Memories Of A Lost Boulevard: The Golden Gate Theater

Memories of A Lost Boulevard, A Tribute To Whittier Boulevard

Whittier Boulevard Movie Theaters, Part 1.

 

 THE GOLDEN GATE THEATER

5176 Whittier Blvd. & Atlantic Avenue

East Los Angeles, CA.

Oh, what a wonderful place it was! Growing up, I had inherited my Dad’s passion for cinema and so going to the movies was for me, a much anticipated and sublime experience. We were a movie going family and I often indulged my cinema hunger by visiting all of my neighborhood theaters as often as I could. Among those cherished trips, my visits to the Golden Gate Theater stand out as the most treasured. The sheer joy of going to that temple of flickering images began as you stepped from the sidewalk….

 

After buying your ticket at the delicately ornate domed ticket booth, you were treated to the “red carpet” softly under your feet as you strode through the enclosed arched gallery promenade, fine little shops on either side of you. When you reached the open courtyard you were always greeted with splashy billboard sized posters of coming movie attractions, all framed by the Spanish colonial Churrigueresque style carvings adorning the handsome two-story walls and flower wreathed balconies. Entering the lobby you’d pass by the giant clam shell concession stand before slipping into the dim, velvety coolness of the theater itself. Instantly you’d be led by mysterious ushers in dark garb wielding guiding beams of light towards your seats for the night’s show. You’d bask in the soft glow of the majestic proscenium and soon the screen came alive with color and light. Suddenly you were floating somewhere in Hollywood’s celluloid dream world.

My personal list of cinematic memories born at the Golden Gate Theater include:

PLANET OF THE APES

THE WILD BUNCH

BONNIE & CLYDE

M*A*S*H

BARBARELLA

BULLIT

GOLDFINGER

FANTASTIC VOYAGE

And so many more………

Walking home afterwards, I’d relive images of drama, action and suspense within my young, impressionable head as I’d head west along my sidewalks. I knew every crack and every stain of that concrete path that took me home. On those warm, noisy nights, Whittier Boulevard always seemed to vibrate with color and sound and to live by a heartbeat that pulsed with the same blood as my own. As that kid, in those days, I never realized that Home was actually all around me. Those streets, those people, those cars, those storefronts so familiar, like old familiar friends. And, oh, those wonderful old theaters! They remind me of who I was, and who I would forever be.

Opened in 1927, the original design called for the corner to include Businesses, Multiple Dwellings, Professional, Specialty Stores, and Theater. A news clipping from that era describes a nefarious scenario involving a quaintly named suspect. “Mr. Walter H. Tinklepaugh was named yesterday in a complaint charging robbery of the Golden Gate theater at Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards. Mr. Tinklepaugh was identified by Helen Weddle, cashier, as the man who robbed her on September 3 and 11th inst., of $102 and $23, respectively”.

The main exterior structure was badly damaged in the Whittier Earthquake of 1987 and was razed. Preservation efforts managed to save the structure housing the movie theater itself where it remains to this day with an uncertain fate. The building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. These are some images from a recent visit to my old friend; The Golden Gate Theater.

Next in this series: The Center Theater, The Boulevard Theater, The Alameda Theater, The Garmar Theater, Floral Drive-In, Pico Rivera Fiesta 4  Drive-In 

 

This entry was posted in East Los, history, Personal, Photos, Uncategorized by AlDesmadre. Bookmark the permalink.

