in Whittier during the ‘60s and '70s. I did go to the Whittier Theater a number of times. Some of the movies that I remember seeing there were “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in 1967 and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” sometime after that. But what I remember MOST was that directly across the street from the theater on Hadley was a fast food place called Little Ol’ Taco Maker. My sister and I spent half of our lives at the fast food place. The food was really good. I think we went there starting in 1967 when I was in the 3rd grade all the way to High School around 1976. I remember right next to it was a car wash. I don’t know when they tore that restaurant down. Maybe after the earthquake??

I did also go to the Wardman (saw The Junglebook there) and the Whittwood but never the Roxy. It burned down before I ever had a chance to see a movie there. What memories.

sherrybabie on June 24, 2010 at 8:19 am

I grew up in Whittier and frequented both the Whittier Theatre as well as Wardman. I do remember the ceiling, it looked as if there were stars and clouds and it was magnificent, even then when I was a kid. How sad that they didn’t preserve this and so many other historical landmarks. Whittier just isn’t the same as it was when I left it in the 1980’s. Everywhere you look they have built another drug store, Walmart, it has lost it’s charm.

At “least” we had the opportunity to enjoy these landmarks before they were destroyed, for that I will ALWAYS be grateful!

Droog on June 23, 2009 at 9:54 am

I grew up in Montebello, I would drive by it all the time on the way to Whitwood or Lovells, although I only went to this theater once in 1983 and saw Flashdance and Porkys 2 double feature. I remember the place just always seemed run down to me and discount movies, wasn’t it like $1.99 for a double feature?, I was 13 at the time, the decor was interesting, it is something we don’t see anymore. I just remember the place smelled like dirty socks, I was looking at the ceiling and balconies wondering if someone hung smelly socks there, for 4 hours, it wasn’t pleasant. It is too bad so much of Whittiers style and history is being thrown away, I remember some beautiful buildings in Montebello on Whittier were damaged in the quake, all gone.

berkeley on May 29, 2009 at 3:03 am

cinema buffs, currently working on a new issue of the whittier conservancy newsletter & other special publishing projects—and looking for historic photos of old whittier & the whittier cinemas. anyone willing to share old pictures, please contact me (send note to ). what a shame that this place was destroyed unnecessarily.

Beto on May 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Nice! I went to Whittier College in the early 70’s and saw many a movie there. Afterwards we would go down the street to a burger place called Little Jeff’s. One of the best Chili style burgers I’ve ever had. Anyone remember the place….better yet, did you work there and know the receipe for the sauce? :–)
Great site and loved that theatre. I do remember the clouds.

MikeCoke on February 18, 2009 at 3:50 am

I remember the Whittier Theater very well I knew the Manager & the projectionist in the late 60s. We would go see private showings of movies after the theater closed.
I have been to the top of the Tower & the view from up there was great.
Here are a few things I remember that I have not seen mentioned here.
Besides being a Movie Theater it was also a stage theater.
The Balconies on stage left & right are real & were accessed for back stage.
Below the stage there were dressing rooms.
Also up until the late 50s in the center of the front courtyard the was a large Rock Water Fountain.
There were Private viewing rooms on both sides of the Projection room.
Looking at the theater from the street on the left there was a private apartment that had an entrance to the left of the Box office & left of the walkway to the rear parking lot. The apartment also had direct access to the Theater via the Balcony above the Box Office.
When Warner Bros. owned the Theater the building on the Left & Right were offices for Warner Bros. They became retail businesses after Warner Bro. sold the Theater.
My brother worked there in the late 70s & I met my wife at the Little ole Taco Maker across the srtreet for the theater

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 8, 2009 at 3:28 am

It appears to have operated as McNees Theatre for less than a year. Ralph McNees was a cashier at First National Bank in Whitter who bought a couple of walnut orchards in the area in 1909 and later developed them. Most likely he built the theater as part of his real estate development. There’s a street named after him, too.

