There’s nothing like going to see a movie. The whole experience — from picking what to see and grabbing snacks to getting the best seats, not to mention watching the movie — is a treat.
From massive multiplexes, 3-D movies, and IMAX cinemas, going to the movies has become a high-tech operation, but it wasn’t always so.
From the late 1910s until the 1940s, a boom time for Hollywood and the movie industry, hundreds of beautiful and ornate “movie palaces” opened in metropolitan areas across the US. These theatres were palaces, featuring massive screening rooms with lavish and baroque architectural elements.
Most of these theatres have since closed and been demolished. But in California, some of these gorgeous spaces still exist and continue to show films to eager viewers hoping to take a step back in time.
Photographer Franck Bohbot has traveled to California from his native France to document these stunning California movie theatres in their glory. He has shared a selection of images here with us, and you can check out more on his website.
The Castro Theatre, in San Francisco, was built in 1922 and is a historical landmark. The theatre has 800 seats downstairs and 600 in the balcony.
Hollywood's famous Chinese Theatre, now known as the TLC Chinese Theatre, was built in 1926 and designed to look like a Chinese palace. Its entrance features now famous cement bricks, which bear the signatures and handprints of Hollywood stars.
Built by Sid Grauman, who constructed the Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles' Egyptian Theatre opened its doors in 1922 and hosted the first movie premiere, for 'Robin Hood,' later that year. Much of the theatre was designed in an Egyptian Revival style, most likely because of the public interest in the excavation of King Tut's tomb about the same time.
The beautiful Orinda Theatre, in Orinda, California, was built in 1941 and was almost demolished in 1985, before being saved by preservationists. It still shows movies today.
The impressive Grand Lake Theatre, in Oakland, California, built in 1926, has four separate, ornate movie screens, none more impressive than the main auditorium, seen below, which features an antique Wurlitzer piano that is still played before screenings on Fridays and Saturdays.
Founded as the Westwood Theatre in 1940 and now known as the Crest Westwood Theatre, this landmark was closed for two years and was in danger of staying that way until it was reopened in 2013, thanks to a community effort.
Even the lobby of the Crest Westwood is stunning. In 2008, the cinema was designated a historic landmark.
The incredibly ornate Fox Theatre opened in Oakland in 1928 to crowds of thousands, excited to get inside the movie palace. During an economic downturn for movie theatres in 1966, the theatre closed its doors and sat unused for 30 years, before being renovated and reopened. While it is mostly used for concerts, you can still catch special movie screenings in the theatre to this day.
Sometimes you're just in the mood for something more intimate. The historic Four Star Cinema, in San Francisco, is almost 100 years old, having opened its doors in 1918. In 1964, it became independently owned and has stayed that way since, showing foreign and smaller-release movies every day.
The Warner Grand Theatre, in San Pedro, California, opened in 1931 and was designed in an ornate art deco style by a team of esteemed movie palace architects. Today, it holds music and theatre events, but still shows movies often, like when it hosts the Los Angeles Harbour International Film Festival.
Another product of renovation and restoration, the Alameda Theatre, in Alameda, California, originally opened in 1932, before closing in the 1980s. It was reopened in 2008 and is now Incorporated into an eight-screen multiplex.
As we've seen, it's not just the auditoriums themselves that are so impressive. At the Paramount Theatre, in Oakland, you can buy your popcorn and candy in this beautiful art deco lobby, built in 1931.
One of the oldest movie theatres still operating in California, the Clay Theatre in San Francisco was built in 1910, originally as a nickelodeon. Today, it shows independent, art house, and foreign films.
Opened in 1924 as the Roosevelt Theatre, and later known as the York Theatre, the renamed Brava Theatre in San Francisco has a storied history. It is now a performing-arts space focusing on creative women, but still retains its screen for the occasional movie showing.
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