About AlDesmadre

Al Guerrero, Artist/Humorist. Los Angeles, CA. Born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles from the age of two, Al Guerrero grew up just steps from the famous Chicano strip, Whittier Boulevard. His youth experiences include witnessing and participating in the 1970 Chicano Power demonstrations, cruising cars on Whittier Boulevard, and graduating from Garfield High School. After dropping out of UCLA (with honors), he drew upon his lifelong passion for art and cartooning and pursued a career in graphic arts. During this period, he traveled overseas and found artistic inspiration from the masterworks he discovered within the European Art Museums. His career blossomed when he was eventually hired by the Walt Disney Company in 1995, where he worked as a creative artist for a number of years. Although the artistic work was rewarding, he eventually grew weary & disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the entertainment business, and left to work briefly in the educational field. His credits include producing a feature film with actor, Conrad Brooks of Ed Wood fame, founding and performing with the Punk Rock group “The Psychocats” at numerous L.A. & Hollywood venues during the 1990’s, and in 1999 he founded and created a hell-bent puppet cabaret show aptly named: “The Puppets from Hell”. As a long time active member of the Los Angeles Cacophony Society, Al “Quaeda”, as he was known, was involved in countless Cacophony Society pranks and events throughout the city. He also produced the “Incredibly Strange Cinema” cult film series as well as themed events such as the now infamous “Pornothon Movie Nights” and the satirical “Mexican Night: Noche De Tequila & Putas” shows at local nightclub venues. Throughout his art career, he has exhibited his canvas paintings at various local galleries, and has also written & illustrated numerous comic strips and Graphic Novel stories. Today, he lives in Silver Lake, California and works as a freelance artist and writer with numerous multi-media projects under his belt and in the works. His personal hobbies include collecting vintage toys and comic books, cinema history and Los Angeles City history. Contact: alguerrero@earthlink.net Al Guerrero P.O. Box 29697 Los Angeles, CA 90029-0697 www.alguerrero.com Myspace.com/thepuppetsfromhell

34 thoughts on “Memories Of A Lost Boulevard: The Golden Gate Theater

  1. The exterior structure was definitely what made the movie going experience so unique; walking up to the doors, seeing the posters, the huge ceilings, it got you ready for the entertainment. They used to run a funny promo where some lil’ corn chip dude named Rico would try and get you to buy nachos out in the lobby. It was a good place to waste a summer day.

  2. Did you ever go to theaters on Brooklyn/Cesar Chavez? When I was a wee wisp I would accompany my grandmother on her trips to watch “scary movies.” It was nice to have theaters in the neighborhood we could walk to.

  3. I like the term movie palaces. The structure truly added to the experience, you went into something surreal to view the surreal.
    I grew up going to the downtown movie palaces: The State, Orpheum, Tower, Palace, Los Angeles and the Million Dollar. I would beg my dad to take me. Later I would ditch and make out in their vastness.

  4. Every time I’ve driven by there, I’ve wondered what had been in that building before. In Alburquerque, I didn’t grow up going to old theaters like that. We didn’t have many that I remember. And the ones we had were were designed for tourists with kitschy romanticized cartoon versions of indigenousness along “Route 66”. Anyway, I really enjoyed your story. Thanks.

  5. Chimatli, No, I never got to go to any of the theaters on Brooklyn. Although, my
    parents would tell me about the time they went to a movie theater on First Street
    called the “COZY”. “UUUYYY!”, my mom would say, as she described the sensations
    of sitting in the dark watching the movie when suddenly she could feel the Rats
    scurry over her feet. And this was no William Castle flick or “Sensurround” presentation they were at either. Needless to say, my parents never went back there.

  6. In San Pedro they restored the Original Warner Grand Theater it is awesome because it also have the beautiful art deco design and the red interior with the grand staircases and balconies. I remember walking by as a kid after it had been shut down for years, I would peep though the dusty doors imagining what it was like inside. I am glad they got a chance to restore it to its original state. I like to go there now and check out old classic movies viewings or an events, but it’s nice I get a chance to experience what it was like to go to them old theaters it is pretty nostalgic just sitting in the seats watching a movie.

  7. Yeah- That Warner Grand Theater is truly majestic. Thanks to some great efforts by
    orgs like the L.A. Conservancy, we can still enjoy and experience what it’s like to see
    a film in a “Palace.”

  8. Fifteen years ago the MTA had originally conceived that the Eastside Extension would be a subway route going under Whittier Boulevard and ending at Whittier & Atlantic. The MTA had begun studies that went as far as the Planning Committee to purchase the Golden Gate Theater structure and use it to house the new terminal station in 1994. When that route was scrapped so was the MTA plan to retrofit the building. Nowadays, we hear tell that the building will one day house a Walgreen’s drug store.

  9. I heard on the news today they just reopened the Million Doller Theater, that is pretty cool I am not sure if they will show movies, they did mention Spanish acts I guess it must of been known for that.

