The facade of the Meralta in 1928. They were running "The Lovelorn" with Sally O'Neil, a 1927 release. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The facade we see is not the original 1924 look -- a remodel has brought the formerly recessed second floor out to the street line.
Opened: The Meralta was opened in 1924 by two sisters, Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta. Typical for the time, the building also included retail shops and apartments. The sisters lived above the theatre. Pearl was also in the real estate and insurance businesses, as well as a active on the school board. There were also Meralta theatres in East L.A. and Downey.
Will Rogers was the MC for the opening. The feature film from Thomas Ince was "The Galloping Fish." The Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" reports that an Our Gang comedy was also on the opening bill and at one point the projectionist stopped the film and the cast "leaped through their on-screen likenesses."
This new building was a replacement for the Culver City Theatre, a building that also was the City Hall. It was demolished when Harry Culver decided to build what is now called the Culver Hotel on the site.
By the early 30s, the Meralta was being operated by Fox West Coast. In 1943 the Meralta had a fire and screenings were temporarily held in the second floor auditorium of the 1928 City Hall building at Culver and Duquesne.
Architect: The architect of the 1924 building is unknown. Clifford Balch did a remodel in 1935.
Seating: 1,000 originally. Perhaps 700 in later years.
Status: Closed in January, 1983. The site was redeveloped into "Meralta Plaza" later that year.
A 1924 look at the Meralta with its original facade. It appears on page 97 of the terrific Arcadia publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. It's a photo from from Mr. Wanamaker's Bison Archives. There's a Google Books preview to browse.
The Meralta in 1947 in a Bison Archives photo appearing in "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. The theatre got a remodel in 1935 and a rebuild after a 1943 fire. The photo also is on Cinema Treasures.
A color version of the photo above. Thanks to Mark Smith for the contribution.
A postcard view east on Culver Blvd. in the late 50s that once appeared as a post by Cindy Romo-Greene on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. The Meralta is over on the right.
It was also on the non-public group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles as a post by Michael Snider -- with lots of interesting comments. The card can also be seen on the website of the Culver City Historical Society.
A 1963 photo taken from the Culver Hotel looking west along Culver Blvd. with Washington Blvd. veering off to the right. The Meralta's entrance is on the left just beyond the first intersection. Off to the left we can see the side and roof of the auditorium. The sidewall looks quite different than it did in 1924. The assumption is that the auditorium structure was basically replaced following the 1943 fire.
City Hall, with the "Culver City" roof sign is visible on the left side of Culver Blvd. beyond the theatre. The tower of the Culver Theatre is in the upper right of the photo. It's an L.A. Times photo in the UCLA L.A. Times Photographic Archive. It makes an appearance in "Culver City: From Barley Fields to the Heart of Screenland," Nathan Masters' fine KCET article about the city's history.
A 1971 photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A look at the block in the 1970s. The theatre entrance is off to the left. Sorry there's no larger version -- it's vanished from CulverCity.org, the City's website.
A January 1983 look at the farewell screenings at the Meralta captured in a view from American Classic Images. The final shows: "My Favorite Year" (1982) and "Honky Tonk Man" (1982).
At the end. A January 1983 night view from American Classic Images.
More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Meralta. Some comments about this theatre are also on the site's page for the East L.A. Meralta.
The Culver City Historical Society has several posts about the theatre on their website. The site Wikimapia has a page on the Meralta Plaza that replaced the theatre.
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