Garfield Theater

9 E. Valley Drive,
Alhambra, CA 91801

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Showing 1 - 25 of 41 comments

Bijoudarma on August 13, 2017 at 11:33 am

Message for Garfield Theater. I am the owner of the blogger site “BIJOU MEMORIES ” I am currently researching the theatres I visited in the 70’s and 90’s in the San Gabriel Valley. I had visited the Garfield Theater many times, seeing such films as “Once Upon a Time in China and America”, The Storm Riders (almost 6 times on consecutive weekends, dragging as many friends and family as I could coerce), and “Hitman” and so many others.

For the blog I am currently writing, I would like to ask if you have any photos of the interior or the theatre, as well as any flyers or advertising material that you would care to share. This would help me in presenting a full and meaningful remembrance of this marvelous venue. If anyone else has any additional artwork, flyers or photos.. please feel free to contact me at

GarfieldTheater on January 28, 2017 at 6:47 pm

My family owned this property from the late 80’s up until 2010. It was renovated into pacific square shopping plaza. I worked in the theater as a child, serving refreshments and sweeping up after shows. We often showed chinese movies for free, mainly for the seniors to have something to do and for a way for kids to be more in touch with their Asian roots. My grandfathers medicine shop was next to the theater for many years. We renovated it because no one was watching movies anymore, and we couldn’t justify devoting all the square footage to a theater that nobody went to. We were able to preserve the facade in effort to keep a piece of history in the city, which was no easy task. It would have been easier to demolish, but my dad was very much in love with the design and felt it should be preserved as a piece of history. We’ve since sold the building, but I have many original antiques that were removed from the theater if anyone is interested in seeing or hearing more about it.

timloc1986 on March 15, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Hi everyone. I write for a local, USC-owned community website and I’m interested in doing a story on the old Garfield Theater. I’m particularly interested in the era when it served as a Chinese theater, but would love to know anything and everything about the place. If you would like to help me out a bit—and anything, from anecdotes to photos, will help—please drop me a message at . We can communicate via email or phone from there. Thanks!

PS- I grew up just a couple blocks away and was always intrigued by the old building (sadly, I only got to go in once before it was permanently closed).


Mike_S on January 20, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I worked at the Garfield Theater from 1978 until 1982, when the Vinnikoffs sold the theater to a group that turned it into an Asian Movie Theater. I knew the manager that Dublinboyo mentions in his post and I had to drag him out of that same bar many a night (Mr. Bang?).

That theater was a real trip. It still had the original dressing rooms located under the main stage, which had thousands of signatures and dates written on the doors and walls. Some from the early 30’s and 40’s. We found several hidden rooms that you couldn’t access without some creativity (we had rock climbing gear!). Looked like rooms for an organist and other uses about half way up between the main floor and the ceiling. Climbing across the catwalks above the ceiling was very trippy as well. We all swore the place was haunted, based on the random noises and lights we would see flashing through there when no one was around.

I drove by that area late last year and was horrified to see that they turned that corner into a bunch of shops. There’s no sign of the Garfield Theater except for the vintage looking facade. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it. Heck, even Pizza Pub, which was caddy corner to the theater has been torn down and rebuilt as something else. The only thing remaining is The Hat!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 1, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Something I never knew about the Garfield Theatre is this bit of news from the January 13, 1929, issue of The Film Daily:

“Alhambra House Opens

“Alhambra, Cal. — The Garfield, recently destroyed by fire, has been opened with renovations. The house shows sound picture via Vitaphone.”

I think that the Garfield must have lost some of its original Egyptian decor in this fire, as there was little of it left by the 1950s even though the house then looked like it hadn’t been updated in decades.

Berndog on April 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I remember this theater well and loved watching movies here. I distinctly remember watching several of the original THE PLANET OF THE APES movies here and Irwin Allen disaster films like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and TOWERING INFERNO. If you grew up in Monterey Park/Alhambra in the 70’s, this is where you went to the movies. And, of course, the Monterey Theatre further south on Garfield. Also, the original THE HAT location was just across the street. Still is. And if you like pastrami, it’s the place to go.

davt on March 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm

back in the late 70’s my parents brought me here and we saw “Alien” and I vividly recall seeing Battlestar Galactica here. After seeing Alien we ate dinner at Pepe’s down the street (which is still in business today). Alhambra has changed quite a bit since those days.

cphillips5 on September 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

My best cinematic experiences were had in this theatre in the early 90’s with my pal, Jeff, watching fantastic HK double bills and choking on BBQ shrimp crackers washed down with a Janlibo.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 22, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Some friends dragged me to see the King Kong remake at the Garfield. I think it was the only time I ever saw the place packed. I’d have liked to see the original King Kong there.

I also remember the Tabu Isle, which was already looking pretty seedy in the 1950s. It must have been a favorite haunt of people who drank too much, as I can recall several occasions when, walking back to the car after a movie, we would find that some hapless bar patron had thrown up on the sidewalk.

Dublinboyo on April 21, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thanks Joe. Brings back a lot of memories. I recall there was a bar next to the Garfield at the corner called “Tabu Isle.” I know that because when I worked there in the mid 70’s I had to go there and collect the manager who would have a few drinks until the second feature was over. I remember when the remake of King Kong played there in 1976 it did sell out business. Belongs to a totally diffrent era and I have to remind myself that these theaters once existed.

DavidZornig on April 18, 2009 at 9:59 pm

That combined with the vintage rooftop signage is a true throwback to another era. Thanks for posting that.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 18, 2009 at 9:33 pm

There’s finally a photo on the Internet showing the back wall of the Garfield’s stage house, with the Bard Circuit’s sailing ship logo still visible, though faded, decades after it was painted. You can make out the words “Vitaphone” and “Movietone” at upper left, and a bit lower, “Stage Plays” in this 1983 shot.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on December 20, 2008 at 6:11 pm

When I was a regular relief projectionist here, I was dating the assistant manager. She was Linda Ronstadt’s cousin.

Cha Cha Cha

Dublinboyo on October 17, 2007 at 12:28 pm

I second Ken MC ’s comment about Joe Vogel. I grew up in Monterey Park and went to all the local theters as a lad in the 1960’s and 70’s and am, too, very sad that nothing remains of them. I certainly enjoy Joe’s knowledge about the history of these theaters and almost feel like I know the man!

kencmcintyre on May 18, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Joe is great to have around as he seems to have an encyclopaedic memory of Los Angeles from sixty years ago to the present. Don’t go changin, Joe.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 18, 2007 at 1:58 pm

The windmill is gone, the blades having been taken down in the 1950s when that particular branch of Van de Kamp’s closed. The mill-shaped tower remained a number of years after that, but was finally removed. I believe the rest of the building is still there, though, including its extended window bay above which the windmill stood.

I also have a vague memory of the big sign atop the Garfield’s fly tower being lit up with hundreds of little light bulbs, until the mid-1950s, but maybe wishful thinking has caused me to imagine having seen that. I know the sign itself was there for ages, and the painted mural and lettering on the back of the fly tower, flaking and fading away year after year. That photo from the USC collection shows only the top of the moon, and not the sailing ship that was silhouetted against it. I’d love to see a picture of the whole thing.

Patsy on May 18, 2007 at 8:43 am

ken mc: Interesting b/w photo…wonder if the windmill is still there?

Patsy on May 17, 2007 at 4:21 am

Joe: Thanks for the information on the Garfield/DuPuy castle connection. View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 16, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Patsy: Temple was the original name of the theatre which is listed on Cinema Treasures under its final name, El Rey. It was demolished following the Northhridge earthquake in 1987, as was the nearby Alhambra Theatre (Alhambra Twin Cinemas. Alhambra’s other known old theatre, the Granada/Coronet/Capri was destroyed following an earlier earthquake, in 1971. I’ve come across one reference to another very early (c1912) movie theatre in Alhambra, possibly called the Supurba, but can’t pin down any details about it.

Interestingly enough, the architect originally employed to design the Garfield was John Walker Smart, who did in fact design the DuPuy castle now owned by Phil Spector. Eventually it was L.A. Smith who designed the Garfield.

Patsy on May 16, 2007 at 4:44 pm

It doesn’t look like CT has the Temple in Alhambra listed. Cinema Tour says it is closed so the town had 2 former theatres and one famous castle!

Patsy on May 16, 2007 at 4:36 pm

It’s a shame to read that this theatre is no more. I found out about this theatre while researching the Town of Alhambra and the Pyrenees Castle which is owned by legendary music producer, Phil Spector who is on trial for murder in an LA courthouse on Court TV. Read there was a Temple Theatre, too.

Droog on October 25, 2006 at 5:59 pm

All I remember was seeing King Kong in the late 70s. Was this the one that had the huge painting for Heaven Can Wait?