Looking Back at La Jolla’s Early Movie Theaters

La Jolla has always had a passion for the movies. Throughout the course of its history, eight different theaters have existed in some form or another in the Village, the last being The Cove and now, The LOT (since 2015). The very first moving pictures shown were at the original La Jolla Cove Bath House in 1912, followed by an outdoor venue that same year.

Each of these La Jolla movie theaters had its own personality, and some are definitely more well known than others – especially among longtime locals! We looked into La Jolla’s rich cinematic history and got the story behind some of the oldest movie houses to be built here.

The first outdoor cinema in La Jolla. Silent films were turned manually by operator Willis Zader, pictured here. 

The first moving pictures shown in La Jolla in 1912 were in the auditorium of the bathhouse at La Jolla Cove by local entrepreneur (and apparent movie enthusiast) Willis Zader. In January of that year, a small group gathered, wide-eyed, to witness their very first motion picture lit up on screen; unfortunately, the Edison machine – which lacked a fire shutter – was quickly deemed a fire hazard. The operation was shut down after just two months.

Nevertheless, Zader persisted in his personal quest to bring motion pictures to the Village, and in the summer of that same year opened up his own outdoor arena of sorts at the corner of Drury Lane and Silverado Street (pictured above). Although that venue also proved short-lived, La Jolla’s long lasting love affair with movies had already begun.

The Orient (1913)

A year after Zader’s outdoor theater shuttered, The Orient opened as a silent film venue at the corner of Wall and Girard. Not much is known about this early theater, but it seated 500 (more than the population of La Jolla at the time) and was purchased by the Stutz Brothers in 1915. They changed its name to the Garden Theater, and it remained so until closing in 1924.

La Jolla Theater (1914)

In 1914, a rival La Jolla Theater opened across the street on Girard Avenue, attempting to catch the attention of the quickly growing movie audience. Sadly, it closed after just a short period of time; very little else is known about it.

1930 Granada Theater showing “Harry Langdon, Norma Shearer in The Divorcee”

The Granada Theater (1925)

By 1924, one of the previously mentioned Stutz brothers, Louis, decided that La Jolla would now be able to support a larger and more up-to-date theater. So, he abruptly tore down the Garden and announced plans for a brand new theater, to be named The Jewel (very apropos!).

By the time of its debut in March of 1925, The Jewel had been renamed (again) to The Granada. Designed by architect William H. Wheeler and built for around $170,000, it was ornamental and lavish in a Spanish-Moorish theme – complete with seats upholstered in the finest Spanish leather and an elaborate pipe organ. A glass crystal bead curtain opened when the movie started, and gold-framed antique mirrors lined the walls of the lobby. It was La Jolla’s finest and most decorative theater to date.

With a whopping capacity of 712, it was heralded in opening ceremonies as La Jolla’s “finest playhouse of any city of her size in the land.” (source). Opening night featured “The Boomerang,” a full 70-minute silent comedy/romance starring Anita Stewart and Bert Lytell, a speech by the San Diego mayor, and a totally packed house. In May of 1929, the Granada showcased its first “talkie,” Mary Pickford in “Coquette,” and continued to flourish with top-of-the-line movies straight form Hollywood until finally closing in 1952.

Cove Theater (1952)

By the time the Granada closed its doors in May 1952, the new Cove Theater had been built on Girard, featuring a more toned-down façade inspired by the colonial architecture of the East Coast, and seating around 650 patrons. Though initially financed by Major John H. Haring as a memorial to his parents (and originally named the Playhouse Theatre), it was purchased by the Granada’s owner, Spencer Wilson, and renamed The Cove after just a few months.

Wilson, much loved by locals, served as the manager/owner until it closed. The Cove was a local favorite, and arguably La Jolla’s most well known theater until it closed in 2003; the longest run of any La Jolla movie theater to date.

Unicorn Theatre (1964)

A unique art house and La Jolla’s first real “indie” movie theater opened in 1964 at the corner of Pearl Street and La Jolla Blvd., in the back of a small bookshop called Mithras Bookstore. Seating only about 200, the small space was dubbed the Unicorn Theatre and quickly became known for showing avant-garde and experimental films from all over the world, as well as selections from the silent era and vintage-era Hollywood. Although small and tucked into a somewhat out-of-the-way location (not to mention in the basement), The Unicorn developed a cult following early on, especially among younger residents.

The Unicorn opened with Adolfas Mekas’ “Hallelujah the Hills” and Francois Truffaut’s “Shoot the Piano Player.” It closed about 20 years later with the same lineup, much to the chagrin of many locals!

Today’s movie theaters consist of the ones we know and love: ArcLight La Jolla, AMC La Jolla 12, La Jolla Playhouse, and of course, The LOT La Jolla (further up is Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas San Diego). They are much larger and fill hundreds of more seats than the theaters back then; but it’s worth remembering these historic gems! For those looking for a bit of present-day nostalgia, the drive-ins are one of the holdouts when it comes to movies – both the Santee Drive-in and the South Bay Drive-in are popular today (though ticket prices are much higher now!).

