Marquee of Avenue Theater Downey CaliforniaIs anybody else fascinated by photos of old movie theaters, especially the outside, when you can read the marquees?  I love to see what movies are playing, and especially to see photos where there are people waiting outside.  Whereas I couldn’t think of anything worse today than being in a crowded theater with a loud coughing, crackling, chatting, texting, or beeping audience, back in the day, as they say, it was the only way to go.

" /> Marquee of Avenue Theater Downey CaliforniaIs anybody else fascinated by photos of old movie theaters, especially the outside, when you can read the marquees?  I love to see what movies are playing, and especially to see photos where there are people waiting outside.  Whereas I couldn’t think of anything worse today than being in a crowded theater with a loud coughing, crackling, chatting, texting, or beeping audience, back in the day, as they say, it was the only way to go.

" /> Marquee of Avenue Theater Downey CaliforniaIs anybody else fascinated by photos of old movie theaters, especially the outside, when you can read the marquees?  I love to see what movies are playing, and especially to see photos where there are people waiting outside.  Whereas I couldn’t think of anything worse today than being in a crowded theater with a loud coughing, crackling, chatting, texting, or beeping audience, back in the day, as they say, it was the only way to go.

" />

Celebrating Great Old Movie Houses

Is anybody else fascinated by photos of old movie
theaters, especially the outside, when you can read the marquees? 
I love to see what movies are playing, and especially to see photos
where there are people waiting outside.  Whereas I couldn’t
think of anything worse today than being in a crowded theater with
a loud coughing, crackling, chatting, texting, or beeping audience, back
in the day, as they say, it was the only way to go.

The original Great American Movie Theaters bookThere are a few
websites out there with some wonderful photos of old cinemas. 
The Theatre Historical Society of
America
has a terrific site, with lots of
amazing photos and it’s not too late to sign up for their 2008
Conclave
“San Jose and Around the Bay” taking place July 8 – 13, 2008.  If you’re into old
theatres and have some vacation time coming, this looks like an amazing
few days touring the greatest extant movie houses in the San Jose and
San Francisco area.  They will also be
publishing a new edition of the
fascinating Great American Movie Theaters book which
came out in 1987.  I’m sure many of us have this one on our
bookshelves, as I do!  The photos below are from the
Joe
Coco Photo Collection of the THSA
.

Take a look at this great
photo of the Paramount Theater on Times Square in NYC, circa 1961 when
Snow White and the Three Stooges was
playing.

Paramount Theater from Joe Coco Collection THSA

How about this great shot of the Globe Theater in 1937 when
James Cagney in Something to Sing About dominated the
marquee?

Globe Theater from Joe Coco Collection of THSA

Or this photo of the Roxy Theater taken during the run of
The Robe in 1953 -take a look at those crowds. 
Around the block!

The Robe at the Roxy from the Joe Coco Collection at the<br />
THSA

The world premiere of Come
to the Stable
was obviously a huge deal at the Rivoli Theater
in 1949.

Come to the Stable at the Rivoli from the Joe Coco<br />
Collection at the THSA

 And
back in the town where I grew up, we had two movie theaters on the main
drag.  These photos are a little before my time — that car contest
pre-dates me, but by only a matter of months!  The next two photos
are from
The Downey Conservancy
which has a nice collection on Flickr.

The Meralta Theater in Downey shows The Caddy

Obviously a gala premiere is something less than huge in the
suburbs, although they do have a cop on duty.  Maybe they
were expecting a rumble, considering the movie.  Hilarious and
amazing, since there probably wasn’t a more Leave It to
Beaver
-type city than Downey, California, back in
1961!  

The Avenue Theater in Downey premieres West Side Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another wonderful site for
everything concerning old movie theaters all over the world is
Cinema
Treasures, a comprehensive website
that will
have you mesmerized for hours.  This one will frequently break your
heart, though, as they report on theater demolitions but also restore
your spirits somewhat with more infrequent tales of restorations. 

There’s a great page called Broadway Theater Tour
with photos of grand old theaters in downtown Los Angeles.  They
haven’t been torn down but have mostly been turned into
storefronts in this predominantly Latino neighborhood.  The photos
here are also terrific and the stories behind them are equally
intriguing.  There's another excellent site called CinemaTour — Cinema History
Around the World

I highly
recommended visiting each one of these websites to explore this amazing
area of movie history.  All of these tireless supporters of
preservation are to be celebrated, because we all know how avarice and
apathy will trump historical importance almost every time. 
Almost… 

18 Responses Celebrating Great Old Movie Houses
Posted By Josem : May 6, 2008 10:49 am

I have so many fond memories of the old movie theaters in San Juan,
Puerto Rico. Many of them were torn, a few remain as live theater venues
and only one (the Metro) is still a movie theater. There was nothing
like the experience of standing in line outside a movie theater on a
Saturday afternoon, looking at the lobby cards and wondering how the
movie was going to be like. 

