Covina Theatre

104 N. Citrus Avenue,
Covina, CA 91723

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nixols on April 4, 2023 at 6:02 am

The Performing Arts Center that replaced the Covina Theater is reopening as a new branch of the Laugh Factory.

dallasmovietheaters on September 25, 2016 at 1:04 pm

The Covina Theatre opened December 19, 1921 with “Bits of Life.” In January of 1948, Western Amusement Circuit took on the theatre on April 23,1947 giving it a new look including its new triangular marquee and entirely new look interior. In 1955, the theatre got another interior redesign and was showing widescreen films.

General Cinema took on the venue changing its name to the Covina Cinema which it held for most of its next 25 years under GCC, Century Cinema Circuit and for much of its independent operation. The Covina Cinema was a main reason cited for a local X-rated ordinance passed in 1978 trying to zone the playing of adult films. The location played the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight in the 1980s and briefly returned to the name Covina Theatre. It changed back to the Covina Cinema and appears as though its cinematic days ended in the summer of 1992 when ads dare discontinued. In 1994, the venue was refreshed and continued with live presentations as the Covina Valley Playhouse. It was razed in 2005 after more than 80 years of vibrant entertainment to the community.

docchapel on July 25, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I remember working this booth. The regular projectionist was handicapped and I drew the assignment when he went on vacation. The booth was set up to accommodate him so it was a bit awkward. I became a favorite here because when he returned, he said for the first time he came back to no complaints. I filled in for him anytime he wanted time off.

I also remember coming one day and the cops were there. Seems the manager had not deposited the weeks receipts and took off to parts unknown. Showed a lot of Disney stuff here on Matinees.

fishtaco on July 22, 2015 at 10:43 pm

I do remember the crying room, although in my memory there was one in the old Glendora Theatre at Glendora Ave and Foothill too. Can anyone confirm?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 14, 2014 at 5:23 am

A great deal of information about Frank Cox, architect of the Covina Theatre, can be found in The Life of Tignal Franklin (Frank) Cox (1854-1940), a brief biography by his great-granddughter, Robin Yonash, which is available here as a PDF.

Tignal Franklin Cox (called simply Frank Cox in publications from the period when he was working) had a long and successful career as a scenic artist, decorator, architect, builder, and developer. His first known work in theaters took place in the 1880s, when he began painting scenic drop curtains. He painted curtains for the Opera House in Batavia, New York (1883), and the Academy of Music in Auburn, New York (1884), and in 1885 became the scenic artist for Smith’s Opera Houses in Tarrytown, New York, and in Batavia.

He began his architectural career in New Orleans around 1893, though houses of his design were built from Texas to Illinois. He moved his operation to Chicago in 1900, and about 1918 moved again, to Southern California, where he settled in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina. There, in 1921, he designed the Covina Theatre for his son-in-law George Leonardy and his nephew Earl Sinks.

An item in the February 6, 1920, issue of regional trade journal Southwest Builder & Contractor noted that Frank Cox, then preparing preliminary plans for a theater in Phoenix, Arizona, had “…planned more than 50 theaters for the Klaw & Erlanger interests.”

A nice example of Cox’s work is his drawing of the New Lyceum Theatre in Atlanta, which can be seen on this web page. Unfortunately, the New Lyceum was destroyed by fire in 1901, six years after it was built. It was never rebuilt and so never had a chance to become a movie theater.

Several of his early stage and vaudeville houses did survive long enough to be movie houses, though, including the Majestic Theatre at Streator, Ilinois (1907) and the Grand Opera House in Galveston, Texas, both of which are still standing and serving as theaters.

hammer3112 on October 5, 2013 at 11:57 pm

My attendance at the old Covina began with Old Yeller and ended with Defenseless, the second-last movie before it closed. On that last visit, I noted the entire right-side seats had been cordoned off with yellow tape and the acoustic ceiling tiles above them, hanging like inverted trap doors, started swinging pendulously when the air-conditioning came on. I was the sole paid admission.

chococinephile on September 11, 2011 at 11:43 am

Does anyone else wish that movie theaters still had crying rooms, along with cell phone user’s rooms, smuggled in smelly and/or loud outdoor food rooms, etc? I could go on and on!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 26, 2011 at 12:14 am

Of the various theaters I attended in the San Gabriel Valley (almost all of them fairly old houses,) the only one that I remember having had a dedicated crying room was the Garvey, my childhood neighborhood house. I got to use it once when I was about four years old and freaked out because the movie started before my older sister had gotten back to her seat after going to talk to friends. The crying room worked. I quit crying as soon as I got there, but I think my sudden calm was from the fascination of seeing a new part of the theater that I hadn’t known existed.