[sources: sdcommunitynews.com, lajollalight.com] [photos: La Jolla Historical Society]

Farmer’s Insurance Open

Farmer’s Insurance Open

La Jolla is incredibly proud to host the Farmer’s Insurance Open, a tournament showcasing the best in golf at Torrey Pines Golf Course since the 1960s. This PGA tournament is famous for a reason, and we don’t want you to miss out on any part of it. Read on to discover how to experience the event and the beautiful city of La Jolla surrounding it to the fullest!

the-lodge-at-torrey-pines-header

The Tournament

This Southern California stop of the PGA “West Coast Swing” tour moved to Torrey Pines in 1968. It’s been a grand event ever since, featuring some of the biggest names in golf. Local San Diegan Phil Mickelson, who has won 3 times, is a big draw. He’s the local boy playing on his turf, so you’ll see a lot of fans and anticipation around him. Then, of course, there’s golf celebrity Tiger Woods. Having won 7 times between 1999 and 2013, he’s been named champion of this tournament more than any other player.

Tournament Activities & Vendors

Now, you may be here for the golf, but there’s so much more you’ll want to experience. Check out some of the top attractions the tournament sets up for attendees:

The SERVPRO Fan Village

This central point of the tournament is high energy and has an adrenaline-filled atmosphere. In it you’ll find:

The Fringe: A high-energy sports bar

Expo: Golf-lovers heaven where guests can try out latest, pro-level equipment

Birdies for Charity Zone: Learn about charities the tournament supports and how to get involved (This is a really big part of the tournament. Did you know? The tournament has , to date, given away totals of over $26 million dollars to charity!)

The Troutman Sanders Grove

A socializing spot that is home to the:

Grey Goose Lounge: For taking in the tournament with a good cocktail in hand

Beringer Wine Bar: For your antioxidant-filled wine needs

Michelob ULTRA Oasis: For sampling new and unique beers

Vantage Point

A spot in the South Course for getting a new angle on the game

Purchase Tickets

Booking tickets is easy and, depending on your allotted time and budget, you can book different numbers of days. Check out tickets for this La Jolla golf tournament here.

Parking

Finding a spot for your car can get tricky, but knowing the parking options beforehand makes it far simpler. Did you know you can even purchase your parking ahead of time? Spots do run out, so we highly recommend you reserve PGA golf parking here.

How to choose a lot

There are 2 main lots in the city, as well as ones in neighboring cities that have shuttles to bus you over. These include:

Del Mar Race Track ($20) – Great option for North County residents

Sea World ($20) – Ideal for those in Central & South Bay/San Diego

Scripps Lot A ($30) & Scripps Lot B ($25) – It’s important to note that each of these are only available Saturday and Sunday, not Friday.

Lot A: 10820 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037

Lot B: 3506 Cray Court, La Jolla, 92121

Bicycle Lot (Free!): This is a great option. If you live close enough, cruise over by bike. If you don’t, look into driving somewhere within bicycle distance. Take your bike in the car and head over from there.

The address: 10950 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037

Surprises to Expect

The main surprise to people can be the parking. Now that’s behind us, let’s head onto what’s permitted and what isn’t. While fireworks, firearms and other weapons are expectedly banned, you may surprised at other things you cannot bring into the tournament. We want to make sure you don’t bring something that seems quite standard and find out it can’t come in. Make sure to leave the following behind:

Folding Chairs are okay but, the carrying bags they come in? Not allowed

Lawn or Oversized Chairs are not allowed

We know your pups would love to enjoy the green, but they’re not allowed, Only service animals can enter

No regular cameras are allowed starting the first day the tournament begins and no video cameras are allowed at any time, prior or post

Backpacks, purses, camera bags or other carrying bags larger than 6” x 6” x 6” are not allowed (Although you are permitted to bring in bags up to 12” by 12” if they are clear/see-through or diaper bags)

One-gallon clear sized bags are permitted

Phones and tablets may enter, but, understandably, must be on silent mode

Umbrellas may enter, but the sleeves they come in may not

Binoculars have the same policy: They may come in, but they’re case cannot

See the full list of permitted and prohibited items at this PGA tournament link.

After-Hours

Once the tournament has come to a halt for the evening, usually around 5 pm, you still have plenty of time in the evening to experience the beautiful La Jolla seaside. Take a stroll by the beach and take in dinner at one of it’s famous restaurants. Learn more about where you’d like to enjoy dinner at our Food Page.

Accommodations

Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep to prepare for the next day; you want to be well rested for the tournament! La Jolla has many great hotels nearby offering accommodations that are decadent yet laid-back, just like the city’s characteristic atmosphere itself. Learn about our most highly recommended hotels at our blog: La Jolla’s Top 5 Hotels: Why to Book Now.

In Conclusion

This event brings people back year after year for a reason. Between the great tournament itself and the possibilities of the surrounding city combined, we know you’re going to have a great experience.