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Garfield Theatre

 9 E. Valley Blvd. Alhambra, CA 91801 | map |

Opened: November 12, 1924 as Bard's Garfield Theatre. The building (or what's left of it) is on the northeast corner of Valley Blvd. and Garfield Ave. This early photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The upper portion of the facade was removed in the 1950s due to earthquake concerns.

Lou Bard operated a number of other theatres including three downtown: the Town Theatre, the College Theatre and the Olympic. Bard's was the circuit that also built the Vista Theatre on Sunset Dr. in the Los Feliz area. He also had the Glen Theatre in Glendale, the West Adams Theatre on Adams Blvd., and Bard's Colorado in Pasadena (now the Academy). Many of the theatres had Egyptian themed interiors. 

The theatre is listed as the Garfield Egyptian at 7 E. Valley Dr. in the 1925, 1926 and 1935 city directories. It was also called Bard's Egyptian and later just the Garfield. This theatre was the major San Gabriel Valley vaudeville house and hosted all the first class acts. Its rooftop sign could be seen for miles around. 

Seating: 1,181 all on one level. The restrooms were upstairs on either side of the booth with a cry room adjacent to each. The auditorium was parallel to Valley Blvd. with the stage at the east end of the building. 

Architect: Lewis A. Smith, who had done several other theatres in the circuit. The theatre had a full stage with dressing rooms located in the basement. 
A drawing that appeared with a newspaper account of the opening. Above it was the headline "New Business Area Is Lure To Home Builders." The copy below: "New Valley Boulevard Theater. Completion of structure results in greater building activity transforming section that was formally [sic] wheat field." The article, datelined November 15, that appeared along with the drawing: 
Thanks to Ron Strong for locating the article as well as the ads appearing below for his page about the Garfield on the fine Bijou Memories site. Head to the site for more of his research and discussion about the many vintage San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley theatres he once visited.
An October 1, 1925 ad for the theatre.

A 1926 ad. 

A 1927 ad for vaudeville and the Clara Bow film "Hula." 

A December 7, 1928 ad for the Al Jolson talkie "The Singing Fool" with a live show/film presentation to follow. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this.

The house had a fire in late 1928. Joe Vogel found this item in the January 13, 1929 issue of The Film Daily: 

"Alhambra House Opens - Alhambra, Cal. — The Garfield, recently destroyed by fire, has been opened with renovations. The house shows sound pictures via Vitaphone."

Joseph C. Gonyea was the proprietor at the time of this ad for "Queen of the Night Clubs" and "Syncopation." With the latter you also got an "Atmospheric Prologue on the Stage." It's a  May 24, 1929 ad located by Ken McIntyre. 

A 1934 "Newsette" for the Garfield. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it. "Myrt and Marge" was a November 1933 release about performers trying to get a show produced on Broadway starring Myrtle Vail and Donna Damerel 

The inside of the 1934 "Newsette."

Garfield operator Cirstand Theaters, Ltd. was getting some relief in May 1934. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the news.

Joe Vogel reports that in the 1950s it was operated by the Harry Vinicof circuit, with evidently an interest by Jimmy Edwards. He adds: 

"When I first went to a movie there, in the early 1950s, there was still some of the original Greco-Egyptian style decoration in the auditorium, but that was all gone by the early 1960s." 


In the 60s the Edwards circuit assumed full control. The Garfield was listed in the Edwards section of this 1963 listing of independent theatres in the Times. Thanks to Bruce Kimmel for the ad. 
After the circuit opened the Monterey Mall Cinemas the Garfield became superfluous and they closed it in May 1980. The theatre was leased to an operator intending to run Chinese films and reopened as the Hua Sheng Cinema on November 12, 1980. A translation would be something like Chinese Voice Cinema. In addition, the Garfield name continued to be used to identify the venue. Thanks to Ron Strong for the research. 

An ad promoting the opening show at the Hua Sheng in November 1980.  This and all the other ads and flyers on the page are items Ron Strong has collected for the Garfield photo album that's associated with the page about the theatre on his Bijou Memories site. Ron comments: "The debut film was Tsui Hark's horror comedy 'We're Going to Eat You.' A very auspicious opening!"


A 1984 ad for the Chinese language houses in town that appeared in the Mandarine Commercial News. See the pages for the Sing Lee/King Hing, Pagoda/Cinemaland, Kuo-Hwa/San Gabriel, Monterey and Kim Sing theaters. Thanks to Ron Strong for sharing the ad.

A November 1984 flyer for "The Happy Ghost."
Jeff Briggs notes that one of the major films to play the Garfield in 1992 was 'Hard Boiled' (d: John Woo; Chow Yun-fat).

A flyer from 1993. Thanks to Jeff Briggs for sharing this from collection. He comments: "The Garfield rarely had flyers, but one exception was their engagement of 'The Bride With the White Hair' in October 1993. My copy is signed by director Ronny Yu, who I met in Glendale a few years later when a friend was doing storyboards for his movie 'Warriors of Virtue.'" Also see the inside page and the back of the flyer
Jeff notes that other major films from Hong Kong to play the Garfield in 1993 included "Flirting Scholar" (Stephen Chow) and "Kung Fu Cult Master" (Jet Li).

 A 1994 flyer for Wong Kar-Wai's "Ashes of Time." Thanks to Jeff Briggs for sharing it from his collection. 

