Cinema I & II
4500 Van Nuys Blvd. | map |
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Opened: This theatre opened as a twin in 1975.
Architect: William Riseman Associates. Bob Luchetti was the
architect for the 1984 remodeling.
Seating: 952 total, 476 on each side.
The theatre got a major remodeling in 1984 which included installation
of platters, THX sound systems and 70mm in auditorium #1. This
theatre was a favorite valley location for studio previews in the 1990s.
Status: Closed July 17, 2003. It was demolished in 2005.
The building was last operated by AMC Theatres after the GCC
bankruptcy. Pacific Theatres bought the 5 plex across the street from
AMC but didn't pick up this one. The lot is now the location of a Best
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Sherman
Oaks I & II for lots of historical information and tales about the theatre.
The Cinema Tour page has 2003 photos of the exterior and lobby from
the Bob Meza collection and a more vintage exterior view from the
Steve Pritzker collection.
14424 Milbank Street
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Opened: March, 1977. This is a location across the street from the
original twin theatre building. The three auditoria were of the long
Status: Closed in 1994 after damage by the Northridge earthquake.
Later demolished to make way for the new GCC 5 plex.
Pacific Sherman Oaks 5
14424 Milbank Street | map |
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Opened: This was a building constructed by General Cinema as
a replacement for the damaged triplex . It was first known as the
Sherman Oaks 3-4-5-6-7 while the twin across the street was
The building footprint was limited by zoning to that of the previous
building so the architects went up. 4 of the screens have small
It was operated for a time by AMC Theatres following the GCC
Status: Alive and well and currently operated by Pacific Theatres.
A view of the former GCC complex
as the Pacific Sherman Oaks 5.
photo: Bill Counter - 2007
[ click to enlarge ]
More Information: The Cinema Treasures page has a bit of
discussion about the theatre.
The Cinema Tour page has lots of photos (including interiors) from
the Mark Campbell collection plus a snack bar photo from Bob Meza.
Some other Los Angeles area
General Cinema locations:
Avco Cinemas | Wilshire Theatres | Cinema Treasures |
| Cinema Tour | Currently operated by iPic Theatres.
Beverly Connection 6 | Cinema Treasures | Cinema Tour |
Opened 1990. 2000 seats. Last operated by AMC. Closed in
2004 and now demolished.
Fallbrook | Cinema Treasures |
Opened as a 6 screen venue with a 7th and later 3 more added.
Acquired by the Laemmle circuit in 2001. The last 3 screens added
were converted to retail so it's back to 7 and doing well.
Galaxy | Hollywood Theatres |
Opened in 1992 and closed in 2003.
Santa Anita 4 | Cinema Treasures |
Upstairs in the Santa Anita Mall. Closed in the 90s and
is now retail space.
South Bay 1-2-3 | Cinema Treasures | Cinema Tour |
Also known as the Redondo Beach Cinema 3. The original theatre was a single, then a twin, then a tripex. Later there was another separate building built as a single, later twinned. And there was a 3rd building with a single 70mm equipped theatre -- later twinned. The latter 2 buildings closed with the opening of a new GCC complex nearby. The original building (3 screens) survived as a sub run house and finally closed in 2010. Got all that?
Montclair | Cinema Treasures |
Started as a twin in 1969 and later turned into a triplex. Another
separate 5 screen building was added later. The original twin/triplex
remained open until 2000.
Northridge Fashion Center Cinema 1-3 | Cinema Treasures |
In the mall. Closed in 94 after the earthquake.
Woodland Hills Cinema | Cinema Treasures | Cinema Tour |
Opened as a twin in the 60s and became a triplex around 84.
Closed in 91, demolished in 92.
GCC also acquired a number of theatres (both single screens
and multis) from other operators in the L.A. area. William has
posted a nice list of the company's L.A. theatres as of June
of 1973 on the Cinema Treasures page for the Santa Anita 4.
The architectural firm that did many of the GCC complexes was
William Riseman Associates of Boston. The firm also did work for
Sumner Redstone's Showcase Cinemas and many other firms.
Mr. Riseman died in 1982. See the obit in the NY Times.
Cinema Treasures has partial lists of other projects
of William Riseman and also William Riseman Associates.
A typical GCC booth with Century projection and sound, Christie
platters and a Rank Cinemation pegboard automation system.
The photo is of a 70mm booth at the Northpark West 1 & 2
on the site Film Tech.
