Plaza Theatre III

1200 Sunflower Avenue,
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

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Plaza 3 Theatre

The Plaza Theatre III was located behind the South Coast Plaza II Theatre in a separate building, but was marketed by Edwards as the third screen of the larger theatre.

It has a tiered seating format, a variation of stadium seating with two rows on each level. The lobby and all facilities are neatly tucked under the risers.

National General Theatres built it in 1970 and it opened on November 25, 1970 with Spencer Tracy in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”. It was taken over by Mann Theatres in 1973. Edwards operated it from 1981 until it closed in 2000 because of its bankruptcy.

In 2002 plans were announced to build a high-rise building on the site.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

moviebluedog on April 2, 2006 at 3:59 am

More information and pictures can be found here:

View link

papibear on April 2, 2006 at 9:21 am

I saw many, many films at this theater, which was an extremely popular theater during the 1980s. All three Star Wars films and all three Indiana Jones films were shown in Theater III in 70mm, as were Superman and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a re-release of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty in 70mm, Gone With The Wind in 70mm, Poltergeist in 70mm (I sat in the third row on opening night, first show, and still clearly recall literally jumping out of my seat at the clown doll scene), Braveheart (not sure if it was 70mm), Aliens, and many others. It’s really a shame that it’s now closed. It was one of the better theaters in all of Orange County.

papibear on April 2, 2006 at 9:26 am

By the way, Bill Kallay, you totally ROCK man!!!!! Your site is awesome and I am blown away that you were able to snag all those great photos of the theater! Just amazing!

stuberman on February 18, 2007 at 3:59 am

I was the manager briefly at South Coast Plaza II (a.k.a. Theatre III) between 1982 – 1983.

The most successful film I screened there was the regional premiere of “Ghandi” in 70 mm.

We revived the concept of sending ‘candy sellers’ into the auditorium during the intermission (another forgotten relic) and would quickly sell out tubs of popcorn and large drinks.

I also found some cool Indian music that we played between screenings and during the intermission. People were always asking what the album was called (now I wish I would remember).

The rerelease of Empite Strikes Back also did well.

And Bill Kallay – ditto – nice photos and site!

LuckyBastard76 on January 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Loved this theater. First film I saw here was Close Encounters in 70mm, I still have the program. Raiders of The Lost Ark a million times. Poltergeist, Gandhi, Krull, rerelease of Empire Strikes Back which I originally saw at the Big Newport.

Richie_T on April 26, 2016 at 6:06 pm

The last film I saw here was The Doors in 1991, just over 25 years ago. We sat up in the stadium seating section and were tripping in magic mushrooms. It was quite an event. I don’t think we were the only audience members on some kind of hallucinogenic… I can’t remember if this was a 70mm presentation but I’ll tell you what, for most of us in attendance we were looking through a portal to the late 60s early 70s. So much fun. I grew up seeing movies in this amazing auditorium… Popeye, Empire 70mm, Superman, Poltergeist 70mm, Aliens 70mm, Die Hard 70mm… Great memories… Now just a patch of green grass next to a parking structure.

moviebluedog on June 3, 2016 at 4:41 am

This was absolutely one of my favorite theaters. The stadium section offered nearly perfect sight lines for movies on that massive screen.

I saw a lot of 70mm presentations there, my first being Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 70mm presentations I saw were:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Color of Money
The Untouchables

This theater was immensely popular and seemed to sell out the auditorium on most showings that I attended (35mm or 70mm). The presentation wasn’t always the best, but overall really good.

Richie T, awesome memories! I would like to clarify the 70mm prints, if I may. The Empire Strikes Back, Superman: The Movie, Poltergeist, and Aliens did play in 70mm engagements here. However, The Doors and Die Hard only played in 35mm here. They did play in the Westwood and Hollywood areas in 70mm.

I pass by the area where the theater once stood and it’s sad to see it gone.

CTCrouch on June 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

Shortly before the theatre was razed, I caught a peek of the interior. Unlike the neighboring South Coast, Edwards had left the Plaza basically intact. The theatre almost looked as if it was ready for business at a moments notice. A state of affairs which made its' demolition extra sad.

rivest266 on November 7, 2019 at 12:28 am

This opened with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on November 25th, 1970. Grand opening ad posted.

MSC77 on February 26, 2023 at 10:55 pm

A chronology of Orange County’s 70mm presentation history has recently been published. South Coast Plaza is mentioned numerous times.

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