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 18 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm

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 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm

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 5:21 pm

Very nice looking theatre.

GaryParks on October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

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 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

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 2:30 pm

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

crogg on May 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

Hi Joe,

I know it’s a long shot that you’ll respond after so much time, but I was wondering how you found out when the fire was that destroyed the original Merced Theater? I’m working on a research report on the Mainzer and have only been able to find estimated dates of 1931 of the fire and not December 1936. Thanks!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 27, 2016 at 6:52 pm

crogg: The date of the fire came from the NRHP REgistration Form for the second Merced Theatre. A section of it deals with the history of the Golden State Theatre Company, and that’s where the brief bit of information about the first Merced Theatre can be found.

Here is a link to a PDF of the Registration Form.

This article by Sarah Lim, museum director for the Merced County Courthouse Museum, appeared in the September 4, 2015, issue of the Merced Sun-Star and contains a bit more information about the original Merced Theatre. It gives the opening date as March 4, 1920 (the first performance was a live operetta rather than a movie) and says that the theater was destroyed by a fire in December, 1936.

A 1936 date for the final fire does not preclude the possibility of a fire in 1931 as well. Fires were a common hazard of theaters in those days, and many an early movie house suffered more than one in its history. In fact during the era of highly explosive nitrate film stock used in conjunction with intensely hot carbon arc projector lamps, it would be difficult to find a theater that didn’t suffer at least one projection booth fire.

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