Friday, March 20, 2009



The Washington Theatre was operated by Fox for years and was later used as a venue for Spanish-language and finally, adult films. The architects were Clarence L. Jay, Henry M. Patterson, and was built in the area popular style of Spanish Colonial Revival in 1924, with a delayed opening in 1925 due to Washington Blvd. not being paved until that time. The theater has a single screen auditorium with 900 seats, apartments on the east end, office space on the second floor front, and retail spaces on the ground level flanking the entrance foyer. An ArtCraft Theatre Organ was installed in the Washington in 1926 with blower serial number 19198. There are only eight ArtCraft organs on record; all were very small, and none are known to have survived. From the July 31, 1937 issue of Boxoffice Magazine: "A thirty-day shutdown has been ordered for the Washington Theatre, Pasadena. Crown City Theatres, operating the house, has planned a $20,000 improvement budget, which will include a new floor, marquee, seats, and other items." $20,000 in 1937 was an enormous sum.


  1. Barry said...
    This was the theater I went to as a third and fourth grader, When I attended Washington Elementary and then Longfellow Elementary schools this theater was still the “Washington Theater”. We would go Saturday morning and stand in line that wound around the eastern side and UP the sidewalk… I liked that the side street went uphill for some goofy reason. We paid a quarter to get in and saw at least two films and serial and cartoon or two plus we always had to hit the refreshment counter to keep our excitement levels up! I always went with friends from either school and my brother. I lived at 1745 Los Robles when I went to Washington and 1163 N. Sierra Bonita when I was at Longfellow. The theater was between the two schools so it was nice for me both years. It was just a couple blocks west of Longfellow school, which is also on Washington Blvd.
    I hope to do restore this theater to something like its former self. Right now, it looks pretty beat up! Thanks for posting these photos!

  2. From the Pasadena Marathon Website:
    Running With History Mile 17 – Built in 1924 on the north side of Washington Boulevard just west of Lake Avenue, the Spanish-Colonial revival style Washington Theater was a 900-seat theater with shops flanking the entrance and residential apartments above. It was designed by Clarence Jay, perhaps best know for the Mountain View Cemetery Mausoleum and the Las Encinas Hospital administration building, and H.M. Patterson, the architect for the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. It marked the transformation of this formerly residential area into an urbanized business district.

    The Washington was a vaudeville theater to begin with, but soon showed silent films and promised “Something on the stage every night!” In 1925 it inaugurated “The Country Store” on Thursday nights, with “the personality girl of radio,” Miss Gene Serrell, offering a “songologue” of old and new popular melodies, and “many valuable prizes.” As vaudeville waned, it became a movie theater; one resident fondly remembers the 9¢ admission and nickel Cokes in the 1940s. Another remembers the theater manager greeting patrons each evening in a tuxedo.

    By the sixties, other patrons remember the Washington, which became Cinema 21 as a second-run theater with 50¢ double-features showing films like “The Wild Bunch” to a theater full of teenagers and Marlboro smoke. It was purchased in 1972, becoming one of the first Black-owned movie theaters in Southern California. Still later, it became a Spanish language theater before closing entirely in 1989.

    Two decades later, Pasadena Heritage submitted a Pasadena Landmark nomination for the building, and the Washington Theater was given Landmark status by the Pasadena City Council in 2010. Although it remains shuttered today, Pasadena Heritage is hopeful that the current or future owners will be able to make use of preservation incentives for a rehabilitation or adaptive reuse project.

  3. So it was given official landmark status after all the damage this theater sustained a few years prior... Interesting.