Another theater, the Garfield in Alhambra, had two rooms with glazed windows overlooking the auditorium, one on each side of the house. They served as foyers to the rest rooms, and I only saw the one on the men’s room side. It had no seats as the crying room at the Garvey did, but it’s possible that the one on the women’s room side had seating so it could serve as a crying room. I never asked anybody who had been in it.

Of the theaters elsewhere that I attended, I don’t recall any crying rooms, except for the pair at the Los Angeles, but by that time I was a teenager and wasn’t really looking for them. Articles in post-WWII issues of Boxoffice about new theaters frequently mentioned them, though, and from that it appears that they became a pretty common feature during that time.

DonSolosan on February 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Yes, that’s what the bio says.

William on February 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

The letters atop the marquee are recreations of the letters.

DonSolosan on February 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm

The Los Angeles has two, apparently one for crying babies, the other for cigar smokers; the Fox Inglewood has one. I think a lot of them were taken out during remodels/updates.

steveo on February 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Thru my 50 or so years of attending diffrerent theatres in
California, Ohio and other places, it’s the only crying room Ive ever seen…This being like a recording booth, where you could watch the movie thru a big glass window.

steveo on February 24, 2011 at 4:53 am

Part of the building survived,,I remember driving by and seeing a gaping open 2nd floor with the studs,etc. and as far as the look resembling the original facade…yes and no… the old marquee is there, but the face of the place looks more modern..

DonSolosan on February 24, 2011 at 4:44 am

Crying rooms were pretty standard features back then.

steveo on February 24, 2011 at 4:28 am

The Covina Theatre was a wonderful place…and in the summer of 1950 a certain JAmes Dean would take the kids from a nearby military academy he was working at to this theatre at the behest of the owner!
The Theatre also had an enclosed talking booth in the back for people who wanted to chat or for crying babies,etc. I thought that was unique.

kencmcintyre on March 27, 2010 at 5:36 am

Here is a nice color photo from 1952:

Lavarus on November 5, 2009 at 1:18 am

Ken MC: Really dig that 1983 photo/link. Thanks for posting it!

DonSolosan on October 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Considering that it’s a 99 seat theater, that screen size is probably not too bad in there. What I can’t figure out, reading the posts here and on their page, is how much of the old building survived. Also, is the facade a recreation of the building’s original look?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 26, 2009 at 7:27 am

I’d say if it’s an entirely new building, it should have its own page, as long as it shows movies. However, in the photo on this page at the center’s web site you can see that they’ve only got a big digital setup for movies.

The .pdf with the theater’s technical specifications says they have a 12'x20' high-definition screen and are equipped for Blu-Ray digital DVD playback. I guess 12'x20' is about as big as the screens many movie theaters had for decades, and probably bigger than the screens in some of the early multiplexes, so presentation is probably decent.

The .pdf has a few photos. I wish they’d given as much architectural attention to the outside of the new building as they did to the interior, which is not half bad. The facade looks strip mall dull, though, even with the restored marquee in place.

DonSolosan on October 26, 2009 at 5:43 am

Re: GR8B comment, “No screen — full performing arts theater.” I went by today and they are advertising a Fall Film Festival. Their website says the facility is “ideal for… classic movie screenings.”

Should the Covina Center for the Performing Arts, like the ImaginAsian that replaced the Linda Lea, get its own page?

kencmcintyre on August 25, 2009 at 1:02 am

Here is part of a July 1977 article in the LA Times. I’m not sure if the first word in the story was used intentionally.

COVINA-Aroused by plans of the Covina Cinema to show X-rated films, city councilmen will meet Monday to consider placing a moratorium on so-called “adult” entertainment, pending a zoning study.

The theater at 104 N. Citrus Ave. has adopted a policy of showing a smattering of foreign films, old classics and recent offbeat films such as “Harold and Maude” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. No film plays for more than two days. Included in the upcoming schedule for July and August are such X-rated films as “Last Tango in Paris”, “Emmanuelle” and “Super Vixens”.

