State Theater

501 MacDonald Avenue,
Richmond, CA 94801

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State Theatre RIchmond CA

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Opened by the T & D chain as the Richmond Theatre in 1912. In 1924 it was taken over by West Coast Theatres and they became Fox West Coast Theatres in 1927. In 1937, the theatre was rebuilt within the existing walls and reopened on January 14, 1938 as the State Theatre.

Operated by Fox West Coast Theatres, the State Theatre was closed in 1951.

Contributed by Garrett Murphy

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

JohnRice
JohnRice on May 24, 2004 at 3:34 am

The State was a second run Fox West Coast house at 501 McDonald Avenue (5th & McDonald) with 610 seats. It sometimes featured move over programs from the Costa, just two blocks away on McDonald. It closed in the early 1950’s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 10, 2008 at 3:54 am

This ca.1943 photo by Dorothea Lange depicts the State Theatre. The picture is one of a large number of photos taken in Richmond by Lange during WWII, afew of which depict the city’s theatres.

JohnRice
JohnRice on November 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm

The structure that housed the State Theatre originated as the Richmond Theatre, opened by the Turner and Dahnken (T & D) circuit on March 16, 1912. West Coast Theatres purchased the T & D circuit in 1924 and Fox West Coast Theatres got their theatre chain started by purchasing West Coast in 1927.

On January 14, 1938 the Richmond was re-born as Fox West Coast’s State. The Richmond Independent reported that only the walls remained from the former structure “and even these have been reconstructed with huge steel girders as to make the theater virtually earthquake proof”. Everything inside was brand new and a new modern front, box office and marquee made the makeover complete. “Mountain Music” and “Wings Over Honolulu” was the grand opening double feature attraction.

The State closed in 1951, the second Macdonald Avenue movie theatre casualty (after the Liberty) of RIchmond’s post war downturn economy and most likely the increasing popularity of television.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Fox West Coast temporarily gave up the Richmond Theatre in 1929 according to this item from the July 18 issue of The Film Daily:

“Borg, Pappas Get Fox House

“Richmond, Cal. — Lawrence Borg and William Pappas who operate the Macdonald have leased the Richmond from the Fox West Coast chain. The Richmond formerly was a T. & D. house until the chain was purchased by Fox West Coast.”

The Macdonald Theatre that Borg & Pappas operated is not listed at Cinema Treasures and I’ve been unable to find out anything about it. I guess we can assume that it was on MacDonald Avenue, so perhaps MacDonald is a missing aka for one of the other theaters on the street.

JohnRice
JohnRice on November 8, 2014 at 5:57 am

Thanks for that info from Film Daily Joe!

The 1914 City Directory for Richmond shows several other theaters in addition to the Richmond on Macdonald Avenue. Since film exhibition was still in it’s infancy then I suspect most or all were rather small storefront/nickelodeon affairs. Those theaters are: Central Theatre 507 Macdonald Ave., Vim Theatre 509 Macdonald Ave., Jewell Theatre 1106 Macdonald Ave. and Majestic Theatre 1106 Macdonald Ave (same address as Jewell).=

I’ve also found ads in the Richmond Independent during the same era (the 19-teens) for an Isis Theatre (“formerly the Helm”) at 11th & Macdonald.

The Macdonald Theatre apparently came along after all of the above and was located at 1104 Macdonald Ave. Most of the other early theaters had closed by the 1920’s but the Macdonald seems to have kept operating through the twenties or a bit beyond. A 1927 ad in the Independent shows it the lone independent survivor, still competing with the T & D and Richmond for patrons.

11th & Macdonald seems to have been a quite active corner for movie exhibition in the early days. I’m very familiar with that corner since it was the main bus stop for the Richmond to El Sobrante bus when I was growing up in the 1950’s. It’s been a while (!) but I don’t remember anything that looked remotely like an old theatre building at that location so I guess all was demolished by then!

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