13112 E. Philadelphia Street,
13112 E. Philadelphia Street,Whittier, CA 90601
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Renamed Roxy in 1936.
No relation, but I knew X.X.’s son, also Jim.
Jim, are you related to “X.X.”? Im Betty’s son!
This theatre housed the office of Hugh W. Bruen, who operated the Roxy, Wardman, and Whittier theaters and the Sundown Drive-In for many years. He was a prince of a guy, always giving passes to community groups and to kids like me with an interest in the movies.
Another one in Whittier:
Strand Theatre, 122 W. Philadelphia St.
It’s in the 1924, 28 and 29 city directories. I haven’t come across any later listings.
I worked at the Roxy in 1963 and 1964. It was my first job and I was an “usherette”. The employees would rotate working behind the snack bar/candy counter, selling tickets or ushering. The theatre did have a balcony and one could watch the movie from there. So sad that it burned down. Lots of good memories.
From the Diary of Wilbert S. Myers – July 12, 1913 (Whittier CA):
“Robert <son of W. S. Myers> attended the new "Berry Grand” picture show tonight.“
After this date there were several mentions of the "Berry Grand,” but the location was never revealed. Does anyone know the location of this theatre in Whittier?
From the LA Times, 6/26/20:
Whittier to Have Well Equipped Motion Picture Theater
Whittier’s new theater, the Scenic, will open for business next Monday, presenting “The Ladder of Lies”. The Scenic is the venture of three well-known Whittier men, Truman C. Berry, J.H. Gwin and E.C. Siler. These men have for some time been operating the Gale, which will also be continued by them as an evening house. The new house will probably offer daily matinees.
The new theater seats 1500 people and represents an outlay of $150,000. It is located on East Philadelphia Street, a block and a half from the business center of the city.
Excerpt from an LA Times article on 9/21/75:
In 1919 the Roxy Theater in Whittier was called “the latest word in motion picture circles” and “one of the finest motion picture houses in the Southland”. Vaudeville acts shared the Roxy’s spotlight and stage with flimed silent screen classics.
The price for a night out at the raucous Roxy was high, fifty cents a person. By 1971, the cost of one of the wooden seats had inflated to 65 cents, but even at that price there were no takers. The old theater was deteriorating. The mortar used to hold its brick facade together was crumbling. The neon-lighted marquee blinked if it worked at all. The quality of clientele dropped. Parents didn’t want their children going inside.
On September 29, 1971, the old Roxy burned to the ground. Firemen said the blaze was set deliberately. An arson investigation launched. The old theater became a dirt parking lot.
LA Times reported on 10/1/71:
THEATER IN WHITTIER DESTROYED BY ARSON
Fire destroyed the 50-year-old Roxy Theater in Whittier early Thursday despite the efforts of nine fire units from three cities.
I have found an additional reference to the Scenic Theater. Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of 7/18/1919 says that architects A.R. Walker and P.A. Eisen had prepared the plans for the theater.
According to cards in the L.A. Public Library’s California Index (search terms=“theater” “ Whittier” and “Scenic”), The Roxy is indeed the former Scenic Theater, though the Index misspells the name as “Roxie.”
Plans for the Scenic were announced in Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of 8/19/1919. A later issue of the same publication (3/27/1925) names the owners as Whittier Amusement Company, 211 Philadelphia Street, and reports that the theater would be remodeled and redecorated, and that a new organ would be installed by the Moller Company.
The theater was still called the Scenic as late as 1932, when the 11/5/1932 issue of Motion Picture Herald announced that a Mr. Reno Wilk had been named as its manager.
The Roxy was destroyed by an arson fire in late September, 1971, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times of October 1st that year.
Hugh W. Bruen, the wonderful owner of the Whittier theaters, had offices upstairs in the Roxy building. As a 12-year-old, I wrote him a letter about some movie that I had seen. He responded with a cordial letter and enclosed a couple of passes, an incredible treat for a young movie buff.
Some other kindnesses: when “Martin Luther” opened, he made sure that all the local Lutheran churches got a supply of passes. And he provided regular free admission (often with special private shows) to supervised groups from the California Youth Authority facility that was close by the Whittier Theater.
They don’t make the theaters — or the owners — like that any more.
The Roxy burned down in the early 1970s. I remember looking through charred rubble and finding paperwork relating to the theater’s operation by the Bruen company (whose other venues included the Whittier Theater and the Sundown Drive-In).
The theater did have a shelf balcony, though it was not used for seating (at least by the 1960s, anyway). One of the films I remember seeing here was a big bomb called “Maya”, starring Jay North (television’s Dennis the Menace) all growed up.
One of the ground-floor storefronts (the one on the left in the picture) was the Grand Canton Chinese restaurant, which was open right up until the fire that destroyed the building.
How many seats a theatre had/has affects its existence in a number of ways, and also how history looks at it. During planning, a builder/owner will investigate as to local fire laws that take effect after a given number of seats, and bank financing is often dependent upon costs figured per seat. Insurance also is figured on this basis, as well as taxation, to some extent. From an historical point of view, theatres built before 1950, of less than 1000 seats were usually of lesser architectural intent and interest, and if a theatre had fewer seats near larger theatres, its survival may have been directly affected by the greater number of seats nearby. Today, with multiplex cinemas being the norm, smaller auditoria are the norm, and giving the number of seats helps to put the economic and technical values of a location in perspective vis-a-vis all other cinemas as well as just neighboring cinemas. While it is true that location is a prime determining factor in the success of a theatre/cinema, the number of seats is also critical depending upon the format (films, or live action). Thus, one can glean a number of indicators from the seating capacities, in addition to the identity of a venue in doubt.
Divining the number of seats in a theatre helps to clear up if one theatre in town was simply renamed or was another theatre entirely.
Why do you guys always make a such a big deal over the seating in so many theaters?
This theatre was located at 217 East Philadelphia Street.
It is amazing how many theatres are named ROXY in imitation of the once famous name of the New York City panjandrum of the movie palace: Samual Lionel Rothapfel = “Roxy”. His namesake was the famous ROXY THEATRE in NYC, which outlasted him by only 25 years when it was demolished in 1960. The whole story is in that landmark book “The Best Remaining Seats: The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace” by the late Ben M. Hall in 1961. Various editions of it are sometimes available from www.Amazon.com, but only the first edition contains the color plates.
After we lived in Whittier, we lived in Northridge, CA. The only theater around then was the Reseda Theater and according to info on this site, the Reseda had 900 seats. It was much larger than the Whittier Roxy, so I still say 600 seats for the Whittier Roxy is probably correct.
I was only a kid, but I don’t recall any way that theater could have had nearly twice the seating capacity from what I remember in the ‘50s. There was a balcony — maybe even an upper balcony —though I’m not sure. It was the smallest of Whittier’s three theaters, and the 600 seats sounds about right.
This was my theater in the early 1950s. I cheered on all my Republic Cowboy Heroes in this old movie house. It also had a stage, making me think it was probably a vaudville house at one time. I specifically remember The Son’s of the Pioneers performing on stage during the intermission of a Roy Rogers double bill. Afterwards, we kids got to go up on the stage and they gave out photos and signed autographs.
Red velvet type carpeting and a high balcony are all I remember about this place. In the 60s it became a hippie hangout.