Yuma Theater

254 Main Street,
Yuma, AZ 85364

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The Art Deco style Yuma Theater originally had a seating capacity of 946. Today it is still a single screen movie house and is also still open. In 2007 renovation and restoration work was completed.

The Yuma Theater is now managed by the City of Yuma with events occuring year-round include; original film screenings, community theatre productions, Saturday childrens matinees, Arizona Historical Society tours and film series, jazz festivals, arts symposiums, education workshops, graduation ceremonies, choir concerts and special events and presentations.

Contributed by Pauline Dudley

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

William
William on November 19, 2003 at 12:38 am

The Yuma Theatre’s address is 254 Main Street and it seated 946 people.

Donstory
Donstory on June 19, 2004 at 8:37 am

The Yuma Theatre was originally built and operated by the Nace/Rickards chain and opened in 1927. The site may have been used by a different theatre, possibly a aerodome, prior to that. Harry Nace was a big theatre owner in Arizona until his death. He owned the Rialto in Winslow, and his flagship theatre was the Orpheum in Phoenix.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 14, 2007 at 12:40 am

The link above has this history:
Located on Main Street in the City of Yuma’s central business district, the Yuma Theatre building was constructed in 1912 and originally functioned as a vaudeville and movie house. The Yuma Theatre building has performed an important role in Yuma’s commercial, cultural, and social history ever since.

In 1911, Miss Anna Desmond, a resident of Los Angeles, who had earlier lived in Yuma, and her two sisters, Catherine and Nora owned the property fronting on Main Street. The site was occupied by two small brick and frame store buildings, one housing a laundry and the other, the Parks Plumbing establishment. Deciding to improve the property, Miss Desmond engaged Brooks and Cargill, Yuma architects and on November 2, 1911 a construction contract for a theater building was let and awarded to Charles Olchester, a local contractor. Miss Desmond also arranged to lease the new building to A. J. Zeller of Yuma, one of the operators of the Airdome Theatre located at Madison and First Street.

Known as the Zeller Theater, the building was 50 feet wide and 125 feet deep with a 12 foot high ceiling. The interior was finished in “old mission style” with a seating capacity of 900 on a sloping floor. The Zeller Theater was also the first theater in Yuma to contain fixed seating and to have a raked orchestra. The Theater also had the ability to show motion pictures.

The grand opening for the Zeller Theater was February 21, 1912 with A. J. Zeller operating the theater until about the spring of 1913. At this time, he abandoned his lease and removed the fixed seating. The building was then used for the occasional boxing match with temporary seating.

On September 8, 1913, the Zeller Theater burned in a spectacular fire that destroyed the theater portion of the building. The roof was destroyed as well as the interior, the temporary seating and the “moving picture machine.” Fire damage to the roof framing the store room still exists.

Within three months of the fire, Miss Desmond made arrangements to repair, rebuild and lease the new structure to a new tenant, Riley’s Garage. Riley’s Garage officially opened the first week of January 1914 and occupied the building for eleven and a half years.

In May 1926, Miss Desmond announced she would spend $40,000 to reconstruct the building for theater purposes. Miss Desmond also entered into a 10-year lease with the Arizona movie and theater promoters Rickards and Nace to operate the theater. The Yuma Theatre had the grand opening on January 12, 1927.

Rickards and Nace operated the theatre, using it almost exclusively for films, until January 25, 1936. On that date, a fire broke out in the attic above the stage while an afternoon film was being shown, with much of the theatre portion of the building damaged beyond repair from smoke and water.

Miss Desmond announced that repair of the building would begin at once with the design contract let to local contractor Lee A. Dennis. The design included a new stage, lighting fixtures, decorations, seats, drapes, carpets and a modern cooling system. The lobby and theater were redecorated by the Tony Heinebergen Company and included Art Deco light fixtures with a “wheat shaft” theme and a bas-relief cast plaster mural installed in the lobby. Construction was reported to “run into a considerable sum.”

The Yuma Theatre re-opened on April 11, 1936. In the decades since, the exterior of the Yuma Theatre has gone thru several architectural styles but in 2004 the Theatre’s front facade was restored to its 1912 grandeur. The Yuma Theatre has been in operation almost continuously since 1936. Today, when you enter the Historic Yuma Theatre, you will see an interior decor that has remained virtually unchanged since 1936, complete with two monumental mermaid murals in the audience chamber and the only functioning carbon arc projectors west of the Mississippi.

The Historic Yuma Theatre is now managed by the City of Yuma with events occurring year-round including original film screenings, community theater productions, Saturday children’s matinees, Arizona Historical Society tours and film series, jazz festivals, art symposiums, education workshops, graduation ceremonies, choir concerts, and special events and presentations in connection with Downtown Mall events.

Forming the centerpiece of the Yuma Art Center, the newly restored Historic Yuma Theatre features seating for 640, ADA accessibility, excellent acoustics, plus state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and digital projection capability. The Historic Yuma Theatre is available for lectures, film showings, demonstrations, presentations, seminars, artist-in-residence programs, and other education gatherings.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 14, 2007 at 12:42 am

The above link has various maps of the theater complex and this information:

The Yuma Art Center is the only facility of its kind within a 150-mile radius. Located in the heart of historic downtown Yuma, the Center houses a 640 seat, newly renovated theatre, 3 multi-purpose classrooms, 4 fine art galleries, artist work space, a pottery studio with a kiln, a black and white photography dark room, and an outdoor courtyard for gatherings.

tmvaz
tmvaz on November 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I believe it was known as the Fox Theater for awhile in maybe the 20’s, although I can’t seem to find information to substantiate this.

LomaUsher
LomaUsher on March 12, 2014 at 8:00 am

Just today, 3/11/14, I toured the Yuma Theater and Arts Center, and was fairly dazzled by the wonderfully useful and adaptable spaces with which this wonderful art-deco cinema is now surrounded. The Arts Center provides usable space on both sides of the theater, with classrooms, pottery studios and a theatrical dressing room in the adjoining south building, which being half the length of the theatre also features a patio/reception area to the rear. The Arts Center on the north side of the building also features three spaces, one small space near the street, the 2 ½ story main salle in the middle, and a lower ceilinged space to the rear, above which are the spacious art center offices. The theater is accessible from all sides of the building, and the upper interior walkway features an exposed section of the butressed former northern exterior brick wall of the theater, converted into an interior architectural feature. As the reader might guess, I was very impressed by this excellent restoration, conversion, and repurposement. The theater boasts an active winter schedule, and I was told that many performances sell out every year.

As a special note, the Yuma theater features a lower level projection booth located directly under the lip of the balcony at the back of the stalls seats, which – although it boasts a thoroughly modern digital cinematic projector located between the projectors – is a perfect time-capsule of a projection room of the 1940’s or 50’s. Both carbon arc projectors are in situ, and while not working, only lack one piece of equipment to make both projectors functional. There is no plan to use them, but the room also retains its film racks, with some film still on reels, cutting and splicing equipment, rewinding reels, fire-door, and would make a tourist attraction in itself for cinema junkies.

The Yuma theater now has a functional stage with a 25' depth. While there is no fly-space, or wings to speak of, there is a grand piano if needed, and best of all, is possessed of excellent acoustics. I mean it doesn’t sound either as dead as a door-nail, or as flat as a phone-booth. I recommend this theater for plays, recitation, chamber-music, concert or recital, and probably for anything you care to use it for. I can’t imagine an unpleasant theatrical experience in the Yuma Theater!

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