Avenue Theatre

11022 Downey Avenue,
Downey, CA 90241

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CrazyLacy on December 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I moved to Downey, CA in 1971 at age 7 from NC. Been to 100’s of movies here over the years between 1971 to 1991. Then, moved to Apple Valley, CA in 1991. After moving to the high desert, I would still drive my family back to Downey to visit the Avenue. Last movie I saw was The 6th Day and Unbreakable. I also remember seeing Friday the 13th part 1 in 1980 here. This site says the Avenue was opened in 1922, That makes it older than the Chinese Theater May 18, 1927. When I met my wife in 1985 she worked at the Chinese Theatre. :)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 29, 2014 at 10:53 am

The Avenue Theatre was certainly still there when Google’s camera car last passed by. The marquee remains over the former theater entrance, and you can see the back wall of the auditorium with its two emergency exit doors on the south side of Third Street.

hsurguine on December 29, 2014 at 6:06 am

Sorry, It hasn’t been torn down yet. The Meralta has been, but the Avenue still exists. Are you certain about the dates? I worked in the Meralta, and can confirm it was an old Vaudville Theater. But I can’t say for the Avenue Theater…`

richjr37 on July 10, 2013 at 10:41 pm

A pre-school and an adjoining(via shared parking lot in the middle)US Bank office now sit where the Avenue Theatre was.

dtrigubetz on February 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

Saw Body Heat around 1981 at the Avenue. It was a good alternative to the shoebox mutiplexes of that time.

Bridgette on February 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Saw “The Little Shop Of Horrors” and “The Garbage Pail Kids” here around 1986 or so when I was 5. :)

retrcool on October 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

sign our petition to save the Avenue Theater here.


richjr37 on November 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Saw “Dog Day Afternoon” & “The Happy Hooker” here in 1975,I was only 6 years old at the time.

drb on April 24, 2009 at 11:17 pm

View link

which has a link to this petition to save the Avenue Theatre:

View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm

The name change from Downey Theatre to Avenue Theatre took place in 1949. The April 16 issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that the Cummings circuit would spend $200,000 on remodeling its Victory and Meralta Theatres, and that the Victory would be renamed the Avenue.

retrocool on January 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Hi everyone, There will be a meeting tomorrow night 1-6-09 at the Downey City Library to here public input on what should be done with the old Avenue Theater site. Here is the link to the Downey Patriot with all the info. Hope to see some of you there.

View link

kencmcintyre on December 15, 2008 at 1:48 pm

From Boxoffice magazine, January 1963:

DOWNEY, CALIF-The Avenue Theater in Downey is now undergoing a $50,000 remodeling program in preparation for a policy of long-run pictures. The reconstruction job will include a new marquee and front, increased seating capacity and new restrooms. E.R. Cummings Theater Corp., owner and operator of the Avenue Theater, has also scheduled the immediate remodeling of the Norwalk Theater in Norwalk, Calif. The firm recently remodeled the Meralda in Downey, at a cost in excess of $100,000.

kencmcintyre on April 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm

I usually go around to the back, but it was just too hot today. I wanted to get back in my car and crank up the AC.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 12, 2008 at 10:11 pm

According to the county assessor’s office, this building was erected in 1925, but has an effective year built of 1927. A different effective year built usually indicates some major addition or alteration, but in this case the two dates are so close together it makes me wonder what happened.

As I now know that this theatre backs up to 3rd Street, I’m thinking that perhaps this was, after all, the theatre proposed in 1925 which I mentioned in the first paragraph of my comment of December 8, 2004, above. The bulk of the Avenue does occupy a lot fronting on 3rd Street, and only a narrow structure containing the lobby connects it to Downey Avenue.

retrocool on November 27, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I have recently bee by the Avenue Theater and with a chipping away of little plaster around the front of the theater you an see the original brick. The theater is also for sale.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 22, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Flickr user The Downey Conservancy also provides this aerial photo showing the business district of Downey during the late 1930s. The view is northward across Firestone Boulevard, with Downey Avenue running from lower left toward the upper right. Both the Downey/Victory/Avenue and the Meralta Theatre can be picked out. The Meralta is the larger, more northerly theatre, easily identifiable by its tall, white stage-house.

The Avenue Theatre is a block closer, but built of a darker material, probably red brick, and it sports a very dark roof. The auditorium runs parallel to Downey Avenue and its stage house backs up to 3rd Street. In this photo taken during the early 1960s remodeling of the house, the name Avenue Theatre can be seen on the stage-house wall rising from behind the shops to the left.

The 1960s alterations destroyed an earlier facade remodeling of the Avenue, a plain but handsome bit of modern design depicted in this c1950 ad for Cummings Theatres, which also features a nice shot of the modernized Meralta.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Apparently the Downey Theater in the photo is the one that became the Avenue, after spending some time as the Victory.

