UA Long Beach Theatre
32 Long Beach Boulevard,
32 Long Beach Boulevard,Long Beach, CA 90802
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We are missing three akas for this house, and its original opening date. It was opened as Lenney’s Elite Theatre on January 22, 1921. The first operator, J. M. Lenney, had owned two theaters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and sold one to finance his California venture. He bested Sid Grauman in a competition for the lease on the new house and also secured the Long Beach franchise from Associated First National Pictures, Inc., opening with their feature film “Dinty” and an assortment of short subjects.
Despite his experience a an exhibitor, Mr. Lenney did not succeed with the Elite Theatre, and it closed in early May. The owners of the theater then entered an arrangement with the Harry Corson Clarke Players, a stock company. The opening of the renamed Empire Theatre was scheduled for May 30, but delays in preparing the house for stage productions pushed the actual opening date back to June 6.
Sadly, the Clarke Players had no more luck with the house than Mr. Lenney, and the Empire closed on June 9. Another stock company then took over, opening (after another, more extensive remodeling of the stage facilities) on September 11. The third time, however, was not a charm, and the Empire went dark again on October 3. Another stock company attempted to revive the Empire, opening on December 11, but lasted less than a year, as by early October, 1922 the theater had been renamed the Mission and was again presenting photoplays.
After Fox West Coast took control of the house in 1936, it was advertised for some time as the Fox Long Beach Theatre, the second missing aka, before returning to the simple Long Beach Theatre name. In the late 1940s, when Fox West Coast was required to divest itself of many of its theaters, the Long Beach came under the control of the United Artists circuit, and for the last brief period of its existence was advertised as the UA Long Beach Theatre, the last of the missing akas.
Reopened as Long Beach on February 27th, 1931 and taken over by Fox in 1936. Grand opening ad posted.
Opened as Empire on May 30th, 1921 as a playhouse.
Empire theatre opening Thu, May 5, 1921 – 17 · Press-Telegram (Long Beach, California) · Newspapers.com
This opened as the Empire Theatre and became Mission on October 9th, 1922.
Empire theatre becomes the Mission theatre. Mon, Oct 9, 1922 – 13 · The Long Beach Telegram and The Long Beach Daily News (Long Beach, California) · Newspapers.com
This page is still missing the architects (Walker & Eisen, 1922, and alterations by H. L. Gogerty, 1924) as well as the aka’s: Empire Theatre (opening name) Mission Theatre, (by 1924) and Major Theatre (around 1929, according to Bill Counter’s page about it.) Counter also notes that in later years the house was advertised as the Fox Long Beach Theatre.
I don’t know why completion of the Empire Theatre was delayed until 1922. The July 14, 1920, issue of Building & Engineering News carried this notice that the contracts for construction of the project had been let:
According to Mr. David L. Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 628, the Mission Theatre in Long Beach had a Smith theatre pipe organ installed at one time. Mr. Junchen’s Smith opus list gives no details as to exact nature of this organ, how many manuals, ranks, what the blower serial # was, or what year it was installed. Anybody know where it is now?
No, that is the United Artists Long Beach Theatre. See my comment on the Fox West Coast page.
Whoops, helps if I include the link:
Could this be it on the left? I’ve looked through all the Long Beach listings, and this is the only one that looks to be the right distance away from the back of the Fox West Coast
This is a sketch for a Long Beach Theater that may never have been built, according to the caption:
Plans for a new theater on American Avenue at the corner of Bunce Avenue (actually called Bunce Way, which was an alley half a block north of Ocean Avenue) were announced in the June 11, 1920 issue of Southwest Builder & Contractor. It was being designed by the firm of Walker & Eisen. Early references to this theater in the L.A. Library’s California Index call it either the Empire Theatre (apparently its opening name) or the Mission Theatre (on cards citing articles from 1924 about an enlargement of the stage and proscenium, with plans by Long Beach architect H.L. Gogerty.)
The Long Beach Independent had a front page story on the demolition of the theater, but the date was 11/13/52, not September as I stated above.