Lynwood Theatre

Well, there were two of them.

Long Beach Blvd. at Elmwood Ave.
  | map

Lynwood, CA 90262

Opened: This first Lynwood Theatre on the SW corner of Long Beach and Elmwood opened August 14, 1925. Elmwood has gone missing and has evidently been absorbed into Imperial Highway. It used to be a block north of Beechwood.  A current address for the site would be about 11155 Long Beach Blvd.

The house was a project of Mattie B. Vilven -- she and her husband Richard Tanton Vilven were local real estate agents. The Long Beach Press-Telegram had the story opening day:

Lynwood, California, August 14. -- Lynwood's beautiful new theater, built and owned by a woman, with a woman's orchestra, women ushers and women in the boxoffice, will open to the public this evening.

The new place of amusement is probably the largest and most elaborate between Los Angeles and Long Beach and will be opened with fitting ceremonies which will include the personal appearance of representatives of the Hollywood moving picture studios.

Mrs. R. T. Vilven, a pioneer resident and business woman of the new enterprise which is meeting a hearty welcome from the people of this community which has heretofore been without a moving picture house.

The theater will seat approximately 1,000 persons. It is located on Long Beach Boulevard, at Elmwood Avenue and is seventy-five feet by 135 feet in size, the building alone, exclusive of all furnishings, costing in excess of $35,000.

The theater is elaborately furnished and will rank, it is said, with amusement house [sic] in places many times the population of Lynwood. -- Long Beach Press-Telegram."

Cinema Treasures sleuth Joe Vogel found a card in the Los Angeles Public Library's California Index listing an article in the August 22, 1925 issue of the California Graphic that noted:

 "Abbott Dancers Entertain at Theatre Opening. The Ethel Abbott Dancers were chosen by the management of the Lynwood Theatre, Lynwood, for its gala opening August 14... first run pictures and vaudeville acts will be featured throughout the year."

Vilven family descendant Pamela Miller adds: " would have been R.T. Vilven's second wife, Mattie B. Vilven, who built it. My records indicate that they were married in 1918 in Los Angeles. I did a quick search and found Mattie and Richard Tanton Vilven in the voter registration records for Lynwood beginning in 1920 and ending with only Mattie in 1934. (He died in 1929.) Throughout that time, they are both listed sometimes as real estate agents....Richard at times as 'retired' and Mattie at times as 'housewife.'"  Vilven's first wife, Gertrude, had died earlier. Mattie lived until 1941.

Evidently the house was, at the end anyway, leased out to W. J. Zimmerman.

Seats: about 1,000

Architect: Possibly it was Werner Ernest Noffke. Anyway, he had done the plans for an earlier project nearby.

Joe Vogel found a card in the LAPL's California Index that cited the Southwest Builder and Contractor May 9, 1924 issue. It noted that Noffke was preparing the plans for a theatre in Lynwood. But a card referring to an August 1, 1924 SW B&C article gives us both a different location and a different owner than where the theatre finally ended up:

 "Theater, store and lodge building (Lynwood) -- H.B. Eachus...has been awarded the contract to erect a theater and lodge and store building at corner of Long Beach Ave. and Elizabeth St., Lynwood, for E.R. Pillet; the theater will seat about 1,000 people and there will also be 4 stores, lodge rooms...W.E. Noffke, architect."

Presumably Mr. Pillet gave up on his project. Did Vilven use the same architect? Unknown.

A third card Joe Vogel found, citing SW B & C January 16, 1925 issue, said that bids were being taken for the theatre by R.T Vilven with location as the southwest corner of Long Beach Blvd. and Elmwood Ave. That reference says it would be a 135 x 60 foot building with a capacity of 1,000 and costing $35,000. No mention of an architect.

Collapsed in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and was subsequently demolished.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the two Lynwood Theatres for some fine research by Joe Vogel, Ken McIntyre and others.

The replacement, on a different site nearby:

11606 Long Beach Blvd.  | map

Lynwood, CA 90262

Opened: 1934, a project of the newly formed Lynwood Theatre Corporation. It was leased to W.J. Zimmerman. In the 1940 city directory it's listed with the address of 11612 Long Beach Blvd. This site was south of where the 105 now is, about 6 blocks south of the earlier theatre.

Ken McIntyre found this item in the l.A. Times issue of May 20, 1934:

"Lynwood to Get $25,000 Film House

Work on Quake-Proof Theater Scheduled to Start Next Month

Construction of a quake-proof theater building at a cost of $25,000 will be started here soon after June 1, it was announced today by W.J. Zimmerman, who formerly operated two show houses in this area. The theater will be completed and in operation by September 1, he said, giving Lynwood the first motion-picture house it has had since March 10 of last year, when the earthquake destroyed the Lynwood Theater.

The new structure, to be located at Long Beach Boulevard and Lynwood Road, will be of steel and concrete construction, 50x138 feet in size. It will be erected by the Lynwood Theater Corporation, recently organized. Zimmerman has leased the building and will operate it."

Architect: Paul  Kerr

Seats: 715

Closing date is unknown -- it was running at least until 1946. After closing as a film house it became a bowling alley, the South-Lyn Bowling Lanes. No photos of this second Lynwood Theatre have surfaced yet.

Status: Demolished.

The first Lynwood theatre after the 1933 earthquake.

Ken McIntyre collection

The caption on the card calls our attention to the organ pipes still
in the chamber on the right side of the photo. On the left note that the
theatre's vertical is still upright. It's a postcard Ken found on eBay.
Thanks, Ken!

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    Cinema Treasures

Thanks to Kenneth Jacowitz for this 1933 post-
earthquake view of the first Lynwood Theatre.
 full size view | on Cinema Treasures

    Los Angeles Public Library

A look at the collapsed Lynwood Theatre
 following the 1933 earthquake. That's the
downed roof sign we see on the left.
full size view

A C.C. Pierce photo of the side of the
 building. See the image at the top of the
column for the postcard version.
A 1933 shot by Stephen T. Yocom.
full size view

Another by Stephen T. Yocom. Note the nice
view of the organ chamber. That structure perched
on top at the center of the image is the
 framework of the roof sign.
full size view