Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Capri Theatre on Nov 8, 2004 at 8:16 am

This early theater was located in the 100 block of West Main Street, at the southeast corner of Second Street. It may have closed for a while during the depression years, but by the 1940’s was open and operating as the Coronet Theatre. In 1964, it was renamed the Capri. Both as the Coronet and the Capri, it was operated by the Edwards Theatre Circuit. For a brief time in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, it featured foreign films and a few arty independent films, but the venture was not successful, and the house was returned to standard Hollywood fare.

When it was renamed the Coronet, the small marquee was replaced by a broader, angled marquee with neon lights. The facade of the building remained otherwise largely unchanged throughout the theater’s existence, except for the removal of the decorative cornice and parapet wall in the late 1950’s, the result of a municipal ordinance requiring that all such unanchored cornices and parapets throughout the City of Alhambra either be reinforced or removed, to reduce risk to passersby in the event of an earthquake.

The Main Street and Second Street facades of the building, and their simple classical detailing, were of white glazed brick, but the other walls, and the auditorium, were built of unreinforced red brick. The classical elements may also have been featured on the theater’s interior at one time, but when I first saw the inside, about 1952, there was no evidence of them. The tiny lobby was simple, featuring a floor to ceiling drape on the wall between the aisle doors, and there was extensive use of mirrors to visually expand the small space. The concession stand was tucked into a round alcove to one side of the lobby, and the restrooms were on the other side. Access to the two aisles was through pairs of padded leather doors, with simple brass handles.

The small auditorium was lighted by side wall sconces, but I have no memory of chandeliers of any sort. The most notable feature of the otherwise simple auditorium was the elaborate drapery covering most of the end wall. A plush, gold, scalloped curtain (which could be raised and lowered), augmented with tasseled side curtains, framed the screen, and a sheer curtain opened and closed horizontally. The whole affair was lighted by spotlights and indirect lighting. It was the most elaborate screen curtaining of any theater in the area. In later years, the scalloped curtain was left open all the time, probably due to the expense of keeping i in operating condition, and only the sheer curtain was opened and closed.

The theater had a loge section of about six rows of big leather seats, and then a few hundred standard plush theater seats. There was no stage house, as the theater had been built especially for movies. Despite its small size (the smallest of Alhambra’s four theaters), it was a pleasant house in which to see a movie, the lobby and auditorium being cozy but well proportioned, and generally well maintained.

The last program at the Capri was a double bill of “There Was a Crooked Man” and “The Wild Bunch” on the night of February 8th, 1971. The following morning, the building was badly damaged by the Sylmar earthquake, and was razed a few weeks later. My last visit to the theater had been a short time earlier, to see “Woodstock” and “I love You Alice B. Toklas.” The carpets, seats and drapes had grown a bit threadbare, the young manager did double duty as operator of the concession stand, and the audience was sparse, but the place still had the charm I remembered from earlier years. I’m glad I got to see it one last time before the end.

Incidentally, in 1964, I lived for a time in an upstairs flat almost directly across the street from the theater, and my address was 131 West Main. That suggests that the theater’s address was probably 136 West Main, but I couldn’t swear to it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rosemead Theatre on Nov 7, 2004 at 7:10 am

I had considered that block as a possible location, but I have found an old map which, though its copyright date is 1964 (quite a few years after the street numbers were changed in South San Gabriel), still shows the old numbering system (with east-west numbers beginning at Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel) that was once used in Rosemead. It shows the 1600 block as beginning at Rosemead Boulevard. So, unless the map is wrong, the theater must have been just a few doors east of that intersection.

I am wondering about the large, free-standing bank (or savings and loan?) building that I remember being at the south-east corner. It had an early 1960’s style, but I have no memory of just when it was built, or of what was on that corner before then. It’s possible that the theater was at the eastern end of that large corner lot, which I think extended quite a way down Valley Boulevard. That might be far enough to account for an address of 1629.

Also, I think that the shopping center between Bartlett and Muscatel was built either in 1964 or 1965. The supermarket was an Alpha Beta, and I remember that it was built almost at the same time as the Alpha Beta on Garvey at the corner of Jackson. I lived on Jackson at the time, and remember being a little bit envious of the center on Valley, because it was bigger and better designed than the one on my corner.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garfield Theater on Nov 6, 2004 at 1:51 pm

My father lived a few miles from the Garfield at the time it was built. He told me that the huge sign atop the stage house was the principle landmark in the area, and that by night, when its hundreds of light bulbs were lit, it could be seen from the upper floors of his house in Walnut Acres, two miles southeast. In those days, the Garfield was the main vaudeville house in the southern San Gabriel Valley, and all the big acts played there. The theater had a wooden floor, which was considered better for the acoustics in a room designed for live acts in the age before amplification.

The big rooftop sign was still there when I first went to the Garfield, about 1952, but it was no longer lighted at night. The front of the theater (the building in which it was located was called the Valley Grand Building, and its upper floor contained a very respectable apartment house) still looked much as it did in the picture from 1930, except for the addition of a neon marquee, probably of 1930’s vintage.

We didn’t go to the Garfield often in the following years, because it was still a high-priced, first run theater, but I do remember my first sight of the cavernous (and almost deserted) auditorium. The walls were still decorated with rough plaster work designed to look like stone. In fact, the walls were of reinforced concrete- the marks of the board forms were visible on the outside walls of auditorium and stage house. But the interior retained many of the early decorative features, including the columned proscenium which was destroyed a few years later when a Cinemascope screen was installed.

I remember the tickets at that time bore the name of the Vinnicoff (sp?) Theatre Circuit, and sometimes they would use tickets with the name of the Grove Theatre in Garden Grove, operated by the same company. In fact, as I found out later, the Edwards circuit had an interest in the theater, and I believe they came into full ownership sometime in the early 1960’s. It was about that time that the interior of the auditorium was modernized, the faux stone plaster work of the walls being clad in some tacky veneer. After that, the only interesting decor remaining was the series of six, large decorated grates in the high ceiling, from which (I imagine) chandeliers of some sort might once have hung. A new marquee of boring design replace the old neon marquee at that same time. The theater did thrive under Edwards' ownership, though, after adopting a popular price policy of fifty cents for adults and twenty cents for children, but it was so large that, in all those years, I never saw the theater as much as half full.

Even before the inside was redecorated, the outside of the Valley Grand Building was stripped of its ornate top of tile and third-floor pavilions. An earthquake that happened in the San Francisco area in 1957 had caused great consternation about potential disaster in many cities of Southern California, and the City of Alhambra quickly passed an ordinance requiring that all unanchored cornices and parapet walls, and anything else that might fall from a building in an earthquake, had to be either reinforced or removed. Removal was cheaper, and the exterior of almost every old commercial building in the entire town, including the Garfield, with its splendidly detailed Mediterranean decoration, was unceremoniously mutilated.

I only went to the Garfield once in later years, to see the appalling remake of King Kong, sometime in the seventies. That night, I saw something I had never before seen; The house was packed, with not an empty seat in sight. I believe the place had a capacity of about 1200, so it was quite a crowd. It was probably the last such the old place ever saw. A few years later, the Edwards company opened the three-screen Monterey Mall Cinemas in nearby Monterey Park, and the Garfield, much too large for the times, was leased to a company that ran Chinese movies. Now it is gone. I doubt that Alhambra will ever see its like again.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Cinemaland on Nov 6, 2004 at 7:43 am

Cinemaland was originally the Edwards Santa Anita. This was one of several Edwards theaters in the area that the company renamed in the early 1960’s. It was a free-standing building, moderne in style, probably built in the 1940’s. It was located on the north side of Huntington Drive, just east of Colorado Place, near the Santa Anita Race Track. I never attended this theater, but passed by it many times. Judging from the exterior dimensions, it was likely a two-aisle theater, with somewhere between 800-1000 seats, all on one floor. It was still operating in the late 1970’s, and closed sometime before August of 1986, but I don’t know when the demolition took place.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garvey Theater on Nov 5, 2004 at 3:24 pm

Most of those little towns in the South Bay also have their own local numbering systems, don’t they? I don’t think you’ll be safe from street-numbering confusion anywhere around Los Angeles!

