Ritz Theater

313 E. Grand Avenue,
Escondido, CA 92026

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Ritz Theater 2012 - Marquee

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The theater opened in 1938 by Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson. It is 8,400 square feet. It showed three different double-features a night. Wednesday nights were 10 cents and had a keno game at intermission. It was highly successful until 1951 when a fire gutted the interior. It reopened in 1954, but because of television, it did not do as well.

It managed to stay open but around 1970 it became an X-rated movie house called the Pussycat Theater. The theater manager was arrested when a movie was thought to be “obscene”. The theater was reopened with family films in 1976 and renamed the Bijou Theater, but the venture failed. The theater was remodeled again in 1981 and featured Spanish language films. In 1993, the theater was renamed once more as the Big Screen Theater and showed art films, but that did not last long. In 2003 the theater was once more called by it’s original name the Ritz Theater, but the double bill only lasted nine days and the theater closed.

New owners Chuck and Leona Borough purchased the theater later in the summer, but as of yet, have not decided what to do with the building.

The theater is relatively intact. It needs to be restored to it’s 1954 appearance. The look of 1938 seems to be gone forever. It would make a marvelous venue for classic films because of Escondido’s active retirement age population. Grand Avenue is beautiful tree-lined street that thrives on it’s antique shops and coffee houses. There are two live theater venues within blocks of this theater. There also is a Friday night classic automobile “cruise-in” every Friday night that is well attended.

Contributed by R. Christian Anderson

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

trooperboots
trooperboots on January 31, 2005 at 11:07 pm

Hello DJ,

I don’t think the place is haunted…. it ran for many years just fine. It’s a great venue if someone were to put a little into cleaning it up. It’s in a great location with lots of drive-by traffic.

The new owners are Chuck and Leona Borough and the Chamber of Commerce or City Directory will have them listed. If you need more info, perhaps I can help a bit more.

Ralgev
Ralgev on December 18, 2005 at 9:04 pm

A great 1951 photo of the exterior of the Ritz Escondido was printed in the San Diego Union Tribune on Dec. 18, 2005. Flames are soaring through the roof as the marquee displays “Fireball”. An art deco design (long gone) graced the facade of the building. The theater closed for 3 years following the fire. As of this date, the owners have spent $150,000 to clean up the theater, but no opening is on the horizon.

ChiperSoft
ChiperSoft on February 5, 2006 at 10:34 pm

An article in today’s North County Times says that the Boroughs have spent $70,000 in repairs so far on the building in the 3 years they have owned it. Repairs were halted this past year while they did work on their 112 year old house, but they plan to resume renovation in a month. Their hopes are to make it a community owned theater.

Article link: View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on June 23, 2007 at 7:36 pm

Advertised at 309 E. Grand in September 1979. Name was the Bijou. Feature films were “Wanda Nevada” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

JayAllenSanford
JayAllenSanford on August 8, 2008 at 3:31 pm

New book-length Pussycat Theatre history from the San Diego Reader:
View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 18, 2010 at 1:17 am

I’m reasonably certain that this is the theater building:
http://tinyurl.com/yb8rus5

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 1, 2010 at 7:35 am

A plan has been submitted to the Escondido City Council that would turn the Ritz into a cabaret dinner theater and events venue: View link

AndyCallahanMajorMajor
AndyCallahanMajorMajor on September 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I believe the building in that Google link two posts above is an old drugstore. The theater appears to be to the right of that, one building in from the corner of Juniper Street.

LebowskiT1000
LebowskiT1000 on July 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Here’s a cool newspaper clipping showing all the movies playing in the general area back in 1975.

Newspaper Clipping

From this site: Valley Drive-In Blogspot

1hardworker
1hardworker on June 12, 2013 at 11:43 pm

If the owners are ever going to remodel it, I would love to be a part of it. I would really like to be a part of Escondido history. I would probably even volunteer.

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