Mainzer Cinema II

659 West Main Street,
Merced, CA 95344

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Mainzer Cinema II

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Merced Sun-Star says that the Mainzer Theatre, built in the 1920’s, is owned by contractor Brenda Farley who has been handling its ongoing renovations since 2000.

It appears that this was the original Merced Theatre which was remodeled into the Strand Theatre after Golden State Theatres built a new Merced Theatre in 1931. However, United California Theatres, which was the later name of Golden State Theatres and later merged with United Artists, did have a house in Merced called the Strand Theatre up to the early-1960’s.

In the 1970’s, when owned by United Artists, the auditorium was divided into three parts and it was called Cinema III. Since Farley assumed ownership two of the auditoriums, which seat 120 each, have been showing art films while the larger 250-seat venue with tables and a balcony has been used for an eclectic array of performing arts. There is also a small espresso bar and deli in the lobby. The theater was available for rentals. It had closed by the beginning of 2011.

The other historic theater, the Merced Theatre, is now undergoing restoration for use as a performing arts center. There is also a small playhouse and a 10-screen multiplex downtown.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 9:02 pm


The story I heard from a friend of mine in Merced who had done research found that the present day Mainzer was the original Merced Theatre until the new Merced opened in 1931. (As said earlier, a fire in the now Mainzer destroyed the original organ that was to have been moved (and hopefully enlarged.) This sort of thing happened all over the Valley. The Wurlitzer list shows a 4-rank organ going to the Hanford Theatre in 1924. Huh? The present Hanford opened in 1930. How could that be? Wurlitzer seemed to be using a generic Hanford theatre rather than a Hanford Theatre. The organ in Hanford was in the old T & D Theatre in 1924 and enlarged and moved to the new Hanford Theatre in 1930. No way to prove it now, but I wonder if the same did not apply in Merced; the organ going to the Merced theatre?)

That said, my late friend in Merced interviewed old timers around town who said the Mainzer was originally the Merced Theatre (1). Your time frame above really works for the old Merced, then Strand Theatre (1936). [The Salih Bros. did lots of theatre replastering/modernization. At least two theatres they built from scratch were the 1935 Cascade Theatre in Redding and the 1936 Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz. Both of these theatres have fooled theatre experts before, looking like a Timothy Pfluger-design, but not. Here in Central CA, there is still a painting and plastering firm known as Saleh Bros. I wonder if it is not some relation? ] The Mainzer, ex-Merced 1/Strand 2, looked very much like an S. Chas. Lee design. Too much to think about, but, it sounds very reasonable that the Strand Theatre name was moved to the first Merced Theatre to differentiate it from the more modern theatre.

And now an Elite Theatre to research.

kencmcintyre on September 16, 2008 at 7:51 pm

The related website is no longer providing information about the theater. I didn’t see any current events listed online. Does anyone know if the renovation is still ongoing?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 17, 2009 at 12:50 am

I’ve found a reference to a theater in Merced called the Lindsay. The October 2, 1948, issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that the managers of the Strand and Lindsay Theatres in Merced had switched jobs. I suppose it’s possible that the reference was actually to the Lindsay Theatre in Lindsay, and Boxoffice just got the location wrong, but the two towns are quite some distance apart.

There’s also a Boxoffice reference to a theater called the Rio, in the August 29, 1942, issue, which mentioned Leo Reese as the operator of the Orpheum in Lakeport and the Rio in Merced. In the twelfth paragraph down on this Rootsweb page, a long-time resident of Merced recalls there being three theaters in the town in the 1940s; the Merced, the Strand, and the Rio.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 20, 2009 at 2:28 am

A later issue of Boxoffice says that the Lindsay Theatre was the one in Lindsay, so that’s cleared up. I’ve found references to the Rio Theatre in Merced as far back as 1940.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Very nice looking theatre.

GaryParks on October 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

My friend Jack Tillmany has in his very extensive collection a 1920s color tinted postcard view of this theatre as the Merced. It was unquestionably designed by A. W. Cornelius originally. Its facade bears the design Cornelius used on so many of his theatres. In fact, it most closely resembles the California in Pittsburg, but a bit narrower.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2011 at 2:11 am

Salih Brothers, currently listed as architects of this theater, operated a general contracting company. However, I can’t find any indication that they acted as architects on any of these projects. The original Merced Theatre, as Gary Parks says, designed by A. W. Cornelius. The application for the inclusion of the second Merced Theatre on the National Register of Historic Places included a bit of information about the first Merced Theatre, saying that it was opened in March, 1920 by Charles Douglas and Francis Egan, and that it was bought by E.H. Emmick, president of the Golden State Theatres circuit about 1923. The first Merced Theatre suffered a fire in December, 1936, and was rebuilt and reopened as the Strand in 1938. It doesn’t say who the architect for the rebuilding was.

Salih Brothers operated at least one theater themselves; The Center in Centerville, now part of the city of Fremont. Salih Brothers build the Center in 1946, and it was operated by the Salih family until 1973. A document from the Fremont planning commission says that the Center Theatre was designed by architect A. A. Cantin. If the Salih brothers had been architects, I would think they’d have designed the theater they built and operated themselves.

TomLafleur on December 12, 2015 at 5:30 pm

This link has 3 photos of the 1920 Merced and 1929 remodel plus a nice article from the Merced Sun.

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