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Raymond Theatre

129 N. Raymond Ave. Pasadena, CA 91103 | map |

Opened: April 5, 1921 by Henry Christian Jensen as Jensen's Raymond Theatre. The opening film was Wallace Reid in "The Love Special." Also on the bill was the novelty sketch "Love's Dream Garden" plus Ko'vert in "Hanuya, the Spirit of Evil" and Buster Keaton in "Hard Luck."

The photo by Frederick W. Martin with the opening attractions on the marquee is in the California State Library Collection. The photo is also in the Los Angeles Public Library collection and in the collection of the Pasadena Museum of History, their version appearing on the website of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration.

Henry C. Jensen was a German immigrant brick maker. His firm, Henry C. Jenson & Sons, evolved into builders and building operators. The Jensen Theatre Corporation was formed by Jensen and other prominent Pasadena investors to construct and operate the theatre. In addition to the Raymond they had Jensen's Recreation Center and the Holly Theatre on Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park, Jensen's Melrose Theatre and the Palace Grand Theatre in Glendale.

Architect: John Cyril Bennett. After the Raymond was completed, he became part of the firm of Bergstrom, Bennett and Haskell. The firm would go on to design the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. One interesting design feature in the Raymond were long curving ramps to reach the balcony. The booth was at the rear of the main floor. Pacific Coast Architecture Database has more data on Bennett.

Seating: 1,996. It was Pasadena's largest film and vaudeville theatre. The capacity was listed as 2,350 in newspaper accounts of the opening.

History: Jensen sold the house, or at least leased it, to the Bay Area firm of Turner & Dahnken shortly after the theatre opened. 

 

This May 5, 1921 story about the transfer appeared in the Long Beach Press. Thanks to Ron Mahan for locating it. Claude L. Langley had worked for T&D in San Francisco and moved south. Soon the Pasadena theatres of the firm were being known as the Turner, Dahnken & Langley circuit, or T D & L. In early 1923 West Coast Theatres bought out the 2/3 interest in the mini-circuit that was held by T&D and the chain was then known as West Coast-Langley. See the page on the Palace Grand Theatre in Glendale for more data about the circuit's evolution.


A c.1924 ad for the West Coast-Langley theatres in Pasadena: the Raymond, Strand, Florence (later called the State) and Pasadena (the former Clune's). In 1925 they would add a fifth Pasadena theatre, the Washington, later called Cinema 21. The Los Angeles Public Library has the ad as a pdf in their California Index. 

In the fall of 1925 Langley sold his shares and the theatres were then operated directly by West Coast. When William Fox got control of the firm in 1929 it became Fox West Coast. Fox shuttered the house in 1933. 

The building became the Crown Theatre in 1948 after a sale to the Crown Holding Corporation. The reopening was February 13. The renovation at the time was the subject of  "A Pasadena Opera House...Takes On a Face-lifting Job," a full page article in the May 22, 1948 issue of Boxoffice. The theatre was later operated by Loew's for a spell as Loew's Crown.

In the 1970s the theatre was leased to Bruce Barkis and was given some renovation under his tenure. Under the Barkis management the venue was still a movie theatre but with occasional live shows.


In 1974 the theatre was running "Deep Throat." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the Times ad.



An ad appearing in the February 16, 1976 issue of Boxoffice. Thanks to contributor Moviejs 1944 for locating it for a post on Cinema Treasures

The building was purchased by Marc and Jim Perkins in 1978 and opened in early 1980 as the rock venue Perkins Palace. The Perkins venture closed in July 1984, reopened in July 1987 and closed for good in 1988. After some renovations, the theatre had one more concert venue fling opening in November 1990 as The Raymond with another operator, restaurateur Gary Folgner. It then went dark in 1991. Gene and Marilyn Buchanan had purchased the building in 1985. It was sold to Folgner in 1989 but the Buchanans had it back by 1991 as he was overextended.

There was considerable community opposition to chopping up the space but the owners weren't convinced that it was viable as a 1,500 seat theatrical venue. Many offers to sell the building (including one for $3.5 million) were rebuffed by the owners. Concert promoter turned preservationist Gina Zamparelli and her group Friends of the Raymond waged a valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, 23 year long battle to save the theatre as a performing arts venue. Zamparelli had promoted shows at the theatre and also managed the house for a period under the Perkins ownership. 

