Novelty Theatre

431 W. 4th Street,
Santa Ana, CA 92701

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Jim Sleeper, the late Orange County historian extraordinaire (1927-2012), published “Great Movies Shot in Orange County". His book not only lists Orange County filming locations but the early theaters of Santa Ana. Even more remarkable, according to Chris Jepsen, president of the Orange County Historical Society, was that Jim did all of his research without the use of a computer.

Typical of these theatres was the Novelty Theatre, which opened on January 18, 1909 in the Richelieu Hotel. The hotel, before the Novelty Theatre, had the Richelieu/New Metropolitan Theatre, which later moved to 413 N. Main Street.

As there were many theatres in the local directory and newspaper listings from 1903 to 1910, most were just fleeting storefront operations. Another theatre was the Bijou Theatre, which opened on November 23, 1903 in a spare room of a feed store at 420 Sycamore Street. It was open for just three weeks before it closed and was replaced by the remodeled Casino Theatre in April of 1904. The Casino Theatre became the Lyceum Theatre the next May but was closed within a week.

Others mentioned in Mr. Sleeper’s book are the Majestic Theatre or Princess Theatre at 218 E. 4th Street and the Dixie Theatre at 309 E. 4th Street. Another in the constantly revolving theatre scene was the Bell Theatre, which opened on June 28, 1910 in a converted mortuary at 504 N. Main Street and then moved three months later to 306 N. Main Street, where it was later named the Princess Theatre.

By the time the 1915 street directory was published, the theatre scene had settled down. There was Clunes Theatre, the Grand Opera House, Lyric Theatre, Princess Theatre, and Temple Theatre, all in more permanent buildings.

Contributed by rpierce
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