Modesto Theatre

927 10th Street,
Modesto, CA 95354

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The Modesto Theatre opened on February 6, 1913, with the stage opera, “The Pirates of Penzance”. The ad in the Modesto Evening News also said it showed ‘The Cream Of Motion Pictures’. There was previously an old Modesto Theatre, location unknown, mentioned in the News that opened in 1908. Historicmodesto.com mentions that another theatre, the Star Theatre, was previously at this address, 927 10th Street, but it moved across the street to 928 10th Street.

On December 9, 1913, a fire estimated to cost $30,000 destroyed the Modesto Theatre. The next day W.R. Mensinger, the owner, announced plans to rebuild and said the venue would be bigger and better. The Modesto Theatre reopened on July 2, 1913, with the movie “From the Manger to the Cross”. Sometime in late-1925 it came under the control of the National Theatre Syndicate, a major player in the Northern and Central California theater turf.

On August 12, 1935, it was again greatly damaged by fire and plans were immediately put into place to rebuild. Evidently those plans were never realized because in September of 1936 a building permit was taken out to remodel the former theater into stores, with the structure being reduced from three stories to one.

From the looks of the building today, it appears that the front third of the structure was lowered and the balcony removed. The theater has been used for commercial stores since 1936 and has outlasted many other landmarks in Modesto. Anyone searching for it would not have to look long as this massive building, especially its back, is very visible from the surrounding streets. In 2010 it was home to a nightclub, the Copper Rhino. A history of Modesto theaters and landmarks with photographs is at historicmodesto.com.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 26, 2010 at 1:25 am

There must be a typo in paragraph two of the intro. The line “The Modesto Theatre reopened on July 2, 1913….” should probably say 1914, as the theater burned in December, 1913. Unless, of course, time occasionally runs backward in Modesto.

According to a card in the California Index, the Los Angeles Examiner of January 25, 1914, reported that Ralph T. Morrell (his middle initial was actually P) was the architect of a theater to be built at Modesto. There aren’t any details on the card, but the project referred to was most likely the rebuilding of the Modesto.

Morrell was a fairly significant architect in the San Joaquin Valley. His office was in Stockton, where a large number of his works were built. A 1920 issue of Architect and Engineer said that the offices of Ralph P. Morrell had let contracts for the construction of an Odd Fellows Lodge in Stockton which was to have a movie theater on the ground floor. So far I’ve been unable to discover which theater this was.

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