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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinema Yak   » Atmospheric theatres in California?

Author Topic: Atmospheric theatres in California?
Mike Law

Posts: 60
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Jul 2003

 - posted October 19, 2003 08:35 PM      Profile for Mike Law   Email Mike Law         Edit/Delete Post 
Okay gang, here's an interesting question for everyone... Were there, or, are there any atmospheric theatres in California either operating or shuttered. I don't have a clue, I'm ashamed to say. I believe the Alexandria in SF once was one when it was a single screen, but I'm not sure. Well??? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Bill Gabel

Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003

 - posted October 20, 2003 07:19 AM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
Here are a few atmospheric theatres in California.

Fox Arlington(1931) in Santa Barbara, California [open]

Avalon (1929) on Catalina Island, California [open]

Fox Bakersfield (1929) in Bakersfield, California [open]
** It opened with a Spanish Courtyard, but was given the
Skouras gold plaster curls treatment in 1953**

Fox Florence (1932) in Florence, California [razed]
** Spanish Courtyard**

Wasn't the Alhambra Theatre in Sacramento an atmospheric theatre?

Thanks Paul L.

[ October 20, 2003, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: Bill Gabel ]

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Paul P. Meyers
New Member

Posts: 42
From: Detroit, MI
Registered: Aug 2003

 - posted October 20, 2003 11:59 AM      Profile for Paul P. Meyers   Email Paul P. Meyers         Edit/Delete Post 
I was going to ask what the heck is an "atmospheric theatre" but then decided to find out for myself. So for those like myself who were wondering here is a definition from the website for Port Hope Ontario's Capitol Theatre, one of Canadas last remaining atmospheric theatre.

Excerpt -

"ACT 3: What is an "Atmospheric" Theatre?

.....The Capitol Theatre is a superb example of an "atmospheric" theatre, a Hollywood-inspired genre of architecture. Unlike conventional theatres, the Capitol is a building rich in fantasy decor, designed to divert the audience away from everyday cares and set the stage for the show to come on stage and screen. The architectural design and decorative scheme in an atmospheric theatre were planned to evoke the illusion that patrons were seated outdoors. This effect was achieved by projecting images of stars and moving clouds onto a grey painted, seamless ceiling, using a brenograph, which is a special type of projection equipment designed expressly for this purpose. The employment of projected images is the key element in an "atmospheric" theatre. The auditorium appeared to have no roof, and patrons seemed to be sitting outside under a starry summer sky. The notion of a projector with clouds and stars was a very clever and innovative idea in the 1930’s, as most other theatres would utilize a pianist or a pit band to entertain the patrons before a film screening or production.

To create the mood, "atmospheric" theatres were modeled after certain romantic themes. Some took their inspiration from Spanish Mediterranian villages; others borrowed from ancient Egypt. The image created for the Capitol was one of a walled medieval courtyard surrounded by a forest....."

To read more go to their wesite here below

Capitol Theatre, Port Hope, Ontario

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Eric Hooper

Posts: 107
From: Santa Clara, CA
Registered: Apr 2003

 - posted October 20, 2003 02:05 PM      Profile for Eric Hooper   Email Eric Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
The State Theatre (AKA Golden State) in Monterey, CA!!! Beautiful Atomspheric theatre featuring a medieval theme. You are basically sitting in a Knight's Castle's courtyard. It has a beautifully lit blue sky and twinkling stars, with lighting coming from behind the windows on the 'walls' of the castle. Built by the Reid Brothers who also built The Alexandria in San Francisco (around the same time). The only pics I could find of the inside of the theatre are at - And yes the organ is fully functional. I did visit the theatre and got some pics of the lobby, but they wouldn't let me take pics of the auditorium. The tour is here:
The preservation group's website is and they also have pictures of the theatre...

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Daniel Fuentz

Posts: 212
From: Cleveland, Ohio
Registered: Mar 2003

 - posted October 20, 2003 02:57 PM      Profile for Daniel Fuentz   Email Daniel Fuentz         Edit/Delete Post 
The Visalia Fox theatre is another one. They have restored much of the interior details, and it looks as if you're sitting outside, in a garden. I was there earlier this year and got some pictures, but it was too dark inside the auditorium to get any decent pictures.

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