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The Cinema was indeed an art house in the 1950’s-1960’s. From 1963-1965 I was a frequent patron. The theater was unique among L.A.’s art houses at the time for not having the usual snack bar. Instead, there was a small self-service rack filled with imported candy and cigarettes, and a coffee urn. The theater had been recently remodeled, and the lobby had a very stylish, sophisticated look. I think the management was trying to create the atmosphere of a European theater. Almost all the movies shown in that period were European. The Cinema was in every way the equal of the Los Feliz or the Nu-Art at that time.
The last time I went to the Cinema was in the late 1960’s, to see “Don’t Look Back.” I got the feeling that the people running the place had dropped acid. The tidy, European atmosphere was gone, and the subdued colors of lobby and ticket area had been replaced with a sloppy coat of lurid, day-glo orange paint. The place went rapidly downhill after that, and was showing x-rated movies within a couple of years.
Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 9/19/1930 says: “Class A Theater (South Gate) …Architect George Burnett…Evan Jones associate… are preparing plans for a theater building to be built on Tweedy Blvd, South Gate, for A.W. Swanson…”
The same magazine, in its issue of 11/17/1936 says that the theater at the corner of Tweedy and San Gabriel is to be altered, with plans by architect Clarence G. Smale.
Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 5/15/1925, says that architect Evan Jones, 5158 Hollywood Boulevard, had prepared plans for a 2 story, class C theater and shops to be built on North Crawford Avenue in Downey, between 3rd and 4th Streets. The owner of the theater was Mrs. Ada B. Adams, and the theater was to be leased to Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta of Culver City.
Crawford Avenue was later renamed Downey Avenue. The discrepancy in address is accounted for by the fact that Downey has used both a local street numbering system and the Los Angles County street numbering system at different times. Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta also operated the Meralta Theatre in Culver City. The names of the theatres were derived from the combination of their surnames.
The opening of this theater was announced in the Los Angeles Times issue of 12/25/1921, under the headline “Mr. Temple’s new theater opens in Alhambra.” This was Walter Paul Temple, local landowner and developer, who would later develop Temple City. The paper also announced that the new theater would be leased by a Mr. O.H. Schleusener, who was already the manager of another movie house in Alhambra.
Southwest Builder and Contractor of 6/3/1921 says that architects Walker (Albert Raymond) and Eisen (Percy Augustus) were preparing the plans for the theater. The building was to be 60' by 150' and would have a seating capacity of 800. The estimated cost was $50,000.
The Fox Pasadena was originally Clune’s Pasadena. The earliest reference to this theater that I have been able to find on the Internet is from a 1912 edition of a regional magazine called The Rounder, in which there was an announcement of a play that was being presented at Clune’s Pasadena. Given the age of the theater, I would imagine that its original architectural style was probably a rather ornate late Victorian, or perhaps Art Nouveau. I’m hunting for a photograph of it.
While I have been unable to track down the name of the original architect of Clune’s, I have found that the architect for the simple, mission-style 1930 remodeling, (precipitated by the widening of Colorado Street at that time), was the ubiquitous Clifford Balch.
The Southwest Builder & Contractor magazine, issue of 10/10/1924, includes an item about the comencement of construction on the Warner Egyptian. It was designed by the local Pasadena architect Kenneth A. Gordon, who also designed an Egyptian-style theater for the Bard Circuit in Glendale at about the same time. The Warner Egyptian was built behind a pre-existing commercial building (which was on a very deep lot) and one of the stores was used for the ticket lobby and a long, narrow galleria which extended back to the new theater. The new building was 75' by 125' and was intended to provide 1200 seats.
I first attended a movie at the Uptown in the early 1960s. The auditorium was very much like a slightly smaller version of Alhambra’s Garfield Theatre, but with more of its decoration intact. I couldn’t see the decoration very clearly, though, as the auditorium was kept very dimly lit, even during the intermission. There were no moe than two dozen other patrons that day. Another odd congruity I found was in the intermission music. It was a recording of a theater organ, and was exactly the same recording which I had heard played at the Garfield for many years. I will always associate Lecuona’s Malaguena with those dim, cavernous, nearly-empty theaters.
From Southwest Builder & Contractor, issue of 1/31/1941, p.33, col.2:
“Theater (San Gabriel)— J.B. Lilly… has the contract and will start work about February 5 on the construction of a moving picture theater on Las Tunas Drive between San Marino and De Anza Avenues, for O.W. Lewis. It will contain 10,000 square feet and will seat 750 persons… C.A. Balch, architect…”
Given the location and description, I think this is certainly the theater which became Edwards' San Gabriel.
