Strand Theatre

156 S. Murphy Avenue,
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

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This theatre was a nickelodeon. It was a re-naming of an earlier theater, the Empire Theatre, which opened in 1911. Certainly ‘Strand’ was not a name which proliferated across America until after the mammoth Strand Theatre opened on Times Square in 1914. The Sunnyvale Strand Theatre was located in a one story commercial building housing two establishments behind a single facade. The theatre was in the space on the right, and in the space to the left was a drug store. The theatre had an arched front, with the upper half of the arched opening filled with a stained glass transom window reading ‘Strand’, under which was a row of lightbulbs. There was a substantial ticket lobby, open to the street, lined with poster frames. A simple craftsman style corbeled wooden cornice ran along the top of the building’s facade, visually linking the two establishments. The theater closed when the ‘New’ Strand opened c.1926, at 146-148 South Murphy Avenue. Both buildings survive today.

The space which once housed the ‘old’ Strand Theatre later became a bar. A photo taken in about 1980 shows the name of the bar to be El Nuevo Curimeo. The former drug store had been converted to a small grocery store by this time. The original cornice running along the top of the building was still intact at that time and remained so well into the 1990’s. Today, with its entire facade completely remodeled, the former Strand Theatre houses Fibbar MaGee’s Irish pub.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Might this theater have originally been called the Empire? The earliest mention of a theater in Sunnyvale that I can find in the trade publications is this item from The Moving Picture World of July 15, 1916:

“Sunnyvale, Cal.—Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Meany have disposed of the Empire theater to P. S. Fleischer and associates of Palo Alto who plan to make a number of improvements.”
Silicon Valley History Online provides this photo of the Empire Theatre, dated 1913. A 1911 directory of San Jose and Santa Clara County lists the Empire Theatre as being on Murphy Avenue near Evelyn Avenue.

GaryParks
GaryParks on May 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Thank you, Joe! Yes, that is unquestionably the theater which later was renamed Strand.
The stained glass transom window I mention was inserted into that arch, and the cornice above the arch is the one I speak of, and lasted intact until the building was remodeled to house Fibbar MaGee’s pub.

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