I said in my post above that the Garvey was just east of the wash. I meant west! To the east of the wash was just a tiny triangle of land with a big billboard on it. (I think I need more sleep.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garvey Theater on Nov 5, 2004 at 3:09 pm

Manwithnoname:

Monterey Park has its own numbering system, with east-west numbers starting at Garfield Avenue. The unincorporated community of Garvey, which is now part of the City of Rosemead, was apparently on the numbering system of the City of San Gabriel during these years, and the east-west numbers started at Del Mar Avenue. The area has since been renumbered, and now uses the L.A. County system, with east-west numbers starting at Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. But the Garvey theater, now gone for some 25 years, was indeed just west of San Gabriel Boulevard, in what is now probably the 8100 block. It has always been difficult to find places in the San Gabriel Valley, because almost every little town has its own numbering system, and all the little towns run together in one continuous mass.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garvey Theater on Nov 5, 2004 at 2:57 pm

Jeff:

The Garvey was my old neighborhood theater. Until shortly after my sixth birthday, I lived on Falling Leaf Avenue, near Newmark. Because the theater was only a couple of blocks from out house, and I had an older brother and sister, I was allowed to go to Saturday matinees with them for most of the last two years we lived there, except the few months it took to rebuild the theater after the fire. (My brother and sister were allowed to go to the Tumbleweed in El Monte during that hiatus, but my parents thought I was too young to go that far without an adult.) I probably saw more than a hundred movies there, altogether.

The theater was just east of the wash, and its parking lot extended along the wash all the way from Garvey to San Gabriel Boulevard, so it had driveways entering from both streets. The rest of that block of Garvey was built up, but there were still a couple of vacant lots behind those buildings and fronting on Pine Street that we used to cut through, and then walk up to the theater entrance through the parking lot. Using that short cut, it only took us a few minutes to walk from our house to the box office. Very convenient.

I don’t remember in which year the whole block was demolished and the K-Mart was built, but I think it was in the late seventies. I wish that I had been able to get some relic from the theater. The hallway leading to the rest rooms had small versions of the chandeliers in the auditorium. One of those would have been a perfect souvenir, but I have no idea what became of them when the place was torn down. I hope that some collector got them, and they didn’t end up in a landfill somewhere.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Garvey Theater on Nov 5, 2004 at 12:51 pm

Ken:

Thanks for the information. I must say that I’m surprised by that address! I know that the addresses in the area were changed, sometime around 1950, but a street number of 716 for the Garvey theater must mean that the east-west streets in Garvey were based on the numbering system of the City of San Gabriel at that time. I lived on a north-south street then, and I do remember our street number being changed, but it only changed from the 2600 block to the 2700 block.

Also, the reduction in the theater’s seating capacity might have been the result of changes made when the place had to be restored following the fire.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rosemead Theatre on Nov 5, 2004 at 7:03 am

Jeff:

Between Rosemead and Mission is probably right. It would be hard to pin down an exact location around there though, because the blocks are so long, and thus there are no cross streets to mark the separation between 1600-1700-1800 blocks, etc.