The three photos match one another, but they don’t match the description of the proposed theatre published in Southwest Builder & Contractor issue of May 30, 1924, which describes a building of two floors, and situated on the northwest corner of Crawford Street (Downey Avenue) and 2nd St. The previous issue of SwB&C had described the proposed building as being 106' by 140', which certainly doesn’t fit the Downey/Victory/Avenue. The building was supposed to contain a 900 seat theatre, nine storefronts, plus sixteen offices on the second floor. I’m thinking that this 1924 project at 2nd and Crawford must have fallen through.

Another bit of the puzzle is that there was apparently a Downey Theatre in operation before March 13, 1925, as the SwB&C issue of that date announced the plans for a theatre to be erected on 3rd Street in Downey (possibly also unbuilt), and said that the lessee of the new house would be “…L.R. Matthews, listed as owner of the Downey Theatre….” Matthews is mentioned again as owner of the Downey Theatre in another SwB&C article about the same project, published April 10, 1925.

This means that, unless there were two theatres in the town both called the Downey at different times, the Downey/Victory/Avenue almost certainly isn’t the one other theatre proposed for Downey Avenue in 1925, which was a project planned by Mr. Matthews on his own behalf. The SwB&C issue of May 15, 1925, only says that the proposed theatre was on a site occupied by a brick garage owned by the Downey Motor Company, which was to be moved and altered. It might be that this project fell thorough too, unless it was the theatre which eventually became El Teatro.

That leaves one more possible candidate to be the actual Downey/Victory/Avenue Theatre: the proposed theatre mentioned in the November 7, 1919 issue of SwB&C, described only as being financed by Willeford Hogan and designed by Harry Haden Whitely. Of course it’s possible that this 1919 building was the one that became El Teatro, as the SwB&C article gives a proposed seating capacity of only 275 for the house, which certainly doesn’t match the Avenue’s capacity of 850 listed above. Of course the building might have been expanded later.

kencmcintyre on August 10, 2007 at 11:55 pm

There was a long article in the LA Times on 2/22/81 about Downey’s changing ethnic makeup. At that time, the Avenue was owned by the three Bueno brothers, Javier, Jorge and Juan, and was showing Spanish films. Someone took exception and fired a few shots into the theater’s front door.

kencmcintyre on July 7, 2007 at 6:56 pm

The Valuskis Downey was advertised in the LA Times on 10/22/33. No address given, however.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 9, 2004 at 8:15 pm

I have been able to determine that the Meralta was designed by architect Evan Jones, of Hollywood, but I don’t know which of the other proposed theaters on Downey Avenue is which. Whichever one was at the northwest corner of Second Street is the one designed by Newton and Truesdell, but I don’t know which of the theaters that is.

I also know that there was a theater called the Downey that was operating in the early 1920s, and that yet another theater was proposed for an unidentified location on Downey Avenue in 1925. I have only the vaguest memories of Downey Avenue, as it was several miles from where I lived, and I only passed through the town infrequently, usually on Rosemead Boulevard or Firestone.

I remember seeing the Downey, Meralta and Avenue theatres listed in the L.A. Times, but don’t remember a Fiesta theatre at all.

MagicLantern on December 9, 2004 at 12:10 pm

The theatres I know of in Downey throughout its history are the Avenue, Downey, Meralto and Victory Theatres; the Showcase Cinemas I & II, and the Krikorian Downey Cinema 10.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 8, 2004 at 8:35 pm

The theater on Third Street, near Crawford Avenue (the former name of Downey Avenue) was proposed in 1925. The plans were prepared by the architectural firm of Schilling & Schilling, of Long Beach, and the owner was to be a Mrs. Ada B. Adams of Downey. Mrs. Adams intended to lease thee theater to a Mr. L.R. Matthews, who was named as the operator of the Downey Theater on Crawford Avenue. (The Downey Theatre is probably the theater later known as El Teatro.) Mrs. Adams was also the owner of the Meralta Theatre, which she leased to Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta, the operators of the Meralta Theatre in Culver City, and of the Downey Theatre.

As I said, I have no confirmation that Mrs. Adams' Third Street theater was ever built. If it was, it may not have lasted long, what with three other theaters already in operation in what was then a fairly small town, and the building may have been converted to some other use, and its origins as a theater eventually forgotten.

The Downey Theatre of that time itself appears to have been constructed in 1919 or 1920, from plans by architect Harry Haden Whitely.

The theater on Paramount Boulevard would have been rather small, at 400 seats, and was supposed to have been built at 12409 Paramount Boulevard in an area then called Hollydale, since annexed to the City of Downey. I have checked my source and found that it was proposed in 1946.