In addition to "Ashes of Time," Jeff notes that other major films from Hong Kong to play the Garfield in 1994 included "The Bride with White Hair 2," "The Bodyguard from Beijing" (Jet Li) and "Chungking Express" (d: Wong Kar-wai). Also: "Operation Cougar" (from China, d: Zhang Yimou).
Ads from April/May 1995 that were distributed with a Chinese language newspaper. Thanks to Jeff Briggs for sharing this from his collection. Ron Strong has it on his Garfield page and notes: 
"When three Chinese-language theaters ruled Alhambra and San Gabriel. At the Garfield: 'My Father is a Hero' with 'Whatever You Want'; At the Bridge: 'Peace Hotel' and 'I Have a Date with Spring'; and at the Kuo Hwa Cinemas: 'Love in the Time of Twilight' and 'From Beijing With Love' in Theatre # 1, and 'Lover of the Last Empress' and 'Always Be the Winners' in Theatre #2." 
The Bridge Theatre was the former Edwards San Gabriel. The Kuo Hwa was a new twin theatre.
Ads for the Garfield and the Kuo Hwa Cinemas. It's another from the collection of Jeff Briggs. Ron Strong notes that the ad in the upper right is for a travel agent. 

Jeff notes that major films from Hong Kong to play the Garfield in 1995 included: "A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box" (Stephen Chow), "A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella" (Stephen Chow), "The Chinese Feast" (d: Tsui Hark) and "My Father is a Hero" (Jet Li).

In 1996: "Young and Dangerous" and "Forbidden City Cop" (Stephen Chow)

In 1997: "All’s Well Ends Well 1997" (Stephen Chow), "Once Upon a Time in China and America" (Jet Li), "The Opium War" (from China) and "Lawyer Lawyer' (Stephen Chow).

In 1998: "Hitman" (Jet Li), "Young and Dangerous IV," "Young and Dangerous V" and "The Storm Riders"

Closing: 1999. Jeff Briggs comments: 

"The Garfield's supply of new Hong Kong films had dried up near the end of 1998, and after that, the theater was reduced to showing older Chinese-language films to near-empty auditoriums. I believe its final month of operation was May or June of 1999."

Mike Callahan adds: 

"Last year or so of the Garfield was really sad. In an effort to save money, they ran the projector bulb at reduced power. Trying to read subtitles on a dimly lit screen was a PITA. But I still loved all the locally produced ads prior to the movie. Longines watches and the Go Go Cafe."

Status: The auditorium portion of the building was demolished in 2001. The commercial building, originally called the Valley Grand Building, survives with its retail spaces on the ground floor and apartments above. The lobby portion of the building is now a retail space. The auditorium area is now a parking lot.

Interior views: 

An April 1999 lobby view by Jeff Briggs. Thanks to Ron Strong for posting the photo on Cinema Treasures
A closer look at the bar. It's a 1999 Jeff Briggs photo. Thanks, Jeff! 

Looking down the length of the lobby toward the street. The auditorium is off to the left. That door on the right went up to the booth. It's another Jeff Briggs photo from April 1999. Thanks to Ron Strong for including the three lobby photos in his Garfield photo album.  
David Ting, one of the proprietors of the Hua Sheng Cinema in 1985. The auditorium's original Egyptian ornament had either been removed or draped much earlier. Thanks to Ron Strong for locating this photo by Michael Owen Baker for the page about the Garfield on his Bijou Memories site. The photo appeared with a November 21, 1985 L.A. Times article about three Chinese language theatres in the San Gabriel Valley. It's reproduced at the bottom of the page. 

More exterior views:

1925 - "5 Acts Big Time Road Show Vaudeville." The feature film that week, "Two Shall Be Born" with Jane Novak, was a December 1924 release. This photo from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives appears on page 108 of the terrific 2008 Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Mr. Wanamaker. There's a preview of the book on Google Books. The authors comment: 
"A thousand people were turned away from the opening of the Garfield Theatre in 1924, when Alhambra was a thinly settled town amidst waving grain. By 1985, the population had changed. The Garfield sold shrimp chips and soybean drinks to customers lining up for the latest action flick from Taiwan. Alhambra is no longer sparsely populated, and the theatre, attributed to L.A. Smith, is not in business." 

1938 - A look west on Valley Blvd. toward the Garfield from the Automobile Club of Southern California collection. The photo appears on the USC Digital Library website.  


1983 - Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images website for this entrance view.  
1983 - The east end of the building. It's a photo from American Classic Images. 
1983 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this stagehouse shot. 
1980s - A back wall view taken by David Wayne Bailey. It's on Flickr. Joe Vogel comments: "The sailing ship was the logo of the Bard circuit, the original operator of the Garfield."

c.1990 - "Vitaphone - Movietone - Stage plays." A fine back wall view located by Ken McIntyre for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
c.1990 - Thanks to Bill Gabel for this shot of the roof sign. The photo was a post on Cinema Treasures.  
1992 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this parade view. Jeff Briggs comments: "The movie on the marquee in the photo above is the comedy "All's Well Ends Well," which was a smash hit for Chinese New Year 1992."
2009 - A view toward the building from Garfield Ave. It's a photo by Noirish Los Angeles contributor Sopas EJ that he featured, along with the two views below, on Noirish post #194. Thanks for the photos, Sopas. His post is still up but these photos have vanished from the site.  
2009 - A closer look at the area that had been the theatre entrance. Photo: Sopas EJ 
2009 - Around back looking for the missing auditorium. Photo: Sopas EJ

2012 - That's Garfield Ave. on the left. On the right we're looking east on Valley Blvd. Photo: Google Maps


From the November 21, 1985 issue of the L.A. Times:


 Thanks to Ron for locating the article.

More Information: Check out Ron Strong's page about the Garfield on his fine Bijou Memories site. 

See the Cinema Treasures page on the Garfield for fine research by Joe Vogel and others. Cinema Tour has a page on the theatre with several 2003 exterior views.

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