I remember that section of Valley Boulevard, between Charlotte Avenue and the Rubio Wash, where the north side of the street is in the City of San Gabriel, and the south side is in the City of Rosemead. There used to be a big home improvement store called Ole’s on the Rosemead side of the street. I don’t remember the exact address, but I think it was about 8400. Right across the street was one of those outlet stores, and its address was only about 1000. It was confusing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rosemead Theatre on Nov 5, 2004 at 1:16 am

Ken:

My oldest map of the Rosemead area (dating from about 1950, itself) shows no address on Valley Boulevard lower than the 8200 block. The current address of the Rosemead City Hall is 8833 E. Valley, so the L.A. County numbering system has been used there for at least half a century. The only way the theater could have had an address of 1629 E. Valley is if the area had once been on the numbering system of the City of San Gabriel, instead. If that were the case, then (extrapolating from current San Gabriel addresses) the theater would have probably been just east of Rosemead Boulevard, on the south side of Valley. But, by 1953, the earliest I can be sure of my memories of the neighborhood) there was no theater anywhere near there- not even an abandoned theater, and it certainly wasn’t appearing in the theater listings of the local newspaper by that time.

Incidentally, do either of those yearbooks give an address for the Garvey theater, or its seating capacity? I wasn’t able to give either exact number in my post here on that theater, nor do I know the exact year of its construction, though I know it was about 1940.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Oriental Theatre on Nov 4, 2004 at 5:51 am

In the mid-1960’s, the Oriental occasionally ran art films, though it was not their regular policy. I remember going there two or three times when they ran movies I had missed in their earlier runs at full-time art houses such as the Los Feliz and the Cinema, or that I wanted to see again. I believe that the Oriental was the third theater at which I saw Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, sometime about 1964. I have no memory of the decor, but I do recall the place being a bit run-down even then, with threadbare patches on the carpets.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rosemead Theatre on Nov 4, 2004 at 4:00 am

Jeff:

Thanks for the information. I moved from Rosemead to Northern California just a few months before the Whittier Narrows earthquake, and didn’t know that there had been any damage to that shopping center. I remember seeing on a television newscast ath the time a brief shot of the old Alhambra on Main Street with its roof caved in and half the stage house turned into a pile of bricks. I think that the El Rey in Alhambra was destroyed by the same quake, but I’m not sure. It might have been the Northridge quake that did that one in.

I only went to the AMC once, a couple of years after it opened. It was unimpressive. The theaters were small, and the walls between them were so thin that the sound from the movies in the adjacent rooms would bleed through. It’s probably just as well that they are gone.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rosemead Theatre on Nov 4, 2004 at 2:14 am

William:

I have two comments. First, the four screen AMC Rosemead was opened in early 1971. (I have a copy of the L.A. Times from February 10th of that year, which I saved because it is full of articles about the Sylmar earthquake which occurred the day before. An ad in the theater section of that issue gives the program for the grand opening of the theater.) This theater was located on the east side of Rosemead Boulevard, at the end of a row of retail shops in the Montgomery Ward shopping center. The Toys-R-Us store, a freestanding building built at almost the same time as the theater, was on the west side of Rosemead boulevard, directly across the street, and that’s where it still was in 1986, the last time I was in Rosemead. Unless Toys-R-Us later moved to the AMC’s location, then the AMC was in an entirely different building.

Second, I have seen the mention of the earlier Rosemead theater on the web site about S.Charles Lee. However, I grew up in the area, and by 1953, when I was eight years old, was familiar with every theater in the area. I can say conclusively that, at that time, there was no theater in what was then Rosemead- not even a building that showed any evidence of ever having been a theater. My father also grew up in that area, and attended Muscatel School in Rosemead during the early 1920’s, and he has no memory of any theaters in the then-sparsely-populated area between Alhambra and El Monte during that time. The very first theater built in what is now Rosemead was the Garvey, dating from about 1940. After that, the next theater built in Rosemead was the AMC.

What I am wondering is if the Lee designed theater in Rosemead was only one of those projects that never got past the planning stage. One other possibility comes to mind, too. At the time the Garvey was gutted by a fire, about 1950, I remember my mother telling me that there had been arson fires in several other theaters owned by Edwards in the area. I suppose it is possible that the Rosemead theater was begun, but destroyed by fire before completion, and never rebuilt. But I think I might have heard of such an event, so it seems more likely that the place was never built at all.