The Wahington theater was built in 1924. The architects were Clarence L. Jay and Henry M. Patterson.
An article in the magazine Architect and Engineer, November 1917, names the architect of the Florence theater as O.P. Dennis. (Oliver Perry Dennis.)
The State was originally called the Florence. There is a mention of the Florence in the Los Angeles Times of 12/27/1928, pt.III, p.14; “Turner, Dahnke & Langley Theater Chain will be the operators of the Florence Theater, Pasadena.”
Southwest Builder and Contractor Magazine of 8/30/1935, p.54 col.2 has a notice that manager James Edwards “…will make repairs and remodel the Florence Theater….” in Pasadena.
My own first visit to the State was in 1960. At that time, the original facade was still largely in place, and above the marquee was a very nice bit of classical design, which was of either plaster or cast stone, with an arch and bas-relief detailing. This was covered up by a big plaster box a few years later. The interior of the theater was already fairly modern and plain by the time I first saw it. The auditorium ceiling was a shallow barrel vault, with indirect lighting from a cove along the sides, and there were six or eight standard octagonal theater chandeliers. Any detailing around the screen had probably been lost to the installation of the CinemaScope screen in the 1950s.
According to an article in the Pasadena Star-News at the time of the State’s closing, the neon marquee dated from 1956. However, in 1960, it already looked older than that, and I suspect that it might have been installed with the remodeling by James Edwards in the 1930s.
According to a notice in the magazine Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, issue of 6/6/1914, the architects of the Strand were Robert Farquhar Train and Robert Edmund Williams. The offices of Train & Williams were in Los Angeles.
An article in the Pasadena Star-News of 6/14/1924 announced the re-opening of the Strand that night, and said that it had been remodeled to a “Spanish” style.
From 1963 until it was demolished in 1977, the Ritz was known as the Lindy Opera House, and was a pet project of the owner of the company that made Lindy ball point pens. I recall that the grand opening, scheduled for November 23rd, had to be delayed until December, due to the assasination of President Kennedy.
The architect of the Fifth Avenue Theatre was Clifford A. Balch. It was built in 1939 for Southside Theaters, which at that time had an office address of 5600 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
The Manchester was built for the West Coast Theatre Circuit. The architect was L.A. Smith.
I was not surprised to discover that Smith designed the Manchester. I the 1950s, we drove past this theater many times, and I was always struck by the similarity of its style to that of Smith’s Garfield Theater in Alhambra.
The architect of this theater was Leonard L. Jones. It was built in 1924.
This was one of several Fox theaters (including those in Pomona and Riverside) designed by Los Angeles architects Clifford Balch and F.E. Stanbery.
It could be that the Art Center was already located in rented quarters in the theater when that meeting was conducted on May 20th of this year. The minutes only said that “… the Art Center is moving forward with purchasing the Paradise Theater.” Or, they might just be adding the theater to their holdings. In any case, contacting the Art Center from its web site would probably be the best place for Mr. McBain to get more information about the theater. Clearly, it had not been demolished as of last May.
All I can find with Google is a mention near the bottom of this page:
Apparently, it still exists, and might be purchased for some sort of public use.
This address would have put this theater just east of Griffin Avenue in the Lincoln Heights district of Los Angeles, and only a few blocks west of Lincoln Park. This neighborhood was mostly built up before 1910. I probably passed by it a number of times when I was very young, as one of the bus lines we sometimes rode ran along that stretch of Main Street, but I have no memory of the theater itself.
Unless there was more than one theater of this name in Los Angeles, it must have been closed after 1950. According to a list provided by KenRoe
(which can be seen at /theaters/9144/ )
a San Carlos Theater was one of 24 theaters being operated in that year by the Edwards Theater circuit.
Thanks for that list. There are several there that I never knew Edwards owned. I’m especially surprised to see a theater in Beverly Hills, and the four in Los Angeles. I had thought that, before the company began expanding rapidly in Orange County in the 1960s, all their operations were in, or adjacent to, the San Gabriel Valley.
In that decade of the 1950s, I frequently attended eight of those theaters: the Alhambra, Coronet, Garfield, Tumbleweed, Garvey, Monterey, San Gabriel and the Temple, plus Alhambra’s El Rey, which Edwards acquired a few years later. Every single one of them is now gone, the majority of them lost to earthquakes. Neither time, nor California’s unstable geology, has been kind to the theaters of that area.
