Posted by: Brad Nixon | July 9, 2020

Good News/Bad News, Travel Close to Home at the Granada Theater

One of the guiding principles of Under Western Skies is that one doesn’t have to travel to distant places or exotic locales to find things worth seeing.

Now, if ever, is the time for me to live up to that premise.

Constrained by the pandemic, we’re not hitting the road for the traditional midsummer trip to … somewhere. We’re staying at home and going — not precisely nowhere — just not very far.

A few miles from home, at the head of the Port of Los Angeles, is Wilmington, California. Founded in about 1858 on land acquired by the ambitious Phineas Banning, it got its name from Banning’s birthplace, Wilmington, Delaware.

Once a bustling harbor town, Wilmington still boasts its share of once imposing 19th and early 20th century structures, as do many American towns. No longer an independent city, it’s part of greater Los Angeles.

I’ve written before about a few of Wilmington’s historic sites, including the last remaining Civil War era military installation in Los Angeles, which I wrote about here, the Drum Barracks.

Drum Barracks Brad Nixon 8341 680

My objective this week was to see what remained of another local landmark in downtown Wilmington: the Granada Theatre movie palace. Built in 1928, it seated nearly 1,000 patrons in an interior — reportedly — in Art Deco styling typical of the era.

The old house closed in about 1956. After that, it reopened for a time as Teatro Granada, showing Spanish language films.

At some point — a familiar repurposing for old theaters everywhere — it was home to a series of church congregations.

Here, in an undated photo, probably from the 1980s, as the Iglesia Universal. Pare de Sufrir means “End the suffering.” Good enough.

Iglesia Universal Cinema Treasures

Los Angeles — movie capitol of the world — is replete with these old showplaces, although many others have met the wrecking ball. I’ve written about a number of them, not only in L.A., but in towns all over the American west.

Here’s one example, not far from Wilmington, in San Pedro. The Warner Grand, which opened in 1931, has been restored and hosts films and live events.

Warner Grand Brad Nixon 3308 680

Here’s another, in another part of L.A., The Academy, from 1939. Last time I was there and shot this photo, it was a church.

Academy Theater LA Brad Nixon 0198 Academy (593x640)

I knew in advance I’d only see the exterior of the Granada. It’s been shuttered for a number of years. There are few photographs of the interior available, although eyewitness accounts indicate some amount of the Art Deco interior decor is intact, if worn.

Here, according to Google Street View, and a site devoted to the Granada on Facebook is about what I expected to see.

11791913_890622961012864_1211881137674702201_o 680

Nothing lasts forever. Here’s what I saw in early July, 2020:

Granada Theater Brad Nixon 8976 680

All things must change. The old marquee is gone.

That, however, is not necessarily bad news. It may, in fact, be good news.

For some years, an organization named Friends of the Wilmington Granada — that link takes you to their Facebook page — has been devoted to restoring the Granada. Does the removal of the marquee — perhaps for restoration, perhaps merely for safekeeping — indicate they’re making progress?

I don’t know. There are no recent posts on that FB site.

We’ll have to wait. If this post comes to the attention of someone involved with a pending restoration, I invite you to contact me.

Is there an old movie palace in your town? Or, if yours is gone, what do you remember of those halcyon days when the lights went down? Where were you? Balcony? Back of the house? Down front? Who else was there? Leave a comment.

Roll ’em.

© Brad Nixon 2020. Iglesia Universal photograph retrieved from http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2171, July 8, 2020. “For Sale” photograph © Hunter Kerhart, retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/WilmingtonGranadaFriends/?ref=page_internal on July 8, 2020.

 

 

 


Responses

  1. Those old buildings have a lot of beauty and character. Thank goodness for restorers, photographers, and historians.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love these old cinemas. Modern multi=plexes just don’t have the right ambience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Nor, often, do they have screens nearly so large — although, granted, the new audio systems are superior.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the most famous of our old theaters looks much like your Granada: at least, in its earlier incarnations. The Alabama Theater in midtown Houston has survived: first as a bookstore, and now as a Trader Joe’s. Described as Art Deco/Streamline, it’s a beautiful place. I never watched a movie there, but I visited the bookstore. I keep thinking I should visit the Trader Joe’s, since I’ve never been to one of those stores, but I’m easily deterred by Houston traffic.

    There’s a nice collection of images from the Alabama’s various incarnations here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a glorious ol’ place. More grandiose than the Granada, but there are still some hundreds or maybe thousands of other survivors out there.
      And, just FYI, while yours is too far a drive for any practical, regular grocerying, we’re TJ’s fans. A regular for us, with one just a mile away.
      Going to go look at more pix of the Alabama.

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: