12 Historic Movie Theaters

Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  2 months ago  •  8 comments

By:   Written by Megan McCrea

12 Historic Movie Theaters

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

12 Historic Movie Theaters

Film buffs from all across the West love these classic movie houses

By Megan McCrea

1 of12 Flickr Creative Commons

Castro Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Standing tall and proud in the heart of the city, the 1922 Castro Theatre is iconically San Francisco. Its ornate Spanish Colonial façade nods to nearby Mission Dolores, its Art Deco chandelier sparkles like so much glitter, and its programming—which includes popular costumed Disney sing-alongs—resonates with fun-loving San Franciscans. castrotheatre.com


2 of12 Marcin Wichary via Flickr Creative Commons

Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA

This 1931 theater shines with Art Deco opulence, from the 10-story neon vertical “Paramount” marquee to the detailed gold reliefs that cover the auditorium’s walls, proscenium, and ceiling. Saved from demolition in 1972, when the Oakland Symphony chose it as its new home, the theater now hosts concerts, ballets, plays, and classic films. paramounttheatre.com

3 of12

TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, CA

When Chinese opened in 1927, with a premier of Cecil B. DeMille’s  King of Kings , thousands lined Hollywood Boulevard, and a riot broke out as people jockeyed for position to see the celebs. Things haven’t really quieted down since: each year, four million people come to admire the iconic theater’s pagoda-style entrance, marvel at the 30-foot dragon guarding the door, and walk (literally) in the footsteps of the stars.  tclchinesetheatres.com

4 of12 Damian Gandal via Flickr Creative Commons

Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA

Sitting in the auditorium of Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre, moviegoers will feel transported…even  before  the movie begins. That’s because the 1931 theater was designed to resemble the plaza of a Spanish colonial town—faux buildings line the walls, complete with porticos and red tiled roofs—and, on the ceiling, stars twinkle overhead.  vineyardtheatre.org

5 of12 Courtesy Seattle Cinerama

Seattle Cinerama, Seattle, WA

Should it come as a surprise that, in a city famed for its geekiness, the historic movie house is a space age-themed Cinerama? Saved from the wrecking ball by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the 1963 theater displays original costumes from  Star Trek Blade Runner , and  Batman  in its lobby, and draws devotees so eager they’ll camp out overnight for showings of  Star Wars  and  Harry Potter . cinerama.com

6 of12 Courtesy Jean Cocteau Cinema

Jean Cocteau Cinema, Santa Fe, NM

This tiny art house opened as Collective Fantasy Cinema in 1976, before shuttering three decades later. Today, thanks to the patronage of local cinephile—and  Song of Ice and Fire  author—George R. R. Martin, fantasy reigns again here, as classics like  Forbidden Planet  and  Back to the Future  flicker on the theater’s screen.   jeancocteaucinema.com

7 of12 Flickr Creative Commons

Mayan Theatre, Denver, CO

With a stunning pyramidal exterior, a sumptuously decorated interior, and a made-for-the-movies backstory—the theater was, dramatically, saved from near-certain demolition in 1984—the Mayan is nothing if not epic. Meticulously restored, the 1930 Art Deco Mayan Revival movie house wears its history proudly, from the colorful sculptures on its walls right down to the popcorn, which is popped on a 30 year-old kettle.   landmarktheatres.com

8 of12 Anna McCleary

Hippodrome Art Centre, Julesburg, CO

A 500-seat movie theater in a town of 1,225? Unbelievable, yes, but so too is the Hippodrome’s story: in 1996, concerned citizens banded together to purchase, restore, and reopen the 1919 theater, which now hosts not only first-run movies—at the throwback price of $5—but also art shows, concerts, and community events.  hippodromeartscentre.com

9 of12 Courtesy of the Wilcox Theatre

Historic Willcox Theatre, Willcox, AZ

Once run by the Rex Allen Cowboy Museum, now located within walking distance of four wine tasting rooms, the Historic Willcox Theater seamlessly connects the town’s past and present. Saved from closure in 2012 by a band of local residents, the 1936 southwest art deco theater now presents opera performances, wine & movie nights, and the annual Southern Arizona Independent Film Festival.  willcoxtheater.com

10 of12 Courtesy of Village Theatre

Village Theatre, Coronado, CA

Located on San Diego’s Coronado Island, this 1947 theater feels decidedly homey. Recently reopened after a decade of painstaking renovation, the Village features 3-D murals of local landmarks, and, in addition to the usual slate of first-run films, the theater screens the “Mayor’s Movie of the Month.”  villagecinemas.com

11 of12 Jason Lander, via Flickr Creative Commons

Bagdad Theatre, Portland, OR

When Universal Pictures built this faux Middle Eastern movie house in 1927, they spared no expense, from the bubbling fountain in the lobby, to the stencils on the ceilings, to the neon minarets on the marquee. Preservationist-minded McMenamins Company bought the theater in the 1980s, saving the Bagdad and turning it into a “theater pub,” complete with the seven-story Backstage Bar behind the screen.  mcmenamins.com .

