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Coronado's Village Theatre Restored

By Joe Ditler

In 1947 Coronado was all abuzz with talk of a new movie theatre, and on opening night March 18, 1947, people lined up for blocks to see Irish Eyes Are Smiling in Technicolor.

The 9,000-square-foot Village Theatre became the unofficial gathering place for the community. The value was so much more than just a place to see first-run films. It became a part of life in Coronado; a gathering spot for families, friends and for the young post war families and it remained so for decades.

The one-screen theatre with its Art Deco interior was a roaring success from the very first night, despite the builder's concerns that there were too few materials available because of the war.

By the year 2000 the theatre had fallen into great disrepair with disinterested owners and the doors were suddenly shut. The owners simply walked away. Slowly, the yellow and blue paint faded out entirely. The once magnificent sidewalk terrazzo became cracked and faded. The Village Theatre became a blighted building on Coronado's main street.

Above Opening day 1947. Below Ticket to re-opening day 2011.

Finally, Lance Alspaugh, CEO of Los Angeles' Vintage Cinemas secured an agreement from the theatre owners and Coronado City Council funded $2.7 million through its Development Agency with the understanding that the 1947 façade would be renovated.

On June 25, 2011, ten years and $3 million later, new, etched glass doors of the renovated Village Theatre flung open to greet overflow audiences.

The terrazzo, which was once endangered but through community outcry was saved, has been repaired and restored. The one room theater is now a three screen. Two smaller rooms named the Balboa Room and the Exposition Room each seat 38. On the walls are hand-painted murals by Disney muralist Bill Anderson. They depict the stunning architecture of both the Exposition of 1915 and of Balboa Park today.

The main screening room once sat 600. Today there are 215 comfortable reclining chairs. The walls boast two enormous murals depicting the skyline of Coronado, the Bridge, Hotel del Coronado, and the Boathouse on one side, the other shows the San Diego skyline with the Ferry Landing, ferryboat and cityscape; overhead is a smattering of twinkling stars. The curtains part and drop elegantly before and after each film harkening to the glory days of the great movie houses.

Former Coronado schoolteacher Kathy Clark (Miss Coronado 1957) walked through on opening day. She cried, "We had hoped beyond our wildest dreams our little Village Theatre would be back. This is so incredible. It's not only back, but it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Once again people line up around the block for movies, and, just as it was in 1947, when you smell the popcorn and look down and see the Terrazzo, you know you're close.

The Village Theatre is located at 820 Orange Avenue. For more information on the Village Theatre www.vintagecinemas.com

About the author Joe Ditler is a Coronado historian, writer and publicist.

Volume 42 - 2011

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