Criterion Theatre - Santa Monica

1313 3rd St. Promenade   | map

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Opened: 1924 and was run by the Fox West Coast circuit for decades. It was the best appointed theatre in Santa Monica and with the advent of Cinemascope, was known for having the largest screen in town.

Status: The Criterion closed as a theatre March 28, 2013. It's going to be a flagship store for some retailer.

It was last operated by AMC as a 6 screen complex. The facade is original but most of what is behind it had been reworked over the years. The original theatre was gutted when it was rebuilt as a 6 plexSanta Monica Patch had an article about the closing.

History:   It's also been known as the New Criterion and the Mann Criterion 6 and the AMC Criterion. The theatre got a remodel in the 40s. New seats were installed and the 4 original chandeliers were removed in a lighting re-design.

The theatre got another makeover in 1965 to coincide with the malling of 3rd St. into the 3rd St. Promenade. A new marquee was installed and the 1925 vertical removed. National General Corporation, the successor company to Fox West Coast, was acquired by Mann Theatres, who ran the venue until the late 70s.

It operated as an independent theatre dropping down to a double feature 49 cents policy for a time. Later (along with the Broadway/Elmiro Theatre), it was run by Metropolitan Theatres as a Spanish language house.

The theatre was gutted in 1983 for construction of a new 6 plex behind the historic facade. In 1990 it was taken over by (once again) Mann Theatres and given another remodel and upgrade in 2001. The configuration was 3 stadium style houses downstairs and 3 sloped floor houses upstairs.

The apartment portion of the building sustained damage in the Northridge earthquake of 1994. It was later rebuilt providing retail space on the ground floor and an expanded theatre lobby.

The Mann circuit had been slowly eroding as leases expire or properties were sold. The Mann lease was up in June 2010 and the operation was taken over by AMC.

With AMC's 2010 acquisition of the Criterion all first run films in Santa Monica were either at the Laemmle Monica or at the AMC houses -- the other 2 being the Broadway 4 (earlier a Cineplex Odeon venue) and the AMC Santa Monica 7. Now the ArcLight (opened in 2015) is in the competition as well and AMC is down two two sites.

Architect:  The original architect is unknown. The 2001 remodel was done by Behr Browers Architects.

Seating: 1,200 originally.  The 6 plex had a capacity of 1,600.

New Theatres for Santa Monica: The City of Santa Monica had been in negotiations with AMC to build a new theatre complex on city owned property downtown (possibly an existing garage location at 5th & Arizona) but AMC bowed out of the negotiations in late 2012 (after three years of talk) citing their concern about lack of adequate return on investment.

The Santa Monica Mirror had a story about the city investigating the possibility of other developers or theatre operators.  Santa Monica Daily Press also ran a story.

At one time there was concern at the city council that the downtown would be over screened after construction of the proposed garage complex and one of the requirements for a deal was that AMC shutter one or more of their existing locations. The landlord at the Broadway 4 wasn't happy about this as he feared the loss of a tenant.

Now with the ArcLight complex in the Santa Monica Place mall and added screens at the Laemmle Monica the downtown area has more screens than ever. Curbed L.A. had an October 2013 story about the ArcLight project. Santa Monica Daily Press was also on the story. The Santa Monica Lookout had additional background information.

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the old Criterion. Cinema Treasures researcher William has unearthed lots of history on the theatre.  Also see the Cinema Treasures page on the replacement Criterion 6.

The Cinema Tour page on the Criterion has some exterior photos.  The Huntington Library has a 1966 view of the Promenade but we only get a bit of the marquee at the right edge of the photo.

If you're looking for the Criterion Theatre in downtown L.A. see our Downtown Los Angeles Theatres page on that theatre.

Nathan Masters did a fine 2016 KCET story with many photos about the evolution of the 3rd St. Promenade: "How Santa Monica's Third Street Became a Promenade."

A facade detail.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

[ click on these photos to enlarge ]

 about photos from other
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We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
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    M.V. Jantzen on Flickr

A nice night view by Mr. Jantzen.
It's part of his Los Angeles 2007 set.
 full size view

Also in the set:
  | another marquee view |

     L.A. Public Library Collection

A view of the Criterion marquee in 1937.
full size view

An exterior view from the 40s
in the Library's collection.

  full size view

A look at the Criterion Theatre's back wall.
 full size view

An undated sidewall view.
 full size view

A view of the proscenium c.1940 from
 the Library's collection. 
full size view

A 1965 view looking up 3rd at what was soon to
be the 3rd St. Mall. Note the Criterion up
there on the right.  full size view

Also in the LAPL collection:
another rear auditorium view 

    Santa Monica Public Library

The Third Street Mall (later the Promenade)
under construction in 1965 with a bit of the
Criterion marquee on the left.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres

Also in the collection:

| 1938 facade view - also in the LAPL collection |
| 1983 view - west end of the building  |

A view of the Criterion Theatre.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click on any of these to enlarge ]

The facade of the Criterion.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

A nice Criterion Theatre vertical sign view.

photo: Mark Peacock - 2010

It's from his Vintage Theatres photo set on Flickr.
Also visit Mark's blog:
On the Road With Mark Peacock

The dead Criterion.

photo: Bill Counter - September 2013

At the time of the photo above, the theatre was
being gutted for use as office and retail space.

     American Classic Images    

A 1980 view of the Criterion in its 49
cent period. It's in the collection of the
website American Classic Images.
 full size view

   Q T Leong

Included in a set of black and white
3rd St. Promenade
by Q T Leong is this
look south on the 3rd St. Promenade toward
the Criterion 6 in its Mann Theatres years.
full size view | on FB/LATheatres

The image also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.

   Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

A c.1965 look north on 3rd from
Ken McIntyre's collection.
full size view
| on Photobucket

The view above also appears on the
Venice, Ocean Park and Santa Monica Facebook
page, a post of Michael Hayashi.

Also from Ken McIntyre's collection:
 | 2007 marquee view | from the north -  2007 |
| facade view - 2009 |

   Photos of Los Angeles

A 1925 view of the Criterion
in Ken McIntyre's Collection.
full size view

A vintage look north along what would later become the
3rd St. Promenade. The Criterion's red vertical is down there
on the right. It's part  of the "Collection of Misc. Photos"
album by Don Sherman on Photos of Los Angeles.
 full size view

Chrys Atwood also has a version of the card on the very fun
Venice, Ocean Park and Santa Monica Facebook page.

   Vintage Los Angeles

A classy 1947 look at the Fox Criterion.
We're looking south on 3rd.
full size view

The photo above is from the Box of Pictures
collection on Flickr.
  Lots to browse!

A view looking south on 3rd St. with the Criterion
on the left. It's a shot posted by Cindy Romo-Greene.

full size view

The card above also appears
on Photos of Los Angeles.

A 2012 marquee soffit shot by Corey Lascaris.
full size view

End of the line for the Criterion. It's a photo on
Vintage Los Angeles by Larry Ziff of the theatre with
 a blank marquee after its March 28, 2013 closing.
full size view  | on LAtheatres.blogspot