City manager Richard Miller has written to Great Western Theaters, which runs the Covina Cinema, saying, “Your films are not suited to our entertainment tastes and we will attempt to seek whatever remedies or support, public or private, we can to influence you to conform to family entertainment that is acceptable to our city.” Miller said that he recently received a four-page reply from Steven Lane, president of Great Western Theaters, chastising him for setting himself up “as a censor for the mores and tastes of the community.”

Miller conceded that Covina Cinema’s X-rated films tend to be “soft-core” pornography rather than hardcore. But, he said, his fear is that X-rated films will be shown with increasing frequency and the degree of sexual explicitness will increase.

Great Western Theaters, headquartered in Tarzana, leased the theater four months ago and began offering a variety of films, with programs changing every day or two. Lane said the Covina Cinema is not at this point a financial success. But, he said, it has a mailing list of more than 2,200 persons who have expressed interest in the theater’s programs. He noted that it took six months for the company’s theater at Newport Beach to become a success after it adopted the kind of programming being tried in Covina.

matineeidol on August 13, 2009 at 2:08 am

The theater was pretty shabby by the late 80s. Saw DIRTY DANCING here in early ‘88, and never set foot inside the place again. The sound emanated from a SINGLE speaker placed atop the screen, which itself was the size of a tissue box.

Meredith Rhule
Meredith Rhule on December 19, 2008 at 10:13 pm

I never worked there, but yeah, guess it was for the best. Will check it out when I am back in Covina.

Hagelis on March 21, 2008 at 5:07 am

Status= Opened October 2007
No Screen=Fulll Performing Arts Theatre
Style= Turn of the Century
Function=Performing Arts Center
Seating=99 to 170
Chain=Privately Owned by the Champion Family Foundation
Firm=Alpha Omega Construction Corporation

To clear up everyone’s assumptions and misinformation, FIrst of all the City of Covina did not put one cent into the renovation and rebuild of the Covina Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA).
It was purchased by the Champion Family Foundation by Chris and Retha Champion, who funded the design and construction of the entire facility and surrounding grounds. There were not concessions given given in any way to the Champions for adding this landmark to the City of Covina.

All processes including Environmental Impact Reports,EPA reviews, density, traffic studies, design, signage, easement submittals, meetings and approvals from the design review board, City Counsel and historical were complied with as well as the normal construction permits, easement etc., were performed, exercised and processed.

A basement was excavated below the oritinal theatre grade to add theatrical trap lifts, equipment, dressing rooms, etc., and all historical “finds” that were uncovered during demolition/re-construction were saved and either reused, given to the Covina Historical museum or will be on display in the theatre.

The construction started in January of 2004 and because of all the unforseen issues with substandard, damaged structures, redesigning and changing from a one building renovation to removal and rebuilding of 3 structures. THERE WAS NEVER AN EMPTY LOT!

The theatre opened in October of 2007 with a Gala event show. The original “Covina” letters were made of steel and in a state of decay that required them to be copied,identical to the originals in
aluminum and reinstalled. The balance of the marque was designed along with the building under the direction of Ms.Champion as a structure representing the turn of the century.

Originally the project was only to renovate the existing theatre structure but during demolition, it was found that the adjacent buildings (North/SOuth) were attached and in major disrepair/damaged.

The new facility is authentic architecturally, using modern energy effecient materials,and the latest construction methods. The sound and theatrical equipment is the state of the art with the abilities of hosting musicals, concerts, plays, you name it, the theatre can handle it… in a very intimate, turn of the century classical atmosphere. It is a for the appreciation for the arts in the San Gabriel Valley. There is nothing like it anywhere. The Interior and exterior designs were by the Champions, of Covina, Construction & Construction Management by Alpha Omega Construction of Claremont CA.

The thteatre facilities consist of the theatre, Balcony box seats and Cabaret area, Banquet facilities with Kitchen, classrooms for the New Performing Youth institute, adjacent lease spaces for restaurants, dressing rooms, Voice classroom, Sound studio and the Foundation offices. The total square footage is 16,290, it has the flexiblilty of being a 99 seat “Equity house”, but can comfortably seat over 10.

OH! and besides all this, the shows and concerts are great!!!
A Must See!