Status: What's left of the theatre is now part of a retail and condo project (both residential and office) conceived by owners Gene and Marilyn Buchanan. The complex is now called the Raymond Ranaissance. Nine office/condo units occupy the former balcony area and spaces above. The stagehouse has been converted to 11 luxury lofts. A new retail and 28 unit condo building annex was constructed to the south of the original theatre building.

The entry and much of the main floor has been restored but with the sloped floor filled in. The main floor lobby and the rear of what had been main floor seating (11,000 s.f.) was projected to house a single retail or restaurant tenant but nobody has wanted it. The lobby area wasn't fully restored due to the lack of a tenant. The front half of the main floor has had its decorative finishes restored and is now an open atrium for the project.

There is an attempt to use what's left of the lobby and auditorium as an events space so it sees occasional use.



A first floor plan that once appeared on a now-vanished website promoting the Raymond Renaissance complex.


The Raymond in the Movies: 


Although the Raymond was the venue for most of the concert scenes in Rob Reiner's "This is Spinal Tap" (Embassy Pictures, 1984), we never get any good views of the theatre. Here's a shot from the beginning looking offstage right.



A bit of a look at the auditorium sidewall in "Spinal Tap." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots of the Raymond from the film.

One location for shooting Penelope Spheeris' documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" (New Line Cinema, 1988) was the Raymond. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for the advice on this one.



The last fifteen minutes of Bill Fishman's film "Tapeheads" (Avenue Pictures, 1988) was all shot at the Raymond. This balcony view shows up during a concert with many complications. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for ten more shots from the film. Thanks to Marc Edward Hueck for noting the appearance of the Raymond. Tim Robbins, John Cusak, Mary Crosby, Katy Boyer and Clu Gulager star in this tale of two former security guards who miraculously become big successes in the music video business.



"You lost all your L.A. privileges." The Raymond exterior was used as the building for Bruce Willis' boxing match in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (Miramax, 1994). The film also shot scenes in Kendall Alley, off of Union Street and Raymond Ave. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more about the film.


Lobby area views:


Looking down into the main lobby with the main entrance doors to the right. The layout was unique in using curving ramps to reach the balcony. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 



Mary Crosby running up one of the ramps to the balcony in the Bill Fishman film "Tapeheads" (Avenue Pictures, 1988). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post more shots of the Raymond from the film.



Looking toward the top of one of the ramps.



Another view at balcony level. 



The balcony level lounge area. These three photos from the 80s or early 90s once appeared on a My Space page from Gina Zamparelli's group Friends of the Raymond Theatre. The photographer was uncredited.



Peering into what's left of the main floor lobby from the front door. The doors visible through the doorway are an array installed in line with the front of the balcony. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



Another view of lobby plasterwork. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



Looking into the rear of the auditorium from the lobby. The new doors are at what was the line of the front of the balcony. The green drapes seen through several of the doors are part of the design on the asbestos curtain. The ceiling of the area under the balcony is unrestored and with a lot of plaster damage evident. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



The view across to the house right end of the lobby. The projector we see here was still in the booth in a shot from the 1988 film "Tapeheads." The booth, once at the rear of the main floor, is now gone. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013


The auditorium:


 A 1921 proscenium view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



A c.1921 view toward the bottom of the theatre's famous asbestos curtain. The photo appeared with  "Bringing Down The House," a 2005 Pasadena Weekly article by Paula Pedrolo that's evidently no longer online. 



A c.1921 look toward the rear of the auditorium that appeared with the Pasadena Weekly article "Bringing Down The House." Note the booth location at the rear of the main floor.



A look down from the balcony. It's a photo that appeared on the cover of the January 1979 issue of Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufman's magazine Console. The issue is in the Ronald W. Mahan collection. Thanks for sharing this, Ron! There's a post of the full cover on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.



Thanks to Ave Pildas for this luminous c.1980 photo. It appears in "Movie Palaces - Survivors of an Elegant Era" (Clarkston Potter, 1980). The book features photos by Mr. Pildas and text by Lucinda Smith. It's available on Amazon. Graeme McBain posted a black and white version of the photo as a comment on the Facebook page Theatre Architecture.



A detail of the car in the frame. The asbestos curtain was paid for by the Hull Motor Co., the local Hudson and Essex dealers. Thanks to Ave Pildas for the photo.



The auditorium on January 11, 1990 as it was getting refurbished for a reopening. It's a photo taken for the Pasadena Star-News that's in the collection of the Pasadena Museum of History. It appears with Matt Hormann's 2010 Hometown Pasadena article "Remembering Pasadena's Palace of Rock." He talks about memorable incidents such as blowing up a car on stage as part of a show. The photo also appears as part of BifRayRock's Noirish Los Angeles post #15303.



