Redondo Beach Auditorium and the Capitol Theatre

On the El Paseo       | map | - approximate

Redondo Beach, CA 90277

The Pavilion Theatre opened in the Pavilion building in 1907 and is listed as being there in the 1912/13 city directory.  The Pavilion was a project of Henry Huntington designed to stimulate business for his Red Car line running along the coast. The ground floor of the building, in addition to the theatre, contained shops and a restaurant.  Closing date of the theatre is unknown, as are details of its programs.

The Pavilion building was also called the Auditorium, especially in early references. It's also referred to as the Redondo Beach Auditorium, the Pavilion and Auditorium and the Pavilion Auditorium.

The second floor of the Pavilion was the 4,000 person capacity Mandarin Ballroom, nicely profiled in Sam Gnerre's 2011 Daily Breeze article "The Redondo Barn," which was the venue's name in later years.  The Pavilion building was demolished in 1960.

The Airdome and the Elite Theatre were also in the amusement area along the beach. Both were listed as being at The Midway in the 1912/13 city directory. Their locations and history are unknown.

The Capitol Theatre, which opened as Fancher's Capitol, had 710 seats and was a 1912 remodel of a three story half-timbered 1907 building originally called the Casino. The Capitol was at 127 S. El Paseo, just south of the Pavilion and north of the Bathhouse and Plunge.

On Cinema Treasures RBHS notes that the $30,000 building was built by Frank Dorrington under commission from Henry Huntington. Ken Roe attributes the building to noted L.A. architect John Parkinson but it's not specified whether this refers to the original construction or the remodel. Or both.  More research from Mr Roe:

"The auditorium and stage portion was built on wooden pilings above the sand and was located on the El Paseo beach amusement zone area of Redondo Beach.

There were 600 seats on the main orchestra floor and 100 in the small shelf balcony. It was a primitive building with the roof trusses and beams visible to the audience in the auditorium. A Wurlitzer theatre organ Opus 307, style 135A was shipped to the Capitol on 13th May 1920. The theater was taken over by Gore Brothers of Los Angeles in 1919 and in 1920 the company was re-named West Coast Theaters.

The Capitol remained the major theater in Redondo Beach until the opening of the Fox Redondo in February 1929 when the manger Thomas Quinn transferred to the new theater and the Capitol went over to second runs and westerns."

The saltwater Plunge, also referred to as the Bathhouse, was south of the Capitol Theatre and opened in 1909. The pools were heated by a Pacific Electric generating plant. The Plunge was demolished in 1941 and the site became a parking lot to handle the crowds at the Pavilion's ballroom.

Redondo Beach was a prime resort town as well as a shipping port. The development of San Pedro as a port started changing all that. Maureen Magowan, on her History of Redondo Beach says:

"Redondo's popularity began a slow decline when San Pedro Harbor started to take shape in 1899. By 1912, the Pacific Steamship Company stopped calling at Redondo altogether. Lumber schooners still used Pier No. 3 at Topaz Street until the railroad pulled out in 1926. Because of prohibition, the $250,000 Hotel Redondo closed its doors and in 1925 was sold for scrap lumber--the price was $3,000."

Maureen's information came from a history page on the website of the City of Redondo Beach.

Status: All demolished. El Paseo St. is now under water -- the area was dredged to form a new harbor in 1961.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Capitol Theatre for a fine history by Ken Roe. The site Silent Era has a page on the Capitol with a photo.

Tom Wetzel's Uncanny transit site has a page on Redondo Beach and the Playa Del Rey line.  Check out the Arcadia Publishing book "Redondo Beach Pier."

Ken McIntyre has a panoramic view of the El Paseo in his South Bay set on Flickr.  The California State Library has a fine early postcard view looking along the front of the Pavilion and the Casino.

Also see our listings for the nearby Art Theatre, the Strand Theatre and the Fox Redondo.

   Los Angeles Public Library

A lovely c.1921 photo of the Capitol Theatre.
The feature is "Reputation" with Priscilla Dean.
The photo is from the Security Pacific
National Bank collection.

