Monday, April 14, 2008


"She was a showplace when I moved here back in 1955," said a man who spotted me taking pictures at the Food4Less parking lot. I wanted to get Cinema 21 from every angle.

The North Lake Village Business Assn. Website says Cinema 21 (originally the Washington Theater) was designed by Clarence Jay of Altadena & built in 1925 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. They also say "the building is scheduled to be renovated."

Since it was the Washington Theater, Cinema 21 has gone through several incarnations. In its later years, according to this thread, it showed Spanish films and finally adult films. By 2003, along with the theatre and (apparently illegal) shops, the Cinema 21 building housed 34 families and some toxic mold in its upper apartments. The city evacuated and relocated the people. They weren't as kind to the mold.

At the Food4Less parking lot, a security guard told me people are always poking around Cinema 21. He said a guy last week was talking about buying it to fix it up as a theatre for neighborhood kids. I hope the building isn't too far gone. Someone has already tried but the graffiti, the broken windows and the "Stop Work" order posted in the box office window tell me progress to rescue this old "showplace" is slow. Or nonexistent.

Ben, over at The Sky is Big in Pasadena, posted a nice shot of the front of the theatre back in February. I've posted a few others at Overdog. I got a bit of spam there this morning so I've enabled comments moderation for now. I'll moderate and post as quickly as I can.


Tanya said...

I hope someone buys it and fixes it up. It's always so sad to me to see a bit of history sitting there forgotten.

Pont Girl said...

I hope it gets renovated, too. There is an old theatre (La Reina)by my place in Sherman Oaks that used to be pretty big in its time. They renovated it into a shopping plaza, but restored the box office and walk up foyer to their original glory and left that area intact.

Ben Wideman said...

thanks for the nod! I think the additional shots you poked around for were worth the sleuthing, very cool stuff you've got there!

babooshka said...

I echo Tanya's thoughts, that hopefully, someone will buy and furnish some love and attention. Far to many building are demolished to be replaced by carparks etc.

Nicely written history and photo.

AraratDailyPhoto said...

Very evocative photo.
You can't help but look at it and be transported into a hundred possible stories.

Jenny said...

When we bought our house 3 years ago, we met someone in the North Lake Business Association who told us the theatre would be remodeled and reopened "soon." I guess my idea of soon is different than their idea of soon.

Jules said...

Hi Petra - have been meaning to pop over to visit - good to be here!!!

This is such a sad photo.

I spent every Saturday at the movies and I still adore going. The canvas seats, the packet of Fantails, the guy with the torch shining it on our feet on the seats!!! Sigh!!! I do hope someone can buy it and restore it!!!!

Bernie K. said...

"It's always so sad to see a bit of history sitting there forgotten." (That's how I feel whenever I look in a mirror.) Vive la cinema!

Petrea said...

Great comments, thank you all.

Tanya's got some cool info about Cumberland Island on her blog today. That place has always fascinated me.

I know La Reina, Pont Girl. That's a good re-use of a building that might otherwise have been torn down. If people don't want a theatre, maybe we can use it for something else.

Any time, Ben.

Thanks Babooshka and Ararat.

Jenny, I think that was the plan. Work started. But the "stop work" order is up and I don't know what happened. On the thread I linked to someone said the neighborhood was dicey. That's no longer true. Maybe someone will be willing to invest there.

Jules, it's lovely to have you here. I've "wasted" many an hour wandering your wonderful blogs.

Moi aussi, Bernie.

Bernie K. said...

Wait—you're Australian?

Petrea said...

Not me, Bernie. That's Ararat.

Case said...

I lived in a House right behind this theater back in the 70's. The back door exits were in a Deep stairwell that us kids used to drop water ballons into from our yard. Sometime a frisbee or ball would go into the dimly lit well, and we would have to be brave to retrieve it, as we were sure it was Haunted !

Petrea said...

Hi Case,
That stairwell's still there. I don't think it's haunted, but it's still deep.

Case said...

Lo Petera. The inside of the Theatre was Art Deco, with lots of Gold Gilting on Purple Velvet. Paisleys were everywhere ! I hear my 1920's Bungalo homestead was torn down about 10 years ago. Anthing go up in it's place ? There used to be an old septic tank in the backyard that made a Beautiful Lemmon tree put out football sized fruit. Or at least it seemed that way to a 10 year old !

Petrea said...

Tomorrow's post is for you, Case.