12 of12 Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user, BWChicago

Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland, CA Opened in 1926, Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre deftly combines old and new. Yes, the marquee often displays spirited commentary on current events, and the bill features first-run movies, but the auditorium walls still shine with classical frescoes and, on weekends, patrons are treated to a pre-show performance on the theater’s original Mighty Wurlitzer.  renaissancerialto.com


jrGroupDiscuss - desc
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    2 months ago

Sorry for the weird spaces, but sometimes that happens. 

Going back almost 80 years, the neighbourhood theatre I used to go to for the Saturday afternoon matinee, back when it would include Movietone News,


a serial episode, a cartoon, preview of next week's movie, and the main feature, was the Westdale Theatre.  It still exists as a historical movie theatre and has special programming along with the classic and more unusual movies it shows.

When I went back to Canada (and the USA) for my son's wedding 14 years ago my brother and sister-in-law took me to the Westdale Theatre as an experience from when we were kids, and we watched A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.




Greg Jones
Professor Guide
2  Greg Jones    2 months ago

Fox Theater - San Francisco  I was at the George Wright Concert on the mighty Wurlitzer organ.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Greg Jones @2    2 months ago

Thanks for posting that - the photos in the linked article show that the Fox Theater was a palatial example of the magnificent theatres of its time.  The sound of the Wurlitzer must have been stunning.

Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    2 months ago

This was one of the movie theaters I went to as a kid because it was in the neighborhood.

Southtown Theatre

610 W. 63rd Street,
  Chicago,   IL   60621

As the Depression set in, the Southtown Theatre would be the last massive picture palace to be built in Chicago. It was located on W. 63rd Street to the west of S. Wallace Avenue and was built and operated by the Publix-Balaban & Katz theatre chain.

The theatre was designed by architectural firm Rapp & Rapp and opened December 25, 1931 with Will Rogers in “Ambassador Bill” and Gary Cooper in “His Woman”. There were 2,201 seats on the main floor and another 1,000 in the balcony. The most incredible feature was the Flamingo Pool and fountain in the Grand Lobby which had a waterfall and live fish!

The floor plan of the theatre reveals a twin box office set up, a grand lobby, a grand inner lobby (site of the pool), a children’s playing room, a women’s lounge, a men’s lounge, an exit lobby, grand stairs to the lobby leading to a grand foyer, a huge auditorium plus a gently raked balcony.

There were dioramas on the mezzanine foyer which depicted well known Chicago historical events like the Great Fire of 1871. The 4/20 Wurlitzer organ was not original to the Southtown Theatre. It was moved there from the Congress Theatre in 1931 and was used only for a few years and then mostly neglected. It was left to deteriorate and ended up a casualty to a leaking roof.

The Southtown Theatre finally closed in August 1958. It was demolished in 1991 after serving for many years as Carr’s department store and after that, a flea market. An interesting note–two plaster musician busts from the Southtown ended up in the restored Lake Theatre in Oak Park, IL.

Contributed by Ray Martinez
Professor Principal
3.1  JohnRussell  replied to  JohnRussell @3    2 months ago



Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @3    2 months ago

It makes me sad to see these beautifully ornate images of luxury disappearing, now being replaced by cold stark modern "practical" structures. 

Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
3.2.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.2    2 months ago

I hear you Buzz, but we live in a far different time.

Here are two I remember:



It's has been divided and used for other things now. You would never know what it was.

And then my old neighborhood theatre:


It still exists, but I'm not sure what they use it for.

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
3.2.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @3.2.1    2 months ago

I can't open the neighbourhood photo, the last one.  Maybe it was a direct copy from a google image.  For me to see it you would have to copy and save it to your computer picture library, then post if from there to your comment.  But don't rush, because I'm going to bed in a few minutes anyway. 


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