  10. Indeed, the Million Dollar Theater is back in business and last night it was sold out for a showing of the Tin Tan classic pelicula, “El Rey del Barrio”. The new owners plan to present movies, nightclub acts and revues in this glorious venue that has played host to acts as diverse as Billie Holiday and La India Maria. One small step towards the revivification of night life on Broadway.

  11. I’m sure that many of us have some wonderful memories of the Old Movie Houses on Broadway like the Million Dollar. I’d like to put out a post about it after my ELA series. If anyone has any thoughts, memories or images on the Downtown Movie Theaters,
    send them to me and I may include them in the upcoming post. Thanks in advance!
    aldesmadre@gmail.com

  12. Dennis, I heard the same rumor about MTA and the Golden Gate. Are they really going to turn it over to Walgreens? There’s a Rite Aid just up the street. I wish someone would restore the theater and make it into something lovely and useful. I suppose that’s asking too much though.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this site, I pass by it every day and wondered about the beautiful building that once must’ve been. It stands alone in its quiet dusted white landscapes…I wish I could’ve seen it in it’s prime. once again thank you.

  14. I was an usher, and doorman, at times< at the GOLDEN GATE THREATRE in the early 1940’s, what a wonderest place it was inside. The price of a double feature was $.50 for students, $.74 for audlts and a Monsterest $.94 for the lodges on the balcony. I was there when THIRTY-SECONDS OVER TOKYO played.

  15. Ive recently learned another interesting tidbit about the Golden Gate Theater from interviewing an Eastside “Old-Timer” with tales to tell. It seems that back in the “old” days, the balcony section of the theater was seating for smokers. The armrests of the seats actually had built-in little ashtrays, and a little hole that you could push your used cigarette butts down into to dispose of them!

  16. Al- You are the greatest!! As far as Im concerened, I just love nostalgia, and history, especially my childhood memories!! Playing outside, Mom calling me inside for lunch, watch the Andy Griffith Show, take a nap, play some more!! That’s what life was really about!! You help bring back such good memories!! Do a book or a movie please!!

  17. I couldn’t tell you how many Saturday’s we spent inside the Golden Gate, for the price of one ticket you could sit almost all day and watch all sorts of entertainment. Movies, cartoons, double features, saturday matinees. I saw several Doris Day Movies there, horror movies, sci fi, we would catch the bus from Indiana & 3rd and ride out to Arizona & 3rd and walk from there. The trip out there was half of the experience.

  18. I was the DOORMAN and Marque setter at the GOLDEN GATE in the mid-40’s. I went to Garfield High and finished my senior year at Montebello High in June of 1946. Earlier I worked at the BOULEVARD AND CENTER THEATRES.
    Many after the show evenings at the CLOCK drive-in abut a block east on Whittier Blvd

    Cracked Mirror Tompkins

  19. Once again i must say WOW!!! What a grand post!! Al Desmadre, Don QUIXOTE, Ray the Birdie, Jaime,El Chavo, you guys all have such wonderful memories to share!! Please convince yourselves to really capture all these precious moments on a documentary or movie!! Please!! I like PBS’ Things That Aren’t Here ANYMORE but would love to see the documentary you guys could come up with!!
    Al- your writting style is absolutely fantastic, the description you give when entering the outer area is nothing less than fantastic writting!!

  20. The Golden Gate is now a Ghost of what it Once was! if you were lucky enough to “go to the Show” when you were a kid,then you know what’s inside!!it was a Diamond! I remember sliding off that Clam Shell!! i would like to one day re-visit it when or if it would ever open & re-live all my memories! but i doubt that will ever happen, it’s prime real estate,let’s see if anybody still care about this old place when we used to “go to the Show”.if it lives! then we made it come alive! if it dies!?…..then it’s lost forever! & this is one Diamond we can’t Never ever lose!

  21. When will we all get to see the inside,The Lobby, The Clam Shell,Going inside will be like going inside the Titanic!let’s all see one more time before they tear it down! What a Shame!!