A third possibility is that the Rosemead and the Garvey are the same theater, but the company had for some reason decided to build it in a different location (perhaps a real estate deal falling through) and it was renamed, but S. Charles Lee’s records didn’t get changed to reflect this.

My curiosity is aroused, and I’d like to find out the real story behind this phantom theater. I wish the Lee web site would post some of the information about it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Temple Theatre on Nov 2, 2004 at 11:42 pm

Manwithnoname: The only theater on the south side of Las Tunas Drive was Edwards San Gabriel, renamed Edwards Century in the early 1960’s. It was located between Del Mar Avenue and San Marino Avenue in San Gabriel. I made a comment on it here:
/theaters/5540/

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Bridge Theater on Nov 2, 2004 at 11:43 am

In the 1950’s, this theater was called Edwards San Gabriel. The name was changed to Edwards Century in the early 1960’s, when a new marquee was installed. At about that time, most of the Edwards theaters in the western San Gabriel Valley were renovated, with modern marquees replacing the older neon models, and several of the theaters were re-named. Alhambra’s Coronet became the Capri, Arcadia’s Santa Anita became Cinemaland, and I think there were other name changes among Edwards theaters in the eastern San Gabriel Valley as well.

The San Gabriel was one of several Edwards theaters in the area which had a low price policy through the mid-1950’s, charging only thirty cents for adult tickets and ten cents for children, this for double features and a cartoon, with extra cartoons added for Saturday matinees. Needless to say, the theaters were very popular, and it was not unusual to see nearly packed houses on Friday and Saturday nights. At the end of the decade, the prices were raised to fifty cents for adults and twenty cents for children, but the theaters remained popular.

I attended movies at the San Gabriel several times, from about 1952-1960, and remember it as a well-maintained house with a pleasant staff. The auditorium had two aisles, and comfortable seats, but I don’t recall anything special about the decor.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Temple Theatre on Nov 2, 2004 at 7:06 am

This Temple theater was one door east of Rosemead Boulevard, on the north side of Las Tunas Drive. It was built for the Edwards circuit, and was designed by Lee in a style similar to that he used for Edwards' Tumbleweed Theater at Five Points in nearby El Monte the year before. The Temple was a bit smaller, but both theaters featured two-aisle auditoriums with open beamed ceilings, and, in lieu of the usual walled entrance foyer, had roofed, open sided walkways leading from the box office to the lobby entrance. These unusual entryways featured low wooden fences, rather like farm fences, painted white. In addition, the Temple, whose auditorium ran parallel to Las Tunas Drive, had a covered walkway along its street side, which was set back some fifty feet. This walk gave access to and from the parking lot located to the east of the building.

When this building was demolished, sometime about 1980, it was replaced by a four-screen theater, also owned by Edwards until quite recently.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about El Sereno Theatre on Nov 1, 2004 at 11:37 pm

Ken:
This theater was just off of Huntington Drive, and I passed by it frequently while riding the bus to downtown Los Angeles along that street in the early 1960’s. At that time it was indeed an American Legion Hall.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on Nov 1, 2004 at 1:36 pm

The Monterey was at 619 N. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park. It was originally known as The Mission, and is listed under that name at this site: /theaters/2421/

By the early 1950’s, it was being operated by the Edwards circuit, which continued to run the theater until c1980. In its last few years, the Monterey was one of several theaters in the area which showed Chinese language movies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Monterey Theatre on Nov 1, 2004 at 1:32 pm

The Mission was at 619 N. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park. It was later known as The Monterey, and by the early 1950’s was being operated by the Edwards circuit, which continued to run the theater until c1980. In its last few years, the Monterey was one of several theaters in the area which showed Chinese language movies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Tower Theatre on Nov 1, 2004 at 1:08 pm

The Tower was still called the Newsreel as late as 1964, and usually ran a documentary film or two with its program of (of course) newsreels. It was at that time that I saw there a sensationalist documentary called “Mondo Cane” (Dog’s World) which created quite a stir for its cynical views.

