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Covina Theatre

104 N. Citrus Ave. Covina, CA 91723 | map |

Opened: The soft opening of the Covina Theatre was December 16, 1921 with the grand opening celebration on December 19. The location was on the east side of the street. In this December 1952 view we're looking north from Badillo St. They were running "The Big Sky" with Kirk Douglas along with "Here Come the Marines." 

The photo has popped up in many places including Gary Cliser's A Box of Pictures collection on Flickr, where he notes it was provided to him by David Rogers. It's also on "Tis the Season," a 2012 blog post from Reynolds Buick. A version was also on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2013 where it received many comments. It's also been on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page as a post by Tim Burgess.  

There's now a replacement building on the site called the Covina Center for the Performing Arts. Their website: | on Facebook

Seating: 499 as a film house. Capacity of the new theatre is 144, or 99 in Equity waiver mode.

Architects: Tignal Franklin Cox designed the 1921 theatre. Frank Cox had worked as a scenic artist before he became an architect. During the span of his career he designed more than 50 theatres all over the country, including many legit houses for Klaw & Erlanger. He moved to Covina in 1918. Thanks to Joe Vogel for the research. He tracked down a PDF of a biography of Mr. Cox from the site Rootsweb. 
The theatre was a remodel of part of a 1900 vintage building owned by J.D. Reed, known as the Reed Block, that had formerly housed a furniture store on the ground floor and a Masonic hall upstairs. The theatre conversion was done for two of Cox's relatives: George Leonardy, his son-in-law, and Earl Sink, a nephew. The duo had previously operated the Star Theatre, a house with about 250 seats that was located at 217 N. Citrus Ave., a block farther north. The Star offered its final screenings on December 15, the night before the Covina opened. 
An ad in the Covina Argus for the new Covina Theatre's programs for December 16 through 22. Many thanks to J. Scott Shannon for locating this and the two items below for "Covina Theatre Opens, 1921," a 2020 post on his blog Covina Past.

An ad that appeared in the Covina Argus on December 16 for the December 19 grand opening. 
A transcription of a story appearing in the Argus on December 16. Thanks again to J. Scott Shannon for this research appearing on his blog Covina Past. He credits the images and article to the Digital Archives of the Covina Public Library and
Messrs. Sink and Leonardy ran the theatre until selling it in 1926. It got a moderne facade remodel in 1935. A circuit called Western Amusement was running it in the late 1940s. Statewide Theatres had it in the 1960s. Loew's took over from them in November 1967. General Cinema acquired the Loew's California locations in June 1972. When General Cinema had it they were calling it the Covina Cinema. Beginning in November 1973 it was being advertised as a Century Cinemas location. Thanks to Cinema Tour for the dates.

After its first run days were over, the theatre had a stint beginning in 1977, again using the Covina Cinema name, as a repertory house operated by Tarzana-based Great Western Theatres. Thanks to Lola Stuve for this image of part of the opening calendar, added as a comment to a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.

The city closed the theatre in 1988 alleging over 25 code violations. Their reopening was reported in a September 24 segment of "Quintessential Covina - Covina Newstand." Thanks to Chris Nichols for spotting this on YouTube.

The Covina closed for good as a film house in 1991 and in 1992 became a legit venue, the Covina Valley Playhouse

Status: During 2004 renovations to upgrade the playhouse it was decided that the building wasn't worth saving. It was demolished in 2005 and a new structure was built on the site at a cost of $12 million, funded by the Chris and Retha Champion's Champion Family Foundation. The foundation had purchased the building in 2001 and continues to own it. The new theatre opened in October 2007.

Laugh Factory took over the operation in June 2023. 

Interior views of the new building:
A lobby view from the theatre's website,
A proscenium view. Thanks to Texas2step for locating this photo and the one below for posts on Cinema Treasures.  
A look across the 144 seat auditorium.

 A view to the rear of the new auditorium from Alpha Omega Construction Co. 

More exterior views: 

c.1910 - The Reed Block before the north half was remodeled for the 1921 theatre conversion. The building dated from 1900. On the left we're looking north on Citrus Ave. The streetcar is traveling on Badillo St. Thanks to J. Scott Shannon for finding the photo in the USC Digital Library collection. He notes that he's not found any 20s photos of the theatre.

1938 - A view north with the theatre showing off its new moderne stucco facade. Thanks to J. Scott Shannon for locating the photo for "Citrus Avenue, 1938," a post on his blog Covina Past. The post also includes a photo of the other side of the street.  
1948 - On this slushy day the Covina was featuring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon in "Julia Misbehaves" along with "Kiss The Blood Off My Hands" with Joan Fontaine and Burt Lancaster. Thanks to Tim Burgess for adding this image as a comment to his SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook post of the 1952 Christmas photo that's at the top of the page. 

1954 - A postcard view looking north on Citrus Ave. That week it was Doris Day in "Lucky Me." The co-feature was Broderick Crawford and Ruth Roman in "Down Three Dark Streets." The card appears on "Fall 1954," a post on the blog Covina Past, which J. Scott Shannon subtitles "A Mile Square and All There."
c.1961 - The theatre playing "Breakfast At Tiffany's" along with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in "The Facts of Life." Thanks to Tim Burgess for locating the card to add as a comment to his SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook post of the 1952 Christmas photo. 

1983 - Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images collection for this view.

1988 - The theatre had been closed after the city alleged over 25 code violations. This shot appeared as part of a short "Quintessential Covina - Covina Newstand" segment that aired on September 24. Thanks to Chris Nichols for spotting it on YouTube and getting the screenshot. The films on the marquee were the theatre's reopening program.
c.2000 - The 1921 theatre as a legit playhouse with the sheet metal taken off and the 30s moderne facade exposed again. Thanks to Scott Neff for his photo, one of two appearing on the Cinema Tour page about the theatre. 
2010 - A look south across the facade of the new building. Thanks to Gary Cliser for this photo he posted on Flickr in his West Covina and Covina album.  

 2011 - Looking north from Badillo St. Photo: Google Maps

2019 - A view south toward Badillo St. The letters atop the readerboards are replicas of those from the marquee of the earlier building. Photo: Google Maps

2023 - Thanks to Chris Nichols for getting this shot in early July after the theatre had become a branch of the Laugh Factory. Chris is an editor at Los Angeles magazine and is also the author of the Taschen book "Walt Disney's Disneyland."

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Covina. Cinema Tour also has a page on the theatre. See the 20 minute documentary on the CCPA website for a history of the old theatre and the building of the new one.

Visit the pages here on this site about the earlier venues in the block to the north, the Star Theatre and the Empress Theatre

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