  22. Around 1957 or 1958 I sold newspapers on the corner of Atlantic and Whittier Blvd. But I can’t remember if I sold the Hearld Express or the Mirror. Like some of you the nostalgia of the Gold Gate theather is great. Yes the lodge seats did have ash trays and they did recline. By the late fifties the theater was not well attended and we would sneak easily to the balcone to smoke and throw popcorn of the edge. What did you expect from a 14 year old. Do any of you remember Mr. Judkins barber shop just to the right of the corner? I cannot remember the name of the shoe shine man who worked at the barber shop but he was always getting into trouble for telling us steamy jokes that got him in trouble with Judkins. Anyway it was a good corner for selling news papers and allowed to eat something after a day of little or no food. The good old days.

  23. It’s upsetting to think that after reading everyone’s memories, that a CVS is what is going to inhabit this historic structure. It would be better accepted if the CVS was placed in the Vega Building which should be rebuilt and the existing structure should be restored as a Theater. On October 21st, the Planning Commission will decide whether to approve or deny the CVS. Those who want to voice their opinion please come on October 21st, at 320 W Temple, Los Angeles, room 150. The meeting will begin at 9:00 am.

  24. I knew it was going to be a Hopeless Matter,The Golden Gate Theater will be but a memory of only the lucky people who went there!What a Shame! You would think! we already have enough Stores like CVS,Do we really need more!? Who’s Buying? Everyone seems to be out of Work!Because our jobs keeps going over seas!!
    I for one would like to Keep our Golden gate theater in it’s place! & not be torn down for a CVS or a KFC,On Oct 21st,I will attend & Voice my opinion, & say, well @ leased I tried to help save it! I hope those who read this, can hopefully take the time to be there in support! Maybe Hope is all we have,just maybe,….!?

  25. their will be another meeting regarding the golden theater tommorrow 5/25/2010 at saybrook park in east LA at about 8:00am

  26. i remember the golden gate theatre , afriend and i snuck in either there or the united
    artist theatre and saw snow white and the seven dwarves,. when it first came out.
    friends name was Chaz G.

  27. i remember seeing i think cat people there and also a cantinflas movie (i had to google the name to get the right spelling) even though i didn’t speak spanish.

    i also remember eating at the stand around the corner on atlantic. i’m from chicago and me and my mom and dad used to go to los angeles every winter in the 70’s 80’s and early ninties. there was also a theatre in the mall across the street. i seen body double there and sharky’s machine.

    i also went to the boulevard theater and seen saturday night fever in 1978.

    i used to eat pastrami sandwiches at all the stands. i think it’s called rick’s or nick’s on whittier in the zody’s then k mart (or was it always a k mart) parking lot on the corner next to the gas station. whittier and simmons.

    also used to eat at the hot dog stand on whittier. lot’s of friends and family and memories in east l.a. my grandmother used to live in the little yellow house in the ally behind the jack in box on whittier and olympic. it’s still there i googled it. it’s amazing how you can google map street view things and see places you haven’t been to since forever and see them again. my uncle jerry lived in the house between the 7 mares restaurant and the iron fence guy. the house is not there anymore. all your memories at a touch of a button.
    my uncle jerry lived in the house between the 7 mares and the iron fence guy.thanks guy’s. love l.a.

  28. i remember seeing i think cat people there and also a cantinflas movie (i had to google the name to get the right spelling) even though i didn’t speak spanish.

    i also remember eating at the stand around the corner on atlantic. i’m from chicago and me and my mom and dad used to go to los angeles every winter in the 70’s 80’s and early ninties. there was also a theatre in the mall across the street. i seen body double there and sharky’s machine.

    i also went to the boulevard theater and seen saturday night fever in 1978.

    i used to eat pastrami sandwiches at all the stands. i think it’s called rick’s or nick’s on whittier in the zody’s then k mart (or was it always a k mart) parking lot on the corner next to the gas station. whittier and simmons.

    also used to eat at the hot dog stand on whittier. lot’s of friends and family and memories in east l.a. my grandmother used to live in the little yellow house in the ally behind the jack in box on whittier and olympic. it’s still there i googled it. it’s amazing how you can google map street view things and see places you haven’t been to since forever and see them again. my uncle jerry lived in the house between the 7 mares restaurant and the iron fence guy. the house is not there anymore. all your memories at a touch of a button.
    thanks guy’s. i love l.a.

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