An interesting feature of the theater at that time was a small additional theater set up in the basement, adjacent to the rest rooms in what had probably been the lounge. Here were a few dozen seats facing a large projection television which played closed circuit programs, including newscasts and sporting events.

The Tower was not the first news theater in downtown Los Angeles. I recall seeing an old advertisement for the Palace, from the WWII era, when it was called the News-Palace.

I don’t recall the exact year in which the Tower name was restored, but I remember seeing “Bonnie and Clyde” there a few weeks after it was released, so it had to have been before that movie came out in 1967.

The main thing I remember about the interior of the theater is the splendid grand staircase which spills down into the tiny, ornate lobby, taking up such a large part of it. The effect is really quite impressive.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rialto Theatre on Nov 1, 2004 at 12:45 pm

The Rialto is one of those rare old theaters that features stadium-style seating at the back of the house, with an ordinary raked floor section at the front. Access to the auditorium is via two tunnel-like aisles that slope up to a cross aisle which bisects the house about midway, at the bottom of the stadium section. Given the current popularity of stadium seating in new multiplex theaters, the Rialto was some three quarters of a century ahead of its time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about El Rey Theatre on Oct 31, 2004 at 1:33 pm

I did see the news of the project west of the library at the Alhambra city web site, noname. The Fourth Street corner of that block once was the site of one of the old Spanish style Ralph’s markets, built in the 1920’s, and ruined in the late 1950’s by being clad in an ugly aluminum and plaster skin. I’ve also seen the pictures of the new cineplex at Garfield. It’s remarkably garish and awkward, and actually looks sort of cheap. I also saw that the Edwards Alhambra Place on Bay State Street is being demolished to make way for an apartment complex. That cineplex was only built in the mid 1980’s, as I recall. It certainly didn’t last long!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fox Pasadena Theatre on Oct 31, 2004 at 12:19 pm

For many years, beginning in the late 1950’s, this theater and the large retail store next door to it on the west, served as the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. That was what it was the first time I saw it, about 1960. At that time, the orchestra floor had simply been stripped of its seats, and the merchandise (mostly used furniture) was displayed there, leaning at an angle. A few years later, the back half of the orchestra floor was leveled by having a platform built over it at the level of the lobby floor, but the theater aisles remained sloped, to reach the lower part of orchestra floor. (The slope of the front half of the auditorium was slight to nonexistent, of course.) The stage and proscenium remained intact at least until the late 1960’s, which was the last time I was in the store.

This was a four aisle theater, with a large balcony. I don’t know what the original interior design was, but by the time I first saw the place it was rather plain, with white plaster walls. I suspect that it had been simplified at some time. I also don’t believe that the mission style facade was original to the building. This area was the main business district of Pasadena until the 1920’s, and Colorado Boulevard was narrow when this building was built. In the late 1920’s, the city widened the street, making it necessary to chop several feet from the front of each building. With the exception of a few small buildings whose Victorian fronts were moved back intact, every structure along several blocks of Colorado Boulevard was remodeled, most of them in the currently popular Art Deco, Mission, or Churrigueresque/Spanish Colonial styles.

