Ritz Theater

22326 Mission Boulevard,
Hayward, CA 94541

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Ritz, exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theater opened in 1946 in Hayward near the downtown area. It showed feature films until October 1973, when the Mitchell Brothers took over operation of the theater from United Artists theaters. It then became a porn film house from Oct 1973 to December 1985. (The first adult film that was shown there was "Resurrection of Eve" with Marilyn Chambers.)

The Society of St Vincent De Paul (a Catholic organization) bought the theater and turned it into a thrift store selling used furniture and clothing.

The store closed in 2002 and was afterward demolished and a health care clinic built on the site.

Contributed by scottfavareille

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

scottfavareille on March 31, 2004 at 10:46 pm

The new building on the theater site is a health clinic. It was built from scratch.

davidkaye on November 29, 2004 at 8:42 pm

I went to the Ritz and the Hayward Theaters (we called them thee-AY-ters, of course) as a kid, where I saw Three Stooges movies (long form, not the 2-reelers), Jerry Lewis, and others. I especially remember one movie that played on a Saturday afternoon called “White Slave Ship”. This is puzzling because there’s a whipping scene in the movie and the kids in the audience are counting out the whip strokes in unison. I can’t imagine anything like that happening in today’s conservative climate.

Among the things I remember about the Ritz were that the theater was very clean, had a thick carpet, and made it feel as if we were really doing something special, even though the Ritz was built during the sparse postwar architectural period.

I also remember the big 50 cent candy bars that would take 3 of us to eat.

Both the Ritz and the Hayward were into the “continuous show” mode, where they didn’t bring up the house lights between movies, but just kept showing something. Both theatres had clocks at the ticket booth showing what time you could expect to leave if you entered at that moment. Definitely, both theatres were positioned for the go-go 50s and 60s.

robertgippy on June 13, 2005 at 2:35 pm

The Ritz theatre was a single screen theatre, with padded loges style chairs in the first i guess 20 rows, then regular seating towards the front. You had to pay extra to sit there. Green walls at the time, with square light fixtures on the walls. Gold colored curtain on the stage. No murals to think of. The marquee, however had a huge huge vertical, very unique looking. At a distance you were thinking you were coming to a huge movie palace. The first day the Mitchell Bros took over the theatre, prior to their screening of Behind The Green Door, the first X rated movie shown there at midnight was called XXX Sensory Perception. For about 2 months after, the Ritz had midnight movies like “the big TNT” “Carmen Baby the Female Animal” and “Mark of The Devil” During the Mitchells run, it was well kept, clean, and the parking lot was immaculate. Prior to it’s closing the parking lot, especially behind the theatre, were areas where hookers had sex with the customers. Even when the theatre closed an reopened as a thrift store, the sex in the lot still continued until extra patrol by the Hayward Police put a stop to all that.

scottfavareille on June 13, 2005 at 4:50 pm

The first film the Mitcheels showed there (as an XXX house) was “Resurrection of Eve” as first-run. The week prior it played a triple bill of three films with Mick Jagger: Gimme Shelter, Performance, and Ned Kelly.

Behind the Green Door first played in Hayward at the Hayward theater a block down the street on Mission. That theater had gone XXX in early 1973, several months prior to the Ritz, and actually even suffered from an occasional police raid. (And prior to it going XXX, the Hayward theater had been showing soft X fare like Swinging Pussycats frequently.)

GaryParks on June 14, 2005 at 7:31 pm

The mention of the big sign the Ritz had intrigues me. I never saw it. I first drove by the Ritz in its last days, and, while the entry—terrazzo, box office, doors, display cases—marked it as an older theatre, the plain, plastic-clad triangular marquee and sign were in no way spectacular and of much later vintage, though the marquee soffit appeared to be original. Vertical sign photos, anyone?

scottfavareille on July 12, 2005 at 2:58 pm

The Mitchells did change the signage shortly after acquiring the theater.

davidkaye on July 12, 2005 at 4:52 pm

Does anyone have photos of any of the Hayward theatres during their heydays?

jonnelle on September 21, 2005 at 12:34 am

I have a copy of a photo collage given to me recently by the daughter of former manager, Sol Bolnik. I worked as an usherette 1961-62.

jonnelle on September 21, 2005 at 12:35 am

That would be the Ritz Theater.

celaniasdawn on February 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

If you would like to see what the original marquee of the Ritz looked like, look at the Sunset Theater in Lodi California. I wonder if they were built by the same person, as the building and marquee are exactly the same, except the Ritz had a green vertical with the ritz letters in red.

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