Merced Theatre

301 West Main Street,
Merced, CA 95340

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Merced Theatre

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The Merced Theatre, designed by the Reid Bros., was built in 1930 by Golden State Theatres, a dominant circuit in Central and Northern California. It opened on October 31, 1931.

It became part of United Artists Theatres in the mid-1970’s and by the mid-1980’s, the original 1,658-seat auditorium had become four screens.

The Merced Theatre closed in the Spring of 2002 because of competition from a new stadium theater which opened a block away. In July of 2002, the city of Merced approved the purchase of this theatre for $700,000, half the $1.4 million asking price. According to the Merced Sun-Star it will be managed by the Merced Theatre Foundation, a non-profit agency, renovation work would take at least 3 years and up to $3 million to complete. The theatre is to operate as a community theatre, and it also has street-level shops and upper-level apartments.

Only 300 seats were being used in what was screen 2, but this operation closed in 2009. By 2012, the entire theatre has re-opened as a single auditorium known as the Art Kamanger Center at the Merced Theatre.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

tomdelay
tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 5:15 pm

There is some thinking that the Merced #1 was also named the Strand at some point. Could be, there were a few Strand Theatres in the Valley, but mostly very old. The Strand in Modesto had a Wurlitzer that was installed in 1918! Monterey had a Strand Theatre of 1917.

A late friend of mine who once lived in Merced, tracked down the information about the Merced #1 and the organ burning up. Ken Roe has the Film Daily Yearbook, but I don’t think his records go back that far. However, if a Strand or Rio shows up on FDY, at least there would be an address to work with.

I visited the Merced Theatre Foundation website this morning. Things are moving along with the fundraising with a nearly $2m grant given for restoration of the 1931 Merced.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2007 at 7:41 pm

In 1914 there was also a theatre called the Elite operating in Merced. In that year the manager of the Elite, C.H. Douglas, formed a company with plans to build a new theatre.

tomdelay
tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Joe pointed out on the Mainzer page /theaters/4405/ of this website that the Strand name appears to have been moved to the former Merced Theatre #1 about 1936. This would make sense to differentiate the older theatre from this present-day Merced Theatre of 1931.

So let’s see here: We have (in no particular order) for Merced:

Elite Theatre (1914)
Strand Theatre
Rio Theatre
Merced Theatre (1921?)(Strand, Mainzer)
Merced theatre (1931)

tomdelay
tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Before the previous owner left the theatre, I was able to go through the theatre from top to bottom. This theatre really “got it” from the previous owner. It should be absolutely stunning when it is all put back together. The stage is astoundingly large for a movie/vaudeville house with plenty of wing space. In the orchestra ready room under the stage, I found a couple of what were probably original seat end standards.

tomdelay
tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 9:00 pm

BTW, in case you have not seen it:

http://www.mercedtheatre.org/

William
William on August 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

The Merced Theatre opened on Saturday, October 31, 1931 by Golden State and Realty Company.

jerryellis
jerryellis on December 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

My parents operated a department store on 17th and K in Merced. As I recall there was a small theatre, The Rio, located on 16th near K, which showed mostly Spanish speaking movies. This was in the late 40s and 50s.

ajtarantex
ajtarantex on October 27, 2012 at 2:06 am

The Theater is completely restored and is open now

Mikeyisirish
Mikeyisirish on December 18, 2012 at 7:15 pm

A few July 2012 photos can be seen here and here.

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