I think that this theater probably had a more ornate style to begin with, and also began its life with a different name. When I first saw it, the outside of the stage house, visible from DeLacy Street and Union Street, had the peeling paint of a sign which was not entirely unreadable, but very nearly so, but I got the impression that the theater was at one time called either the Orange or the Orange Grove. If someone has access to old copies of Pasadena newspapers from the early 1920’s, (perhaps available at the Pasadena public library) they could check the advertisements for theaters at that time. I’m fairly sure that this very old building antedates the formation of the Fox theater circuit. It might even have begun life as a stage house.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about El Rey Theatre on Oct 31, 2004 at 3:34 am

Hi, Noname. I have been checking the City of Alhambra’s web site periodically, and a few months ago I saw there a picture of a new project at the corner of Fourth and Main. It is a mixed use building, with apartments upstairs and commercial space on the ground floor. The corner shop is occupied by a Denny’s restaurant. I just checked the Alhambra web site again, and it must have been updated, because the picture of the new building is gone, but I found the Denny’s in a Google search:
View link
The address of Denny’s is given as 369 W. Main. The picture that is gone from the city web site showed a fairly wide building, so it must occupy the site of the theater as well as the corner lot (where there used to be a print shop in a single story spanish style building set back behind a small lawn) and probably the lots east of the theater’s site, too, where there used to be a long, low commercial building.

I’d like to get back to Alhambra and take a look at all the recent changes, but I don’t know when I’ll get the chance.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about El Rey Theatre on Oct 30, 2004 at 3:17 pm

El Rey went through a number of changes through the years. I first attended a movie there in the early 1950’s. By that time, the triple arch had been replaced by a conventional entrance with a central, freestanding box office, and there was a taller marquee, reaching all the way to the cornice line, with the theater name and detail in colorful neon. I don’t have any memory of the decorated parapet with its classic urns, but I believe that the window-like niches on either side of the entrance were still there.

Inside, there was a compact lobby, with concession stand opposite the front doors, and between the doors to the two aisles. Again, I have no memory of any ornate decoration there, but I have the impression of a fairly modern-looking space, so it had probably been remodeled at the same time as the outer lobby and marquee. The auditorium had a shallowly vaulted ceiling, hung with six rather simple octagonal chandeliers of colored glass panels in metalwork frames. There were simple buttresses along the walls, topped by light fixtures of frosted, colored glass, but I don’t remember what color.

Unlike the other theaters in Alhambra, which all had big leather seats in their loge sections, El Rey’s loges were plush upholstered seats a bit larger than the regular seats, and their backrests had fancy, art-moderne looking tops, rather than the simple rounded tops of the cheaper seats. Their upholstery was a different shade, too, but I don’t remember the colors. (I seem to have a very bad memory for color.)

Though we went to the movies every Friday or Saturday night, we seldom went to this theater because, being operated by Fox as a first-run house, admission was considerably more expensive than at several other theaters in the area. I think we only went there once before it became the first theater in the area to install a Cinemascope screen. When that was done, we went for the second time, to see the Cinemascope remake of “Cimmaron.” It was the first Cinemascope picture I ever saw.

Sometime around 1960, El Rey came under the ownership of the Edwards circuit. With this acquisition, Edwards was in control of all the theaters in Alhambra, San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia, Monterey Park and South San Gabriel. (They shared a half interest in Alhambra’s Garfield Theater with another small circuit, which I believe was called Vinicoff, but Edwards managed the Garfield.)

A couple of years after taking over El Rey, Edwards did a major remodeling of the facade, covering all the remaining plaster work with slabs of marble (which may have been faux marble- I’m not sure) and installing a new marquee, slanted rather than square, and featuring the theater’s name in dozens of somewhat retro blinking lights instead of the former neon. When the old marquee was being taken down, I happened to pass by, and saw that the carved stone below the cornice line featuring the theater’s former name was revealed, but it was swiftly covered again by the new marquee. I was only inside the place a couple of times after that, and recall that the lobby had been spruced up a bit, too, but I don’t remember any great changes in the auditorium, which had been fairly simple for as long as I had known it.

I last saw El Rey in the summer of 1986, a few weeks before I moved away from Los Angeles. The next year, both it and the nearby Alhambra Theater were severely damaged by the Whittier Narrows earthquake, and both had to be demolished. I have pleasant memories of both, and I’m sorry that they have been lost.