I find it easier to remember the details of places I’ve seen once as an adult than of places I saw several times as a child. But I don’t remember everything about the Hastings, it seems, as I have no clear recollection of the tile mural. I remember that there was some sort of decoration on that wall, but have no mental picture of it. I do now recall one thing I didn’t mention earlier, though. The theater had a sort of outdoor lounge area, accessible only through the lobby. I didn’t go out to inspect it- I think there was rain the night I was there- so I can’t describe it, but from what I saw as I glanced through the glass doors, there were a lot of plants and some benches out there. It was probably a pleasant place on a warm summer evening.
In the 1960’s, I had occasional conversations with an older guy who frequented a coffee shop in my neighborhood. He told me that he had worked for James Edwards at the Cameo, and for a while had lived in the apartment above the lobby. He also told me that James Edwards had lived in that same apartment himself, when he first began operating the theater, sometime around 1930.
I’m not sure how old the building is, but I think it was built before 1930. For as long as I can remember this theater (about 1958-59), its building has been rather nondescript, but it has always looked as though it might have had some decoration lost to a remodeling at some time. The upstairs facade has three arched windows at the center, suggesting a Spanish revival design of some sort. The El Sereno area began developing shortly after 1900, when Henry Huntington opened the Pasadena Short Line of his Pacific Electric Interurban service, which ran along Huntington Drive. Many of the houses in the area are of late Victorian and pre-WWI Craftsman style, though there are also many blocks of Spanish style bungalows dating from 1920-1930. But the area was certainly sufficiently built-up to have supported a theater as large as the Cameo before 1920.
I never saw the inside of the Cameo, but passed by it frequently on the bus to downtown Los Angeles. Its most arresting feature was the three-sided marquee, extending the entire width of the building. As late as the 1960s, the theater still appeared to be well maintained.
I don’t know when the Cameo ceased to be part of the Edwards circuit, but by 1953 I was reading the theater listings in the newspaper every week, and I don’t remember it being listed with the other Edwards operations. By the mid ‘50s, I’m fairly sure that the circuit was being managed from offices in Alhambra, a couple of miles east of the Cameo.
A few years ago, anticipating the arrival of very costly high-quality HDTV systems, I considered an idea much like this- having a theater with a large number of screening rooms of various sizes available for small audiences, with any movie in the catalog (probably on a DVD) available on request. It would have been an adjunct to a video rental store, with snack food service available.
I abandoned the notion when I considered both the problem of working out some sort of deal with the owners of movie copyrights, and the likelihood that big screen HDTV would probably drop in price fairly rapidly, (as have other big-ticket electronic items), depleting the potential audience within a few years, as people set up their own home theaters. The window of opportunity would close too quickly to assure any profit from such an enterprise. The economics of a similar scheme might be better in Asia, though.
The State was one of the theaters I missed. I only ever saw it from the outside, on our occasional trips to Long Beach. I remember the first time I saw it, when we visited The Pike when I was about six or seven years old, and we miraculously found a parking space on Ocean Avenue. I remember walking down the hill, and seeing the theater across the street, set back behind a wide plaza bordered on the east by a balustrade. I thought it was the most splendid theater I had ever seen, and wanted to go there, but never got the chance. It’s right near the top of my list of vanished theaters I most regret not attending, along with the Figueroa and the Carthay Circle in Los Angeles.
Some time before 1950, the facade of this theater was remodeled. The faux-stone plasterwork and other detailing were replaced with a plain plaster wall, and the cornice stripped off. The single-line marquee (which extended the width of the building) was trimmed with horizontal strips of neon, and was augmented with a tall, angled, two-sided marquee above it, between the former locations of the two decorative engaged columns shown in this old photograph.
The Monterey was one of the rare early theaters in the Los Angeles area which had a section of stadium seating at the rear of the auditorium, and the compact lobby was “U” shaped, with the entrance from the ticket booth foyer at the bottom, and the two sides leading to passageways that sloped up to the cross aisle at the front of the stadium section. The passageways were closed off from the lobby only by drapes. The concession stand was tucked into an alcove on the left arm of the “U” and the low-ceilinged restrooms were at the center, under the stadium section.
The theater had a slightly taller section at the rear of the building, which may have been a stage house, though if so, it was not a very deep one. The building itself was very deep, though, and because the stadium section extended almost to the front wall of the structure, the last row of seats was probably about 140 feet from the screen. This depth gave the theater a fairly large seating capacity, (probably over 1000), despite its narrowness. The interior of the auditorium may have sported some decorative detail in its early days, but by the time I first attended it, about 1952, it was quite plain, and the length, narrowness, and height made the room seem tunnel-like.
The Edwards company always operated the Monterey as a second or third run, popular price house, and it was a successful operation through the 1960’s, and only stopped showing English language movies when it was replaced by new Edwards triplex theater in a mall on Atlantic Boulevard in the 1970’s.