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United Artists Long Beach

217 E. Ocean Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90802 | map |

Opened: 1931. It's in the 1932 Polk city directory. The 1952 photo is from the Ronald W. Mahan collection. Thanks, Ron!

Clifford A. Balch and Walker & Eisen (A.R Walker and P.A. Eisen) were the two firms doing the project.

The United Artists in Long Beach was part of an early 30s expansion project by the chain as a result of a war with Fox West Coast. They evidently didn't think UA product was getting the dates or the returns it warranted in the Fox houses. Thus there was a big push to get their own theatres in prime locations. Exhibitors Herald-World had a November 20, 1930 story about the UA expansion plans as well as a November 29 followup story promising 25 new theatres.

Many, if not all, of these were quite similar theatres designed by the trio of Balch + Walker and Eisen on a budget of $150,000 to $200,000. This team did a number of other projects for United Artists in the early 30s including similar theatres in Pasadena, East Los Angeles, Inglewood and the Four Star on Wilshire Blvd. This one in Long Beach has the distinction of being the only one for which vintage interior photos survive.

In 1927 Walker & Eisen had designed the building containing the United Artists Theatre in downtown L.A. although not the theatre itself. Their partner on that one was Detroit-based theatre architect C. Howard Crane.

This Long Beach UA house was strictly for the movies, with no stage facilities.

Seating: 1,242

And that war with Fox West Coast? Well, by the time any of these new UA theatres were ready to open the dispute had been settled and Fox ended up running these houses for UA. Until the 50s that is, when consent decree settlements got UA in the business of actually running its own theatres.

The theatre ended its days as a porno venue operated by the Mitchell Bros.

Demolished in the early 1980s.

The main lobby in 1932. It's a Mott Studios photo in the California State Library collection. The Library has nine Mott Studio views, all cataloged as set # 001387339.

An upstairs lounge view. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

Another lounge view. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

Yet another look at the upstairs lounge. Note the stairs down to the main lobby seen in the distance. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

Three of the hanging paintings that were executed by the Heinsbergen Studio for the lobby areas are in the Ronald W. Mahan collection. This composite shows where they appeared originally. Joe Musil had rescued these from the theatre, probably during its says as a porno house. Thanks, Ron!

The auditorium: 

The auditorium from the rear. All the seating was on a single level. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

The vista across to house left. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

A closer view of house left near the front exit. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

House right. That culique drape treatment also appeared in other houses Fox was opening in this period including the Fox Wilshire. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932

More exterior views:

A c.1931 photo of the new theatre by Winstead from the Long Beach Public Library collection.  We're looking west on Ocean Blvd. The collection also includes a 1968 photo looking west but from farther back.

A great 1932 view with the UA in the distance. The West Coast and Imperial are on the right with the West Coast running "Stepping Sisters," a January 1932 release. The photo was once in a now-vanished account on Flickr. It also appears in a smaller version on the Cinema Treasures page for the Imperial Theatre as a contribution from Bill Gabel.

A Mott Studios photo in the California State Library collection. The UA is running "Amateur Daddy" with Warner Baxter and Marian Nixon, an April 1932 release. Bing also had a comedy short on the program. The Library has nine Mott Studio views in their collection, all cataloged as set # 001387339.

A 1938 marquee shot in the Los Angles Public Library collection that came from the MGM art department.

A 30s postcard from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. We're looking east on Ocean with a nice view of the bulging roof of the UA and the West Coast down there in the distance. Thanks to Bill Gabel for noting that the feature on the banner below the one advertising the studio preview might be "One Way Passage," an October 1932 release with William Powell and Kay Francis.

A 1951 slide from the Ronald W. Mahan collection looking toward the bright lights of Ocean Blvd. 

Here's the annotated version with the four theatres labeled that we see. Thanks, Ron!  

A 1960 photo from the collection of the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it in the collection.

The theatre hiding behind a train again. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the United Artists Long Beach.

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  1. Thanks Bill as usual you have done a wonderful and beautiful your new Long Beach UA website!!!

  2. I love it!!! Thank you Bill!!