The company American Demo joyfully tearing up the stage and the floor slab in 2006. The photo appeared on a page about the Raymond on their website, all of which has vanished.



A 2006 view looking in from the back of the stage as excavation on the main floor is underway. Thanks to a gentleman going by Bladerunner for posting the photo on Flickr. His account seems to have vanished.



Looking offstage right after things have been filled in a bit. Note the new openings in the stage walls for condo windows. Thanks to Creeplord for the 2006 photo appearing on Flickr.



Looking in from the back wall in 2007. Note the main floor had been fillled in but the balcony risers were still intact at this point. Thanks to Marco Bedford, at the time going by the handle Here In Van Nuys, for posting the photo on Flickr.



A view of the proscenium as the stagehouse is getting framed in for condos. The photo by Bettina Monique Chavez appeared with "Reconstructing History," a 2008 story by Joe Piasecki for Pasadena Weekly. The article discusses the problems of balancing restoration ideals with financial realities.



Scenic artist and restoration expert Amy Higgins working on side wall finishes in 2009. She used her amazing skills for plaster restoration, rehabilitation of historic painted surfaces and advising on other restoration matters. Thanks to Ms. Higgins for the photo. See her website AmyHiggins.com for an archive of her many projects.

She worked on the project with KC Restoration and Preservation Arts. The photo also appears on the KC Restoration Facebook page. Also visit their website's page on the Raymond Theatre for a 23 photo "before and after" portfolio.



Ms. Higgins working on wall finishes. It's a photo that once appeared on her website AmyHiggins.com.



Across what had been the rear of the main floor from house left. This space is available for rent to a retail or restaurant tenant. Thanks to Coppola Photography for sharing their 2010 photo on Flickr. Also see a view from house right.



A balcony soffit plasterwork detail. Restoration work in the lobby and under the balcony was postponed until the space was rented. It's still vacant. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



The auditorium post-renovation. Well, the front half anyway. It serves as an atrium for office tenants up in the former balcony. Note the filled-in floor. Thanks to Graeme McBain for posting the photo on the Facebook page Theatre Architecture.



A house right wall detail that appeared on a now-vanished Raymond Renaissance website. On the right note a bit of the walled-in balcony.



Another detail of the restoration work house right in what had been the auditorium. The photo is another from the Raymond Renaissance website. 



An auditorium view that appeared on Craigslist in 2019 offering to rent the space for parties and events. Thanks to Chris Nichols for spotting it for a post on Facebook that received many comments.

Chris comments: "Was the theater 'saved'? It’s a strange layout, but in most other situations I think this would be lauded as a win. It’s not inconceivable that a movie could be shown here... and you might say it has more original interior than even a big success like the Egyptian. I had no idea this much remained - and the exterior is great."

Escott O. Norton of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation replies: "In my view it is a painful loss. Sure, the building is there (and facade is restored) but the theatre is nothing but an empty, pretty shell. It’s a ghost of what it was and what it could have been. Why after years, is it empty in a hot real estate market like Old Town Pasadena? Short-sighted choices made against the advice of many. So it sits, empty. Sure, you could show movies, you can do that in an empty field, but it will probably never again see life as a venue that attracted thousands. For me and many others, this is a personal loss.

"My friend Gina fought unsuccessfully to save the Raymond for two decades. The fact that what is left of the theatre has never been rented in all these years and they are trying to rent it for events on Craigslist is karma. This is a story of greed, corruption, and in the end, the ruining of the last historic theatre of its size in Pasadena. Unfortunately, Gina passed away before the full story could be told. It sickens me every time I walk by."



A closer look at the asbestos. Behind this, the stagehouse is now condos. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



A sounding board detail. Thanks to Amy Higgins for the 2009 photo. 



Another look at the sounding board. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



The "restored" house left wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



The arch near the proscenium house left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



A house left wall detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



 Here's where it gets really weird. A look back in search of the balcony. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013



Up in the balcony, now three levels of stacked office spaces looking out into the auditorium. Thanks to Coppola Photography for their 2010 photo on Flickr.


The projection booth:


The booth was on the main floor. We get this look back to it in Rob Reiner's film "This is Spinal Tap" (Embassy Pictures, 1984). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots of the Raymond from the film.



Here we get a nice front wall view with Mary Crosby holding a tape that will incriminate the presidential candidate played by Clu Gulager in Bill Fishman's film "Tapeheads" (Avenue Pictures, 1988). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the Raymond from the film.