Go to "pictures" on the left navigation bar and you can scroll
through photos of many theatres around the country -- including
more shots of this one. full size view
By the mid 80s, GCC had stopped installing Century
equipment and Cinemeccanica was the brand of choice.
On the Film-Tech.com website:
General Cinema feature presentation snipe from the 1970s
General Cinema feature presentation snipe from the 1980s
General Cinema Now Showing (1980s)
General Cinema policy from the 1980s
General Cinema policy from the 1990s (candy band #2)
General Cinema policy from the 1990s (candy band)
General Cinema policy from the 1990s (space candy/clouds)
"Welcome to General Cinema" (and keep quiet)
The site also has lots of the General Cinema strips of
later vintage. Go to "videos" on the site's navigation bar
and scroll down to "policy trailers."
The classic all-blue "Feature Presentation" 30 second bumper
The 80s "Feature Presentation" look
See Christopher Crouch's 2009 post on Cinelog,
his Orange County theatres blog, about
"General Cinema Art Galleries."
The GCC logo at the top of the column
is from www.epslogos.net
Visit generalcinematheatres.com -- a re-creation
of a GCC website including a history of the
company and a 1999 list of locations.
Also: 1983 locations
A bit about the early history of the company:
"Top Firm Managing Cinema."
See the great posts on Dave's blog
Pleasant Family Shopping
for a good history of the company.
There are 4 General Cinema posts:
"The Premiere of General Cinema"
"The General Cinema Experience"
"General Cinema's Feature Presentation"
"General Cinema Refreshments, 1966"
See the website Shoppers World Cinema for a
loving tribute to this New England GCC complex.
There are many photos.
Addition of Cinema II - 1963
Addition of Cinemas III & IV - 1974
Working at the Cinemas in the 80s
See the Wikipedia article on
General Cinema Corporation.
design - the
General Cinema style
For most of us going to the movies in the early 1960s was decidedly
old fashioned. There were the ornate and dusty movie palaces
downtown - where many of us didn't go anymore anyway.
Or the down at the heels art deco neighborhood theatre that
felt it belonged to the same era as the social-realist murals
at the local post office.
And let's not even talk about the neo-baroque gold swirls
adorning the Skouras style theatres put up (or remodeled) by
Fox West Coast. What period were those supposed to be from
anyway? They were post World War II yet somehow didn't look it.
It was the sixties. It was the space age. Things were starting
to sizzle. The international style was everywhere and General Cinema
Corporation was the one circuit who brought an innovative take
on it to the business of motion picture exhibition.
I'm talking about what we can call the "classic era" of GCC
construction. When a "twin" theatre was the latest thing. GCC
opened their first one in 1962. Prior to that they had operated
drive-ins and had built lots of single screen theatres.
The locations were suburban. Near a mall but usually not
quite in it. Frequently GCC ended up at the back or nearby
on some cheaper property.
A classic red/white/blue/grey color scheme. Not a curved
line in the place. No musty drapes. A screen treatment
that made your eyes pop the first time you saw it.
Of course it couldn't last. The design morphed into something
more generic and the GCC buildings came to resemble what
the competition was doing. And it's been downhill for
everyone since then.
GCC was a winner for years but market share slipped
and the company spun off the theatre division into a separate
entity and it slowly slid into oblivion by 2000.
The early designs used white pre-cast concrete panels but the
quickly became concrete blocks painted white. The white painted
square blocks also figured into the design of the lobbies.
Here's a rendering of a classic
General Cinema exterior.
It's what they'd call a "butterfly twin" with the lobby in the middle
and the theatres splaying out on opposite sides. It's one of a number
of illustrations on Dave's fine article "The Premiere of General Cinema"
on his website "Pleasant Family Shopping."
With many of the locations General Cinema went into, a
marquee on the building assumed less and less importance.
These certainly weren't theatres where the theatre was within
a block of other businesses and needed to call attention
to itself with flashing neon.
In many cases the signage on the building became only the
"Cinema I-II" and a few display cases. And the big sign, now out
at the edge of the parking lot in many cases, was simple and
modern. It made the marquees of the older competing theatres
look dated. In many cases it was supported by modernist style
frame of either black I-beams or tubular steel.
Here's a later vintage General Cinema sign captured by
Randy Carlisle on Flickr. It's a 1999 view of the sign for
the Town East Cinemas in Mesquite, Texas.
It's part of his Walk In Theatres set.
full size view
The General Cinema lobbies were always modern and
minimalist. A Mondrian inspired carpet (mostly reds), a blue
wall behind the snack bar ("Refreshments") and white ceilings.