The California Index has another card (one that didn’t come up in my previous search) citing a Southwest Builder & Contractor article which named Earl M. Wheatland as the contractor for the Warner Bros. Theatre in Whittier. The Index dates the article to 1/11/1929, but I think that might have been a typo. The citation of the Whitter News article about the McNees re-opening as Warner Bros. Whittier was dated 11/26/1929, so the typist might have gotten the date and month reversed for the SwB&C article.

In any case, the Whittier News article was explicit about McNees becoming the Warner Bros. Whittier, but there’s nothing in the Index about how long Warners operated it. It’s also possible that they didn’t use their name on the theater or in its advertising, and just called it the Whittier Theatre, but that would have been uncharacteristic of the company at that time (Warner Bros. Downtown Theatre, Warner Bros. Western Theatre, Warner Bros. Hollywood Theatre, etc.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 7, 2009 at 6:53 am

Additional information: Here is a PDF file of the July, 1991, issue of the Whittier Conservancy’s newsletter, with an item saying that the city had allowed to owner of the Whittier Theatre to demolish the building. This was four years after the theater had been closed following the 1987 earthquake. As the building had stood for four years in its damaged state, it’s obvious that it was repairable.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 7, 2009 at 6:26 am

I can’t believe it took me so long to find these, but the California Index contains cards indicating two early aka’s for this house. A card citing the L.A. Times of February 3, 1929, in an article headed “Work started on Whittier Theater” calls it McNee’s Theatre. Another card cites the Whittier News, issue of November 26, 1929, saying that the McNee Theatre was re-opening as Warner Bros. Whittier Theatre.

Not coincidentally, I think, the small, triangular park across Gretna Avenue from the theater is still called McNees Park.

So we have a probable opening date of mid-1929, as McNees Theatre; a name change to Warner Bros Whittier Theatre in November, 1929; a name change to Bruen’s Whittier Theatre at some later date (I’d guess no later than the early 1940s); and then a still later change to simply the Whittier Theatre, the name under which it was operated by Pacific Theatres.

Also, the address still needs to be updated to 11612 Whittier Blvd, Whittier, CA 90601, in order for the Google Maps link to show the actual location. Right now it fetches a spot several miles east, in La Habra.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 18, 2008 at 4:58 am

Whittier,Ca1987: Currently, Cinema Treasures doesn’t have the ability to post more photos, and the site’s policy forbids users to post them directly in comments. The best way to share your theater photos with Cinema Treasures users is to get yourself a free account at Flickr or one of the other free image hosting services, upload your photos there, and then put ordinary links to them in comments here.

Lost Memory (belated reply to your comment of Sept 24): Whittier once had its own street numbering system, centered on Greenleaf Avenue and Philadelphia Street, but long ago adopted the county numbering system that starts from 1st and Main Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The address at top should be updated so Google Maps can find the right location.

Also, the theater should have the aka of Bruen’s Whittier Theatre, which was the name on the stage house, and the name under which it was often advertised when Hugh Bruen still operated it.

quakepics on November 18, 2008 at 2:46 am

Attention! antique movie theater enthusiasts; I have several pictures taken of the whittier earthquake structure damage to the old theater, the old may company parking structure, and what hadley
street looked like before the strip mall thats there now . My grandmother took these pictures for me to cherish and share them with friends, whittier wasn’t all about chain store corporations like everywhere else. I would like to post them, if anybody is interested

William on September 24, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Looks good to me.

William on September 24, 2008 at 8:14 pm

The FDYB gave the address for the Whitter Theatre as 1410 W. Whitter Blvd.. Just did a overhead map search of the address, the 11602 East Whitter Blvd. matches one of the postcard shots in your post.

11602-11612 Whitter Blvd. should be the new address above.

Irene225 on June 11, 2008 at 1:31 am

ken mc – How sad, how sad those pictures make me feel. I used to go to the Whittier with my friends all through high school and on dates with boyfriends (1955-1959). I used to go to the Roxy and Wardman too. Whittier had such a beautiful uptown (Greenleaf)too. Now sections of Greenleaf don’t look too pretty. I remember listening to records at Lovell’s music store after school or on weekends.

stevebob on December 16, 2005 at 12:32 pm

And ken mc — don’t forget about Whittier’s own Roxy (RIP):