June 23rd in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1946, Fox West Coast Theatres ran this ad in the Long Beach Independent announcing that Seal Beach’s Beach Theatre had been acquired by the chain.

The Beach Theatre had been operating independently since the 1945 Thanksgiving weekend, but the last actual movie listed in the Los Angeles Times Independent Theatre Guide for the Beach Theatre was “Gulliver Travels” on May 4, 1946. After that, the guide only listed an ominous “Call Theatre for Program” for the Beach. After June 25, the Beach disappeared completely from the Independent Theatre Guide.

This is the only known photo of the Beach Theatre. After much squinting and some trial and error searching on IMDB, I’ve been able to identify the double feature showing at the Beach as “Shine On Harvest Moon” (1944) and “Pillow to Post” (1945). This pinpoints the photo as having been taken between March 26 and March 29, 1946.

Both films were Warners Brothers World War II era productions and probably felt old-fashioned to 1946 post-war Seal Beach audiences.

“Shine On Harvest Moon” is a fictionalized biography of early twentieth century Broadway stars, Nora Bayes and Jack Norwoth and stars Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson and Irene Manning with a cast of Warner Brothers stock character actors rounding out the bill.

Although the Beach Theatre showed some films that would go on to become classics, “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “Pillow to Post” are typical of the sort of double features The Beach booked.

“Pillow to Post” is a by-the-numbers wartime comedy starring Ida Lupino as an inexperienced but patriotic traveling saleslady working for her father’s oil rig supply company to take up the slack when he can’t find a male salesman because they’re all in the military. Needing a place to sleep in a small town, the only available slot is at an auto court that accepts only married military couples. She “enlists” a reluctant lieutenant played by William Prince to pretend to be her husband, and complications and hiliarity ensues. Of course, they fall in love and decide to get hitched for real by the end.

The most notable thing about this film is a musical cameo by Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra with Dorothy Dandridge playing at a roadside tavern.

You can see the movie trailer for “Pillow to Post” on TCM’s web site by clicking here.

Over seven decades later, one can only speculate what happened to the Beach. An educated guess would be that the theatre’s operations were under-capitalized, and the construction of the theater had drained the cash reserves to point where the owner couldn’t meet his business costs from box office receipts alone.

The Fox West Coast Theatres chain shut down the theater “to prepare for our new policy,” a wonderfully uninformative turn of phrase. The Beach Theatre building was remodeled, and the remodeling wasn’t mere cosmetics. A new screen and sound system was installed, which suggested that the Beach’s film presentation was lacking, another factor that may have lead to its demise.

The Beach Theatre was gone forever, but it would soon be reborn, but you’re going to have to wait until July 17 to find out about that.

– Michael Dobkins


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5 Responses to June 23rd in Seal Beach History

  1. Robert Black says:

    Great story and history of the theater. I remember seeing Gulliver’s travels as a child at this theater with my ant Mary Tyler.

    Like

    • Michael Dobkins says:

      Robert,

      That may be the last actual film shown in the “Beach Theatre.” Do you have any memory of how crowded the theatre was that night?

      Like

  2. Lonnie Brownell says:

    Never knew it was The Beach theater, but, then again, with only one known photo and less than a year in operation — several years before I was born — not surprising.

    Looking forward to that July 17th update…and wondering if the refurbishment of the Bay by that couple that bought it (as seen on HGTV, of course) has borne fruit.

    Like

  3. Pingback: July 17th in Seal Beach History | This Date in Seal Beach History

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