Lights Out: Sacramento’s Lost Movie Houses

Posted on January 8, 2012 – 9:25 PM | by Admin
  • Share


The Studio Theatre 1227 K St., in June 1947. The front of this theatre, like that of the Esquire, has been preserved to the present day ensconced in the Esquire Plaza Building.  The neon tubing is still in place and lights up, surrounding “Esquire Grill” now on each side of the machined metal overhang.  A private dining room in the grill is situated where the lobby used to be, all that remains of the 495 seat movie house.   Like a cat, The Studio Theatre had many lives, beginning on September 27, 1946.  One could drop down into the very Art-Deco nightclub “The Topper,”under the lobby, via two stairways on either side of the entrance. The Studio closed in 1957.  In 1958 it opened as The Capri Theatre, an art house, with a Peter Sellers film, closing again in 1961.  From 1961-1972 it was The Encore Theatre, showing the first run of Lawrence of Arabia (!).  In 1972 it became the Plaza Theatre, and became part of the “Pussycat” chain of adult cinemas.  Sacramento has had 3 “Pussycats” over the years.   Spanish language films followed for a short stint in the late 1970s before closing.   Music impresario Carol Gale obtained the theatre in 1983, removed the seats, transforming it into a popular cutting edge music venue, the “Club Can’t Tell” which opened in 1984. Bo Richards AKA”Dr. Velocity” was a manager there. The bar downstairs was then known as “The Metro.”  Club Can’t Tell closed in 1988; in 1995, nightclub operator Nick Lygizos tried to recapture the success of the Club Can’t Tell, but was thwarted when popular Sacramento musician Jim Pantages was shot by thugs after a gig, leaving the downstairs bar the early morning of June 9, 1995.  In 1996 Lygizos renamed the theatre for the very last time as an entertainment venue, The Pantages Theatre, in honor of the slain musician. It closed in 1997.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

  1. 7 Responses to “Lights Out: Sacramento’s Lost Movie Houses”

  2. avatar

    By John on Feb 7, 2012 | Reply

    The Rio actually lasted longer than 1955. When I came to Sacramento in 1962 it was still open and showing Spanish language films. It closed sometime later afterwards but then re-opened under a new operator for a while showing “pin up” (nude model) adult films. Live burlesque was later added to the film programs. I believe that lasted to about 1965 when it was closed for good. On the Cinema Treasures website in the comments section for the Rio there is a link to a picture of the theatre in the early 1960’s (obvious from the cars on the street) with mexican film titles on the marquee.

    Nice pictures and commentary Matias! Why don’t you do a book on the Theatres of our great city! I can’t think of anyone more qualified! Cheers!

  3. avatar

    By Theatre Historical Society of America on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks, Matias, great info and photos. THS will be in your city June 26-30 touring about 28 theatres throughout the Central Valley during our annual Conclave / Theatre Tour. Perhaps we will get a chance to meet then !

  4. avatar

    By Gary Parks on Mar 1, 2012 | Reply

    Wonderful collection of images, Matias. You solved the mystery of the names and dates of the theatre that I knew once occupied the space where Alejandro’s Taqueria is today.
    A portion of the Alhambra’s auditorium wall decoration is in the Oakland Museum of California, and I have seen other portions of its plaster ornament for sale over the years at antique shows.
    The neon marquee of the Capitol is identical to one still on the former Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto–Borders Books from 1996-2011. The Capitol’s pipe organ is still in use in a Winery in the Healdsburg area.
    The Theatre Historical Society is looking forward very much to visiting Sacramento’s remaining vintage theatres this June, as well as other theatre treasures throughout the Central Valley on our Conclave tour.

  5. avatar

    By Wayne Zimmerman on Mar 2, 2012 | Reply

    Many Thanks Matias!!!!!

  6. avatar

    By Mike Munson, DSP on Jan 11, 2014 | Reply

    Matias… Read the Bee article and am thoroughly enjoying your input on “Lost Movie Houses”. As I am my 70th year, I recall many of the old venues. Remember taking the no.5 bus downtown and going to the Senator, Crest or Esquire, if finances permitted.. the California in Oak Park, Capitol or Roxie (World) if they didn’t. Entering in the bright late morning light and exiting in the evening darkness.. an adventure nary equalled in today’s movie-going! But I am fascinated by your recounting of seeing “Jaws” first-run at the Esquire. Wouldn’t you have been around 6 or 7? Envy your powers of recall!! ….. All the best, Mike

  7. avatar

    By Scott on Apr 28, 2016 | Reply

    Wasn’t there a “Star Theater” on K Street not far away from Esquire Theater?

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. Mar 1, 2012: Lost Theatres in Sacramento our Conclave Host City | Theatre Historical Society Readerboard

Post a Comment