Posted By Josem : May 6, 2008 10:49 am

I have so many fond memories of the old movie theaters in San Juan,
Puerto Rico. Many of them were torn, a few remain as live theater venues
and only one (the Metro) is still a movie theater. There was nothing
like the experience of standing in line outside a movie theater on a
Saturday afternoon, looking at the lobby cards and wondering how the
movie was going to be like. 

Posted By mel morris : May 6, 2008 4:34 pm

melly (vancouver Island)Great article, great stories.I
still have fond memories growing up in 40's and 50's England,
and standing in long line-ups outside wonderful old 'picture
houses' waiting to get in to see the movie. In those days movie
goers were admitted during the movie, not at the start or finish, (now
it seems so foolish that you would enter half-way through the movie, and
leave when you arrived back at the part you entered. There was no such
thing as buying your ticket in advance.So I still remember the
familiar cry of the theatre usher calling out to the line-up, "I
have two seats in upper balcony, or a single in the back of the
lower".There would be cries of joy or disappointment as the lines
shuffled forward, it was not uncommon to wait two or three hours.

Posted By mel morris : May 6, 2008 4:34 pm

melly (vancouver Island)Great article, great stories.I
still have fond memories growing up in 40's and 50's England,
and standing in long line-ups outside wonderful old 'picture
houses' waiting to get in to see the movie. In those days movie
goers were admitted during the movie, not at the start or finish, (now
it seems so foolish that you would enter half-way through the movie, and
leave when you arrived back at the part you entered. There was no such
thing as buying your ticket in advance.So I still remember the
familiar cry of the theatre usher calling out to the line-up, "I
have two seats in upper balcony, or a single in the back of the
lower".There would be cries of joy or disappointment as the lines
shuffled forward, it was not uncommon to wait two or three hours.

Posted By john : May 6, 2008 5:00 pm

i have nothing but the fondest memory of the first run movie houses in
downtown washington, d.c. i spent many a saturday afternoon a t the
lowes capitol(with stageshow) and the palace and the warner and
columbia. the capitol was magnificent with a huge staircase, red velvet
wallpaper, two balconies, marble water fountain .for 35 cents (circa
1943-45) you could see the stars while sitting in the lap of luxury.
what i would give to be back there in that golden time! they are all
gone now except for the warner which now does plays. i salute the old
movie palaces their times will never come again, but they will always
have a place in the hearts of those who were there!

Posted By john : May 6, 2008 5:00 pm

i have nothing but the fondest memory of the first run movie houses in
downtown washington, d.c. i spent many a saturday afternoon a t the
lowes capitol(with stageshow) and the palace and the warner and
columbia. the capitol was magnificent with a huge staircase, red velvet
wallpaper, two balconies, marble water fountain .for 35 cents (circa
1943-45) you could see the stars while sitting in the lap of luxury.
what i would give to be back there in that golden time! they are all
gone now except for the warner which now does plays. i salute the old
movie palaces their times will never come again, but they will always
have a place in the hearts of those who were there!

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : May 7, 2008 1:01 am

I was browsing in a bookstore and noticed a book about streetcars
(remember those?).  The cover was not only shot in Denver back when
they had streetcars, but was shot on Colfax Avenue where the Ogden
Theater stands.  The Ogden now is a live music venue, but this
photo was taken around 1949 or 1950.  The theater marquee clearly
reads Glenn Ford and Janet Leigh in "Doctor and the Girl".

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : May 7, 2008 1:01 am

I was browsing in a bookstore and noticed a book about streetcars
(remember those?).  The cover was not only shot in Denver back when
they had streetcars, but was shot on Colfax Avenue where the Ogden
Theater stands.  The Ogden now is a live music venue, but this
photo was taken around 1949 or 1950.  The theater marquee clearly
reads Glenn Ford and Janet Leigh in "Doctor and the Girl".

