El Rey Theater

230 W. 2nd Street,
Chico, CA 95928

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 9, 2018 at 11:27 pm

The El Rey, dark for some time, is reopening tomorrow night, Saturday, February 10, 2018, with live performances. Here is their web site. Proceeds from this event will go to continuing renovations of the house.

Sunday night the theater will present the 1938 film Robin Hood, much of which was filmed in Chico’s Bidwell Park.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2017 at 9:55 pm

The El Rey’s Facebook page lists no events since a concert on February 10. I don’t know how long it’s been since they ran a movie, but I’m quite sure the place does not have any digital projection equipment.

DavidZornig on June 11, 2017 at 7:57 pm

1963 photo added courtesy of Kris Vierra.

scobee on September 21, 2016 at 9:05 am

Current update – The EL Rey is in the process of being sold to a franchise pizza restaurant. It has operated as a concert/event/film space for the past 9 years. The potential new owners plan to turn it into a two story building with high end apartments upstairs and a restaurant below, To my knowledge, there are currently no plans on the part of the potential new owners to maintain it as a theater. Last night, the Chico city counsel voted unanimously to add it to the next counsel meeting agenda, to discuss adding it to the city’s historical preservation listing as well as the legality of doing such. If anyone has any verifiable historical facts on the theater, they would be great to have for the city counsel meeting in 2 weeks. More info can be found at www.elreychico.org

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm

A 2010 photo can be seen here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 13, 2011 at 12:22 am

The use of the phrase “store-front theatre” in the first paragraph of the description makes no sense. This building was built as a vaudeville theater in 1905, and has always been a theater, both before and after it was rebuilt following the 1946 fire.

Bill Coady is correct. The El Rey is showing old movies on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with very low admission prices. Furthermore, they take requests on the theater’s Facebook page. There are also many live events upcoming. Apparently the theater is doing well.

The “Save the El Rey” web site that Lost Memory linked to on January 22, 2008, no longer has anything to do with the theater, and now exists only to host advertising links. There’s no point in clicking on it.

WJCoady on February 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm

The El Rey is showing movies again! The schedule is on the JMAX website,

kencmcintyre on June 2, 2009 at 9:45 am

Must have been a major remodel.

kencmcintyre on June 2, 2009 at 9:24 am

Some discrepancy between the 1942 and 1980 photos. The earlier one may not be this El Rey.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 7, 2008 at 10:06 pm

JMAX Productions now features upcoming El Rey events on its website. They’re few and far between, but at least something is going on there.

kencmcintyre on December 5, 2007 at 6:38 pm

There is a show there Friday night:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 5, 2007 at 4:08 pm

The El Rey has reopened with live performances, but on a very limited schedule. It’s being booked by JMax Productions. Henry Rollins did a spoken word show November 3 (the reopening event, as far as I know), and a couple of bands are scheduled for December dates. The venue has not yet been added to the Chico News & Review’s local nightlife grid, though. When (and if) it shows up there, we’ll know the revival is probably going to succeed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Apparently the El Rey’s owner, Eric Hart, decided that his plan to gut the building and convert it to offices and retail space was not financially viable at this time. The Chico Enterprise-Record article (linked from myblueheven’s comment of July 15 above) about the planned sale of the building no longer works, but it looks as though there was no sale yet, to the preservationist group or anyone else. Instead, the latest news is that Hart will open the venue for live performances, according to this September 19 article from Chico News & Review.

Despite the article’s mention of October 5th as the date of the first event, an appearance by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, I don’t see it among events listed in the current issue of the paper- though it is still listed on Kaukonen’s website. There might have been a hitch with the minimal renovations needed to get the place ready on time, or maybe the permits.

No news on whether the El Rey is still for sale or not, but Chico’s other classic theatre, the Senator (also owned by Eric Hart last I heard), is currently listed on LoopNet for $5,250,000.

FLEABttn on September 7, 2007 at 11:41 am

Nice, more than double what he paid.

I wonder where these people were when Regal sold it for $750,000.

mybluheven on July 15, 2007 at 5:41 pm

There is a plan underway to buy the theatre and refurbish it as a theater! The current owner who has decided not to do the conversion has placed it on the market for 1.7 million. There is a nonprofit group forming called the El Rey Theatre Alliance to make it so. See this article: http://www.chicoer.com/ci_6191660

longislandmovies on June 13, 2007 at 11:52 am

there a current price for this theater

bojeta on July 17, 2006 at 9:50 pm

I erred in a post for the Senator Theatre in Chico. I said that I had take my son to see Fantasia there in 1981, but it was actually the El Rey. This is REALLY SAD. The El Rey was wonderful.

kencmcintyre on October 19, 2005 at 1:53 pm

From the UCLA Digital Archive:

View link

FLEABttn on March 4, 2005 at 4:05 pm

Last night was the last night of the El Rey. 102 people for the 4:15 show. 410+ for the 7:00.

It was surreal to say the least.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 25, 2005 at 4:40 am

I didn’t finish that last sentence. It ought to have said that the El Rey was certainly the oldest intact movie theater still standing north of Sacramento.

It’s interesting that it outlasted two Chico multiplexes which closed recently after operating only a few years.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 25, 2005 at 4:30 am

The El Rey is being closed, after being sold to Eric Hart, owner of the nearby Senator Theater. Though the Senator is slowly being restored, the historic El Rey building is to be converted into an office-retail and parking complex after the interior of the building has been gutted.

This theater is older than I had thought. It opened in 1905 as a vaudeville house called the Majestic, but it began showing movies along with the stage shows soon after opening. In 1926, it was remodeled by the Sacramento architectural firm of Starks and Flanders, for the new owners, the National Theaters Circuit, and the theater was renamed the National. It was remodeled again in 1939, and the name changed to the American Theater. In 1946, a fire caused severe damage to the building and destroyed the marquee. The interior of the theater was rebuilt, and the present art moderne murals of the auditorium date from this time. At about the same time, fire destroyed an Oakland theater called the El Rey, but spared its marquee, which was subsequently moved to this theater in Chico, giving it its final name.

The closing of the El Rey not only ends nearly a century of movies in this grand old house, but leaves the city of Chico with only two operating movie houses- Cinemark’s 14 screen Tinseltown complex, and the very small, single screen downtown art house, the Pageant. I believe that the El Rey was the last big, single screen theater operating in the central valley north of Sacramento, and it was certainly the oldest.

JWAndrews on February 17, 2005 at 12:26 am

The El Rey Theater is a cavernous landmark from the Golden Age of movie palaces…It’s fairy-land motiff and majestic ceiling are a joy to behold. All of us who grew up in Chico should let the city fathers know how much this place means to us before the wrecking ball comes to call!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 30, 2005 at 3:41 pm

This is actually a fairly old theater. I have an old newspaper article about it, but I can’t find it at the moment. If I recall correctly, the El Rey was opened in 1926 as the National Theatre, was owned by the Valley Empire Theatres Company, and was designed by the firm of Stark and Flanders.

I believe this to be the last big, single screen theater in the northern Sacramento Valley still operating as a movie house. It has survived this long largely due to its location almost next door to the campus of California State University at Chico.