El Capitan Theatre

Riverside Drive,
Espanola, NM 87532

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The Exhibitor magazine reported on May 21, 1951 that Fidel Theatres had opened the 130-seat El Capitan Theatre in Espanola. On September 8, 1954, Variety reported that Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Mills had purchased the El Capitan Theatre, along with the Chico Drive-In and the El Rio, from Fidel Theatres.

The El Capitan Theatre advertised through at least January 1955 in the Espanola Valley News. It showed a benefit movie on May 13, 1957. The theatre had closed by 1969, when a church was reportedly holding meetings at “the former El Capitan”.

The El Capitan Theatre Building, as it was called in the News, was probably on Riverside Drive. Easter Egg hunts were held in the area between it and “Becker’s;” there’s a Beckers today at 428 S Riverside. A chiropractor listed his address as “Across from El Capitan / On the ‘Y’”; there’s a Y intersection between Riverside Drive and Santa Clara Bridge Road near Beckers.

Contributed by Michael Kilgore

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 27, 2022 at 11:02 pm

Plans to build the El Capitan Theatre were noted in Boxoffice as early as the issue of January 15, 1949, which said that El Rio Theatre owners John Marhege and Phillip Fidel would begin construction on a site in the new Riverside business section being developed by C. H. Yates. The original plans called for a steel and concrete block building in the Pueblo style with a seating capacity of 500.

Though construction was to start by January 20, the next mention of the project in Boxoffice did not appear until the issue of April 9, 1949, which described plans for a Quonset hut building with the theater and an adjacent 12-lane bowling alley. This item said that construction was underway. The house was to have 450-500 seats.

As the El Capitan did not open until 1951, and ended up with only 130 seats, plans were obviously changed drastically. Both Boxoffice items attributed the design of the theater to architect Leo J. Wolgamood, but I’ve been unable to discover if he stuck around to design the much diminished theater that was ultimately built.

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