Del Oro Theatre

165 Mill Street,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

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Mikeyisirish
Mikeyisirish on October 21, 2012 at 11:08 am

I restored the neon marquee in my photo. Check it out here.

Mikeyisirish
Mikeyisirish on June 27, 2012 at 6:36 am

A few photos can be seen here, here and here.

DonLewis
DonLewis on September 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

From Grass Valley in the mid 1950s a photo postcard that captured a portion of the Del Oro Theatre

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm

The entry for architect Otto A. Deichmann in the 1956 edition of the AIA’s American Architect’s Directory includes the Del Oro Theatre at Grass Valley in the list of his works. The project is dated 1942. I’m not sure if Deichman’s partnership with Mark T. Jorgensen had been dissolved yet in 1942.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Various issues of Boxoffice Magazine indicate that the Del Oro Theatre was not built by United Artists, nor operated by that chain during its early years. Construction was begun in 1941 by Golden State Theatres, but apparently the house was being operated by Albert and William Forman’s United Theatres Circuit later in the 1940s.

An item in the April 16, 1949, issue of Boxoffice said that a $36,000 damage suit against United Theatres and Del Oro manager Jack Keegan was being tried in Nevada County superior court. Mr. Terry T. Whitesides of Grass Valley alleged that he had fallen in the aisle of the theater on September 28, 1947.

I’ve been unable to discover when United Artists took over the house, but they were operating it when it was triplexed in 1975.

Dejael
Dejael on March 17, 2009 at 6:04 am

Thanks! I worked at the Del Oro Theater for several months in 2004.
I was the maintenance and janitorial manager working for the Getzes.
They were really nice people to work for. It was a joy to clean up the theater every day and get her ready for showtime!
While I was there, the management was in the process of completing the theater’s restoration and now it is a jewel of California cinema.
There was an old sign backstage that stated the theater had its grand opening on May 24, 1942, after being under construction for two years beginning in early 1940. The sign also had a printed programme showing that the theater showed a Hollywood double feature of two 1942 classics, plus a WB cartoon, a newsreel of WWII coverage, and a travelogue about Mexico.

Dejael
Dejael on December 1, 2004 at 3:44 pm

Update:

On October 7, 2004, the newly restored and repainted DEL ORO Theater switched on its beautiful Art Deco Moderne neon tower lights for the first time in many years, accompanied by a gala evening celebration at the theater hosted by owners Mike and Barbara Getz, who were also on hand for the festive evening which included suspending the regularly-scheduled program of movies for reels of preview trailers of current and recent films, free popcorn and soft drinks, a buffet table in the lobby, and a celebration of all things Art Deco with many in 1930s-1940s period costumes and classic cars out front of the entryway, plus a special screening of the new movie SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW in the main auditorium. A good time was had by all!
The DEL ORO Theater is once again the sparkling centerpiece of downtown Grass Valley city development.

Dejael
Dejael on September 27, 2004 at 3:07 pm

The Del Oro Theater was built beginning in 1941 and had its Gala Grand Opening Premiere on May 29, 1942. It is in classic Art Deco Moderne style and the seating capacity was originally 620 seats including the balcony as a single-screen movie house.
Today as a tri-plex, renovated in 1993 to replace the balcony seats with two other theaters with independent access, the Del Oro now has a total of 845 seats: 500 in the main auditorium, 190 in Theater 2, and 155 in Theater 3.
Originally part of the United Artists Theater chain from the 1940s to 1993, when it went under new ownership by a lesser chain which did absolutely nothing to preserve or upgrade it, it was purchased and renovated by Mike and Barbara Getz, owners and managers of the Sierra Cinemas chain in Grass Valley and Nevada City, who took it over in a sad state of disrepair in December 2003. Since then, it has become a jewel in the crown of downtown Grass Valley redevelopment, and a joy for theater-goers from all over California.
The original Architect and firm of record which built the Del Oro in 1941 is known to the Getzes, who have thoroughly researched the theater’s 63-year history.
I was employed at the Del Oro as a maintenance and janitorial custodian from June to September 2004.
I am providing this information because I don’t know how to update the information at the top header above the theater comments.

chargerbill
chargerbill on September 27, 2004 at 2:07 pm

I have lived in Nevada County since 1979 when I was only 10 years old. Coming from the city where we had newer theatres I had no idea that theatres like this one existed. Sure, the theatres in the city might have been more technologically advanced, but as a young boy walking for the first time into the Del Oro I knew there was something special about it. The ambiance is a unique a experience all it’s own. Even now as an adult while I sit in the main auditorium waiting for the picture to start I can’t help but look up and admire the unusually high ceilings, adorned beautifully with 40’s era imagery and art deco lighting as the smell of old timbers, plaster and freshly popped popcorn all simultaneously play on the senses. The experience brings to mind a simpler time of which I have heard my grandparents speak…a time when they could enjoy a movie for a quarter and watch such great silver screen icons and Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and the Marx Brothers.