John Cusak geta the tape in this "Tapeheads" shot as we look at the right wall with an interesting array of equipment. There's a Simplex 4 channel mag/optical amp rack on the left. Directly behind him it's generator controls and switching for various arc lamps. On the right with an exotic copper metalflake paint job it's a Simplex XL projector with a Simplex SH-1000 soundhead that has been shoved out of the way. That's a Strong arc lamp behind the projector.

More exterior views:


1926 - A fine view by Harold A. Parker that was taken for Walter Weems. On the marquee: "Fanchon & Marco Idea - 30 people, mostly girls - Walter Weems -  Senational Arnold Grazer - Romardi's Raymondeers Classical Jazz - Marion Davies in 'Beverly of Graustark.'" The photo is in the Huntington Library collection.



1974 - "Deep Throat" and protests. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for including the photo as a comment to a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



c.1985 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this photo from their collection.



c.1987 - A Robert Juzefski photo. Thanks to David Zornig for posting it on the Cinema Treasures page about the Raymond.



1980s - Another concert in the Perkins Palace era. Thanks to Ron Strong for locating the photo. 



c.1988 - A photo from the Bill Gabel collection appearing on Cinema Treasures.



1990 - The opening show under the management of restaurateur Gary Folgner. It's a photo by Megan M. Feeney for the Pasadena Star-News. It's in the collection of the Pasadena Museum of History and appears with Matt Hormann's 2010 Hometown Pasadena story "Remembering Pasadena's Palace of Rock." Ken McIntyre has also posted it as a comment on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



2004 - A Patrick Weber "For Sale" photo appearing on Flickr. Note the coverings still on the windows from the theatre's days as the Perkins Palace. The lot to the left would later get a condo building as part of the construction project. Also see Ken McIntyre's post of the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles where it has many comments, ads, and other photos appended. 



2004 - Thanks to Patric Weber for this shot looking north on Raymond St. It's on Flickr. Also see his 33 photo Pasadena Walking Tour album.



2005 - The ticket lobby before restoration. Thanks to Amy Higgins for the photo. It appears, with more than a dozen other views, on AmyHiggins.com/wp/raymond, a page about her restoration work in this part of the building. Much of the plaster had been damaged by renovation and modernization efforts over the years.



2006 - A construction view from the south. Note some new holes in the side wall. Thanks to prolific photographer Waltarrrrr for the photo. Much of his work can be seen on Flickr.



2008 - The south side of the building during construction. Note the openings cut into the stagehouse for conversion of the space into condos. Photo: Google Maps



2009 - Thanks to Ken Roe for this photo taken in January, a post of his on Cinema Treasures. The new condo building is rising south of the theatre.  



2009 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this shot showing the new marquee. He had it as a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



2009 - Thanks to Waltarrrrr for this facade view. Check out his recent work on Flickr.



2010 - Looking south on Raymond St. Photo: Bill Counter



2010 - A corner view from a now-vanished website promoting the Raymond Renaissance complex. 



2013 - The restored ticket lobby, now sans boxoffice windows. Photo: Bill Counter



2016 - "The "Raymond Renaissance" -- ready for a show. Well, it looks ready on the outside but it's never going to see a show again. The stage and balcony are now condos. But they'll rent you the lobby and atrium (formerly part of the auditorium) if you want to open a restaurant or something. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for sharing his photo.



2016 - A detail of one of the terracotta medallions on the facade. It's a Jonathan Raines photo. 



2018 - "The Pizza Experience Pop Up Museum," a rare event in what's left of the theatre space. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for the photo. 

More information:
Visit the Cinema Treasures page on the Raymond for lots of historical data, comments and links to photos contributed by Joe Vogel, Ken McIntyre, Gina Zamparelli and others.

Cinema Tour has some exterior views from 2003 and 2004 on its Raymond Theatre page. See Matt Hormann's 2010 Hometown Pasadena story "Remembering Pasadena's Palace of Rock." It's also on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

Visit the KC Restoration website's page on the Raymond for a 23 photo "before and after" portfolio. "Reconstructing History," Joe Piasecki's 2008 story in Pasadena Weekly, for a nice discussion of the renovation/adaption process.

Gina Zamperelli died in 2018. See the Pasadena Now story "Pasadena Concert Promoter and Preservationist Gina Zamperelli Dead at 59."

Pasadena had an earlier theatre called the Crown at 29 W. Colorado Blvd., operating around 1915.

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