Wherever I travel, old theaters grab my attention. I’ve written about a couple, including one at this link, but I have scads of photos of others, awaiting their turn. I live in Los Angeles, which is replete with glorious temples to the gods of film and theater. Some are decaying and derelict, others restored to various degrees of former glory. But they’re everywhere; you may discover one along the once-busy main street of almost any little town.
One reason I haven’t written more about this interest is that they require so much work. Each has a history, and there are often archives of photos that one should — to do them justice — comb through. All too often I see only the exteriors, sometimes only long enough to stop the car, pull over, snap a shot and drive on to wherever I’m supposed to be headed. That means I never see the interiors, which would require sticking around til showtime, buying a ticket and going in. No, I’m just a fan, not an aficionado. Still, they call to me.
On a trip to Albuquerque a couple of years ago, we stayed near the old downtown, which stretches along Central Avenue, part of old Route 66. If you have the time to traverse Central across all of the city, you’ll find innumerable icons of roadside architecture that could serve as a rich mine of material for a blog that would run for many years without repetition.
With several days to look around, we had several chances to look at one still-operating movie palace, the KiMo.
It opened in 1927, the dream child of a man with the inimitable name of Oreste Bachechi. The place has a flyspace and a stage, as well as a screen, and still houses performance entertainment as well as films. According to an informative website, HERE, artists who performed on its stage included Sally Rand, Gloria Swanson, Tom Mix, Vivian Vance and Ginger Rogers.
As for that name, the website says, “KiMo is a combination of two Tiwa words meaning ‘mountain lion’ but liberally interpreted as ‘king of its kind’.”
The “pueblo-inspired” decorations are endlessly fun to study. I regret I don’t have any interiors to show you.
Okay, a word about those swastikas. They were a commonly used decorative theme of the era, and go back millennia. If they have any cultural association, it’s with certain traditional Navaho designs. That’s enough about that.
The old house looks great after dark, too.
After a fire and years of neglect, local efforts saved and resurrected the KiMo, and it reopened in 1977. I’m glad to see it. Well done, Albuquerque.
Got a favorite old theater? I’d love to hear about it.
© Brad Nixon 2016