1534 Adams Street,
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James Edwards II retired to Newport Beach, California in the early 1960s after building up a chain of theaters around Los Angeles beginning in 1930.
Mr. Edwards came out of retirement in 1963 to open Edwards Cinema, which was the first theater in his modern-day empire. He convinced the film distributors that a growing Orange County could compete with Los Angeles for first-run movies. The Orange County Register reported that he guaranteed $75,000 to MGM in 1965 to screen “Dr. Zhivago” at the same time as Los Angeles. Soon other chains such as United Artists, General Cinemas and Mann Theatres took notice and begin to encroach but Mr. Edwards seemed to stay one step ahead of them, sometimes even buying up their locations when they called it quits.
But to paraphrase the modest Mr. Edwards, who lived until the age of 90, “We’re not really in the movie business, we’re in the popcorn business” The chain would go on to have at its peak in 2000, according to Boxoffice Magazine, 850 screens at 90 locations making it the 11 largest chain in the United States.
The original Edwards Cinema closed in 2000 because of Edwards' bankruptcy and the fact that the single-screen theater had become outdated. The remaining theaters are now part of Regal Entertainment Group. The renovated building is now home to a Paul Mitchell cosmetology academy.
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