Posted By Medusa : May 7, 2008 8:52 am

Great memories, everyone!And Peter, I do slightly remember
streetcars — don't remember ever riding on one as a child
unfortunately — but do remember being slightly spooked by the whole
rail thing on the street.  I recall them particularly as connected
with the times we would go to a nearby city to see movies.Thank
goodness we have photographs to help us remember things that would
ordinarily only survive in the mind's eye!– m

Posted By Medusa : May 7, 2008 8:52 am

Great memories, everyone!And Peter, I do slightly remember
streetcars — don't remember ever riding on one as a child
unfortunately — but do remember being slightly spooked by the whole
rail thing on the street.  I recall them particularly as connected
with the times we would go to a nearby city to see movies.Thank
goodness we have photographs to help us remember things that would
ordinarily only survive in the mind's eye!– m

Posted By Vincent : May 7, 2008 11:17 am

This brings back fond memories for me, specifically of growing up in
Syracuse, N.Y., in the 1960s. Downtown had several moviehouses — the
Eckel on East Fayette Street (where "2001" premiered
locally), the RKO Keith's and Paramount (both demolished in the
late '60s for a department store chain that itself ultimately
went belly-up), and just north of them on South Salina Street, the
Loew's, a showplace that's still around today, hosting live
performances as the Landmark Theater (though it apparently could
use some upkeep).Not long ago, I did an entry at my classic
Hollywood blog, "Carole & Co.", on some of the great movie
palaces of downtown Los Angeles, many of which are still in use or in
the process of being revitalized. Find it at
http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/71388.html.I've
done a few other theater-related entries as well, including a look at
theaters in Morristown, N.J., and Salt Lake City that both opened
at about the same time, but with different Carole Lombard pictures
(http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/62148.html) and on the
famed Brooklyn Paramount
(http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/43015.html).

Posted By Vincent : May 7, 2008 11:17 am

This brings back fond memories for me, specifically of growing up in
Syracuse, N.Y., in the 1960s. Downtown had several moviehouses — the
Eckel on East Fayette Street (where "2001" premiered
locally), the RKO Keith's and Paramount (both demolished in the
late '60s for a department store chain that itself ultimately
went belly-up), and just north of them on South Salina Street, the
Loew's, a showplace that's still around today, hosting live
performances as the Landmark Theater (though it apparently could
use some upkeep).Not long ago, I did an entry at my classic
Hollywood blog, "Carole & Co.", on some of the great movie
palaces of downtown Los Angeles, many of which are still in use or in
the process of being revitalized. Find it at
http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/71388.html.I've
done a few other theater-related entries as well, including a look at
theaters in Morristown, N.J., and Salt Lake City that both opened
at about the same time, but with different Carole Lombard pictures
(http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/62148.html) and on the
famed Brooklyn Paramount
(http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/43015.html).

Posted By Medusa : May 7, 2008 11:38 am

Hi Vincent!Thanks for the memories and the links to your
tremendous Hollywood blog, which is truly terrific!  Can't wait
to spend more time there reading all your past material! 
I'm going to have to take that walking tour next time I'm
in L.A. — I know I was at ONE of those theatres several years ago for a
taping or something…gosh, I can hardly remember — need to jog my
neurons a bit!  Thanks again for your great
comments!- m

Posted By Medusa : May 7, 2008 11:38 am

Hi Vincent!Thanks for the memories and the links to your
tremendous Hollywood blog, which is truly terrific!  Can't wait
to spend more time there reading all your past material! 
I'm going to have to take that walking tour next time I'm
in L.A. — I know I was at ONE of those theatres several years ago for a
taping or something…gosh, I can hardly remember — need to jog my
neurons a bit!  Thanks again for your great
comments!- m

Posted By AIMALAC : May 8, 2008 4:31 am

I can remember the long lines of people waiting to get in to see a
showing of the original "Star Wars" and also the crowds that
waited for the regular features to finish on a late Friday and/or
Saturday night so they could attend the special Midnight showings of
" The Rocky Horror Picture Show" all dressed in their favorite
characters and everyone enjoying everyone elses company because they all
shared a common interest.

Posted By AIMALAC : May 8, 2008 4:31 am

I can remember the long lines of people waiting to get in to see a
showing of the original "Star Wars" and also the crowds that
waited for the regular features to finish on a late Friday and/or
Saturday night so they could attend the special Midnight showings of
" The Rocky Horror Picture Show" all dressed in their favorite
characters and everyone enjoying everyone elses company because they all
shared a common interest.

Posted By Leon : September 6, 2009 2:26 am

I’m about to make a home theater in my home and want to take ideas from some of the old movie theaters I use to go to in New York city back in the 60′s. I remember them being beautiful, large and cozy. If you went at night the bright lights under the marquees generater excitment. Once you walked into the theater they was a quietness/hush type of feeling and no one talked loud, it made you want to talk just above a whisper. After finding more site like this I should be able to get some great ideas for my home theater and create the same ambiance.

Posted By Leon : September 6, 2009 2:26 am

I’m about to make a home theater in my home and want to take ideas from some of the old movie theaters I use to go to in New York city back in the 60′s. I remember them being beautiful, large and cozy. If you went at night the bright lights under the marquees generater excitment. Once you walked into the theater they was a quietness/hush type of feeling and no one talked loud, it made you want to talk just above a whisper. After finding more site like this I should be able to get some great ideas for my home theater and create the same ambiance.

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