The Del Oro to me is not only a huge part of both Nevada County and California history, but is also a part of my personal history. As a child growing up, going the Del Oro was always an exciting and captivating experience. In an odd way, I miss the old seats, the old drapes and the cracked and faded murals, but I also appreciate the care and effort that is obviously going into it’s restoration, preservation and modernization. It has obviously been a Godsend for the old theatre that it is now under new ownership, but you know what, in a way I personally feel a sense of ownership and pride in it is well. I spent many key childhood moments in that theatre, with old friends and family, some still close, some moved far away and some sadly no longer with us. Just last week my 11 year old daughter and I watched “Sky Captain” together in that grand old theatre and had a great time together. Over the years I’ve also enjoyed taking out-of-town friends and family to the Del Oro and watching them experience the same emotion and excitement as they marvel at this cinematic landmark like I once did many years ago, and still do even to this day.

Thank you Mike and Barbara Getz for preserving a irreplaceable piece of history in lovingly restoring our Del Oro Theatre. Movie going has once again reminded me of my cherished childhood experiences…when I would sit with friends and excitedly await that exact moment that the lights would go down, I could hear the reel make it’s first “click” and the screen would magically come alive.

Bill Zankich

Dejael
Dejael on July 9, 2004 at 5:04 pm

Summer 2004 Update:
The Del Oro Theater is now (July) being completely painted on its exterior in a stylish and tasteful combination of beige sand as a primary base color, with accents in turquoise and Spanish red (a dark red color) which match the original tiles surrounding the front box office. These colors are harmonious with classic 1940s Art Deco styles.
Unfortunately, repainting the building necessitated the loss of the large heart-shaped mural on the back wall of the movie house facing the Highway 49 freeway. It had to be sanded and smoothed and painted over. For the last 25 or 30 years this grand mural has graced the back wall of the theater as a historical landmark. It said “GRASS VALLEY – Heart of the Gold Rush” inside a large golden heart, with painted miners from the 1800’s and painted-on rocks on each side.
The Getzes regretted having to lose this mural, but have worked with the Grass Valley and Nevada County authorities to create a new artwork competition to design a new mural to take its place, which will appear in the spring of 2005 when a winner is selected.
A new handicap restroom was added behind the snack bar in the lobby to meet current codes, and the main auditorium is now user-friendly for wheelchair access patrons.
In the fall, the neon work will be completed and the tower will be electrified by October 2004, returning the theater to its former Art Deco glory. Mike and Barbara Getz are doing a wonderful job on the theater to preserve its past while making it a completely enjoyable venue for today’s audiences.
The original carbon-arc Simplex projectors with 20-minute reels were replaced in the early 1970s by new Christy halogen platter systems, which were then replaced a few years ago by new Christy Xenon-lamp houses.

mcmikecroaro
mcmikecroaro on July 9, 2004 at 12:03 pm

As a former projectionist I find it hard to believe that the booth personnel would (or could) turn the brightness of the xenon lamp down so much as to make the screen dim. Rather the xenon lamp was probably very old and with a blackened envelope would produce a dim picture as suggested in an earlier posting.

Mike Croaro

Dejael
Dejael on April 29, 2004 at 10:00 am

The grand old Art Deco Moderne picture palace DEL ORO is experiencing a real renaissance now that it has been purchased by Mike and Barbara Getz, owners of the Sierra Cinemas in Grass Valley, making it once again a showplace for top first-run movies. The theater was built in 1941, and was purchased by the Getzes in December 2003, and is a real downtown Grass Valley landmark, with its Art Deco neon tower which is soon to be re-electrified so it will once again flash its colors proudly.
The theater is now in the process of being restored and renovated, keeping its classic look, and boasts many new upgrades such as Dolby DTS Stereo System in the main theater auditorium, new seats and special black draping for sound improvement, a new computerized ticket program, and a complete new roof protecting both the main lobby, auditorium and entire building. They have updated the snack bar lobby while keeping the classic Deco decor, offering a veriety of treats including specialty coffees.
Truly, “The Del Oro is back!” as a recent Grass Valley Union newspaper headline proudly stated. Future plans are for the complete restoration of the neon lights, paint and more beautifications.
There are now lines out front to see the latest Hollywood movies, and the downtown area is being revitalized.
Source: The Grass Valley Union Newspaper, April 16, 2004

bjvanslyke
bjvanslyke on February 26, 2004 at 5:17 am

I saw the banner waving at Del Oro announcing that the theater has been purchased by a local person(s). I refused to attend there when it was under whats it’s name. They turned down the power for the matinees in order to save energy. When I complained they lied to me and said that that was the way the film came to them. I complained more than once on separate occasions and got a different answer each time.

I’m not stupid; I know there are several things a projectionist can do to lighten the projected images on the screen. Sometimes the power was turned so low that one could not even see the faces of the actors.

What a ripoff! I once asked for a refund and got it. But it was disappointing not to see a film that I wanted to see, since the same flick does not play in more than one theater in the county. I attend movies that are works of art, not the commercial blockbusters, so I don’t go often. When I do I expect my money’s worth.

Their ticket prices were higher than other theaters in Nevada County, too.

New owners take note, please. Most people who attend matinees are elders who find driving at night difficult if not impossible. Be good to us. We have earned it; we have paid our dues; we deserve better treatment.

I wish you well in your venture, and God bless you.

Betty Van Slyke

John
John on December 29, 2002 at 11:50 am

This theater is in a sad state of disrepair.