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A Cinematic Timeline of San Luis Obispo

Prior to 1906       Three theatres exists in San Luis Obispo: The St. Luis, the Novelty and the Pavilion. The Novelty closes in 1911; The St, Luis and the Pavilion closes in 1912, as they couldn’t compete with the newly made Elk Theatre and The El Monterey Theatre.

Dec. 24 1911       The El Monterey Theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,000 opens.

Nov. 26 1912       The Elks Lodge builds a new building with a theatre. The Elk Theatre, on the ground floor, has a seating capacity of 1,000 seats.

Oct. 31 1913        The Elk Theatre is leased to Dan Wolf and renamed the Elmo Theatre. Elmo is a combination of the Words “Elk” and “Motion (from “motion picture”).

Dec. 17 1919       The Elmo Theatre receives a Wurlitzen Organ.

1928                   The El Monterey Theatre is purchased by William P. Martin. It is renamed the Obispo Theatre (meaning “bishop” in Spanish).

1932                    The Obispo Theatre premieres “Rasputin”. Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx attended. Said to be The Obispo’s most glorious days.

Memorial day 1942           The Fremont Theatre opens, named after the General John C. Fremont, who camped near the site in 1846. It is nicknamed the “Theatre of Tomorrow” and is one of the finest examples of Art Deco style architecture. It is designed by renown architect S. Charles Lee, and owned by Los Angeles based Mann Theatres

1950                    Sunset Drive-in opens. Tthe Pasquini family, who lived in a house under the theatre screen, own it, and it is run by Raymond Rodkey.

1960                    The Elmo Theatre demolished to make room for the construction of a bank.

Jan. 24 1969      The Madonna Plaza Theatre opens. It is owned by John Klee. (Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to gather information about this particular theatre, and it doesn’t exist anymore…)

Dec. 28 1975       The Obispo Theatre’s last screening: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During the night, the theatre catches fire.

Dec. 29 1975       The Obispo Theatre is set on fire and demolished.

1979                    The Rainbow Theatre openson 969 Osos Street.  This is the first theatre owned by Jim Dee.

1981                    The Mann Theatres start making plans to divide the Fremont Theatre in two screens to turn the Fremont Theatre into a Performing Arts Center. This decision is heavily contested by San Luis Obispo locals, and the debate lead to the construction of the PAC at Cal Poly in 1986.

1983                    The Mission Theatres is built next to the Fremont Theatre to satisfy Fremont audiences, which continues to grow. Together, they have a total of four screens.

1985                    Sunset Drive-in is reclaimed by Larry Rodkey, son of Raymond.

1988                    The Palm Theatre opens. It specializes itself in showing independent and foreign movies.

1989                    The Rainbow Theatre closes because of “lack of customer base for both (Rainbow and Palm) theatres.”

1993                    The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) is founded by Mary Harris, Cathy Peacock, Jim Dee, Patty Dee and Lee Cogan.

2004                    The Palm Theatre switches to solar Power. It is the first completely solar powered theatre in the US.

2007                    The SLOIFF plays host to over 85 filmmakers and close to 100 movies.

Here is a map of the Cinemas in San Luis Obispo Old and New:

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One comment

  1. […] remember, it was pouring rain the night it opened, and it drove clients away,” he said. (Click here for the San Luis Obispo cinema […]



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