    Penny Postcards of California

A look at the north end of the Pavilion in 1910.
 It's one of many cards in this site's Redondo Beach
section. The theatre's entrance the the arch at
the left of the card.

Here from right to left the card lists the buildings
 as the Auditorium, the Casino and the Bathhouse.
 The site gives a date as c.1912 for the card.
 full size view

The half-timbered Casino building
would later become the Capitol Theatre.

A later card looking north.

Also on the site:

    Photos of Los Angeles

A c.1910 view south down the tracks toward
Newport Beach. The Redondo Pavilion is at
the right. It's a find from Ken McIntyre.
 full size view

That's the bathhouse down beyond the Pavilion.

A 20s postcard looking north. Thanks, Ken!

    Projectkevp on Flickr

A 1922 postcard with the Capitol Theatre and the
Bathhouse.The feature playing is "Turn To The Right,"
directed by Rex Ingram.
It's part of the KP Cinemas set, mostly British
cinemas, but with detours to Hawaii and other locales.

A postcard view of the "Auditorium and Bath House
 by Moonlight" on this site's By-Gone Landmarks page.

    South Bay Daily Breeze

An early 1900s look at the Pavilion, the Casino and
the Bathhouse/Plunge beyond. It's part of a fine 2011
article by Sam Gnerre, "The Redondo Barn," giving a
nice history of the Pavilion building.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

A look down the colonnade of the Pavilion building
c.1908 toward the theatre entrance.
 full size view

See the USC photo this view was taken from.

The site in 1961. Sam's caption: "Water for the
 new harbor being built in Redondo Beach flows into
 where the Pavilion/Redondo Barn once stood in
 this April 11, 1961 file photo."

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    Card Cow

Card Cow has this postcard of the second floor ballroom
 in the Pavilion building, here called the Redondo Beach
Auditorium. The card has a 1910 postmark.

Ron Felsing also has a version of this
 ballroom card in his collection on Flickr.


We're looking down the colonnade of the Pavilion
 toward the theatre entrance. Here on this card postmarked
 1909 they're calling it the Auditorium. Historic View
 Postcards had it for $3.00 on eBay.
A 1912 card with a 1912 with a facade
view of the "Pavilion Auditorium."
 full size view

Thanks to ace theatre detective Michelle
Gerdes for finding the two cards above on eBay.

The Auditorium by moonlight.
Mike Leach had it for sale for $4.00.
full size view | the listing on eBay

A perhaps 20s card of the Capitol Theatre
 with the Pavilion ("Dance Pavilion") beyond.

    Maureen Magowan

Maureen Magowan's collection includes this
1909 postcard of the building that would
 later be the Capitol Theatre.

full size view

A fine postcard vista from the pier showing,
left to right, the Pavilion, Casino/Capitol
 Theatre and Plunge.
full size view

Also See:
| Pavilion postcard - c.1912 |

See Maureen's History page for links to pages
about many of the South Bay communities.

    USC Archives

The Redondo Pavilion building c.1910. It's a
California Historical Society photo. At the far end of
 the building we get a "Casino" sign across the road. The
 theatre's entrance is mi
dway down the main building.
full size view

Beyond the Pavilion we see the half-timbered facade
of what would later become the Capitol Theatre.

A detail of the entrance for the Pavilion
theatre from the photo above.
larger view

A detail of the facade of the Casino building,
 later the Capitol Theatre.

A c.1908 view down the colonnade of the Pavilion
building. The signage for the theatre entrance
is about halfway down.
 full size view

A detail from the photo above. It looks like the crowd
 is waiting to be let in for a matinee at the Pavilion Theatre.
 It's a C.C. Pierce photo from the California Historical
Society collection.
larger view

Things have changed in this 1924 view with the
 Pavilion seen all the way on the right. The former
Casino space beyond the main building is now a
theatre, vertical sign and all. It's a California
Historical Society photo.
A detail from the photo above showing
 the facade of the Capitol Theatre.