There was chrome tube 60s modern benches to sit on and
sometimes art on the walls.
A classic look at a General Cinema lobby
decorated for Christmas 1977. The photo is from
"General Cinema's Feature Presentation" on the blog
Pleasant Family Shopping. We're at the South Shore
Cinemas, Braintree, Massachusetts.
In the 80s the color palette morphed into a new look
of blue, red and gray with wood accents.
GCC was an innovator in developing the modern snackbar.
Initially they did concessions only in their drive-ins as it was
unseemly to run a snackbar in a class indoor theatre.
Here we're looking at a view of the 1966 Richland
Plaza Cinema in Ft. Worth. It's a photo that accompanies
Dave's article "General Cinema Refreshments, 1966" on
his great blog Pleasant Family Shopping.
Some of the General Cinema twins had lobby signs indicating
"Cinema I" or "Cinema II" that were detachable from the walls
and could be switched. Thus a big film might open on the 1000
seat large screen and appear in ads as playing at "Cinema I."
You'd go into the lobby and that theatre was on the left.
Weeks later the ads would perhaps still be saying that same
film was at "Cinema I" but upon buying a ticket you'd find
that the "Cinema I" signs would then direct you to the smaller
house to the right of the complex.
In many of the markets they entered, General Cinema was a
pioneer in getting first run bookings into the suburbs. In many
towns the first runs still played downtown and then went in
waves of sub run bookings into the suburbs.
This was all starting to change in the 60s. As drive-in operators,
they probably had a lot of experience in convincing (or litigating)
distributors about the coming way of doing business. In the GCC indoor
theatres Disney and Universal seemed most receptive to the new
booking patterns. After "Jaws" it all snowballed and the saturation
bookings into suburban theatres became the norm.
The GCC design got rid of the musty drapes at the head
of each aisle. A modern set of white doors awaited you. With
a small window so you could see if the last film was still on.
Or watch the credits without entering the theatre.
Most of the theatre cicuits in the country were either draping
their auditoriums to cover up dated plaster ornament or (in a
new complex) to cover the concrete block walls. GCC avoided
drapes on the side walls. The surface was a perforated gray
corrugated metal with sound absorbent material underneath.
In the 80s the design became red sound absorbent panels
on he side walls. In the more deluxe installations, these
panels hid surround speakers.
No rockers here. The classic General Cinema seat
was the push back style. Always white frames and
backs with red upholstery.
A look at the seating in a General Cinema auditorium.
The photo is from "General Cinema's Feature Presentation,"
a terrific article on the blog Pleasant Family Shopping.
See lots of discussion about the seats (and other GCC
design features) on the Cinema Treasures page for the
Overlook Cinemas in Bellevue, WA.
Many of the push back seats stayed around forever but in the 80's
new complexes were getting rockers with higher backs and in blue.
A 1984 look at the rear of an auditorium at the Westgate
Cinema 6, Spartanburg North Carolina by Patricia Poland.
It's part of her Movie Theatres set.
full size view
The amazing thing about entering a classic General Cinema
auditorium for the first time was the screen treatment. At the
time, the only theatres that didn't use a curtain in front of the
screen between shows were run down grindhouses.
Even your neighborhood theatre had a curtain. And in the
deluxe theatres it even got closed between the
trailers and the feature.
At General Cinema you got a shadowbox. This reflective
surround meant not only the elimination of the curtain
but the gloomy black masking as well.
And you got the blue lights. Typically it was a striplight with 60 or
so 150 watt lamps with blue rondels. The blue light on the surround
was wonderful as the GCC "preview" strip ran and also frequently
nice as the blues came up surrounding end credits.
For example "Zabriskie Point" with its red and orange fire scene
as the credits rolled at the end was stellar when boxed in by
the blue reflective surround.
This view of a reflective surround is from the Theatre Catalog
for1953-1954. It's reproduced on the Cinema Tour page for the
Shoppers World Framingham 6 Cinemas in Framingham, MA.
full size view
A late 70s view of what the the screens looked like
in Cinemas V and VI at the Framingham 6. It's included in a
"Going to the Movies" post on the blog Framingham Views.
By 1973 or so it was all over. The GCC theatres were then
built with a screen on the back wall with black masking.
Only the blue lights remained.
And when I say the screen was on the backwall, this was
literally true in many of the complexes. If you went around
to the back you'd find a concrete block "bump" at the
center housing the one speaker system.