Sierra Theatre

819 Main Street,
Susanville, CA 96130

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dallasmovietheaters on October 3, 2016 at 7:17 am

Grand opening was March 15, 1935 with the film, “The Whole Town is Talking.”

DavidZornig on May 4, 2015 at 11:23 am

1950’s photo added courtesy of Jeterga.

SteveSwanson on October 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm

After several trips thru here on the way to Lake Tahoe, I finally got a chance to see inside. This is a wonderful renovated theater. I saw Maze Runner upstairs. Comfortable chairs and the view was pretty good, compared to other splits I’ve seen. Snack bar prices are reasonable and they refilled my water bottle because the fountain wasn’t working. I would come back here given the chance.

Trolleyguy on June 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

The Sierra and Uptown Cinemas share the same website.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

The March 23, 1935, issue of Motion Picture Herald said that the new Sierra Theatre in Susanville would soon be opened. The May, 1934, issue of The Architect & Engineer ran this brief item about two proposed theaters in Northern California:

“The T & D Enterprises will erect a two story reinforced concrete moving picture house in Susanville, and a one story reinforced concrete theater at Redding. They will cost $40,000 and $120,000 respectively. L. H. Nishkian of San Francisco is the structural engineer.”
The theater to be built in Redding must have been the Cascade. As both theaters were being built for the same company, and the Cascade was designed by San Francisco architect J. Lloyd Conrich, it seems likely that Conrich would have designed the Sierra Theatre as well. A 2001 post by Warren E. Bechtolt on this message board says: “Research from AIA lists over 190 projects designed by Conrich, 31 of which are theatres.” It does seem very likely that the Sierra would be among them.

Engineer Leon Hagop Nishkian had a long career which included working as the structural engineer on a number of notable theaters, including the Fox, Loew’s Warfield, Orpheum (both the O'Farrell Street and Market Street locations), and Castro Theatres in San Francisco, and the Paramount in Oakland. He began his career in the office of San Francisco theater architect G. Albert Landsburgh in 1906, and in 1919 he founded an engineering firm that is still in operation today. The Nishkian Companies web site provides this biography of its founder.

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm

A 2010 photo can be seen here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 28, 2008 at 1:41 am

ken mc: You can add the Orpheum. Here’s a brief item from the July 16, 1949, issue of Boxoffice: “Susanville, Calif.— Work has been resumed on rebuilding the old Orpheum. Owned by T&D, the project was halted by the extreme cold last winter. The circuit also owns and operates the Sierra Theatre here.”

I guess it was a theater before it became a bowling alley. From the second photo you linked to, it looks as though it might have been a lodge hall of some sort first. In any case, the style of the building suggest an origin in the 19th century.

kencmcintyre on January 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Following up on Joe Vogel’s comment of 12/28/05, here is another photo of the Orpheum in Susanville. We can’t establish that it actually was used as a theater, so I won’t add it. Apologies for detracting from the Sierra page:

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 25, 2007 at 11:31 am

There is a documentary running on PBS this week called “P.O.V. Prison Town USA” and there are several shots of this Main Sreet mainstay, with its vertical sign and yellow marquee, in plain view. I was happily surprised to find that such a seemingly depressed location is able to support this theater. (There is another theatre in town, the Uptown, but I didn’t notice if it too was shown.)

This link at the first comment still works; check it out for all things Susanville.

Sierrasue on March 26, 2006 at 4:06 pm

I worked as a part time projectionist at the Sierra from 1956 through the early 60s (also the Lassen Auto Movie). The first movie I remember running by myself was the Elvis Presley film, “Love Me Tender.” The Sierra used Super Simplex projectors, Simplex XL soundheads and Peerless Magnarc lamps. The sound amp was Western Electric. The original projectors were moved to the drive-in in the early 50s when the Sierra was equipped to show 3D movies. I think the Sierra was owned by United California Theatres at this time.

kencmcintyre on December 28, 2005 at 9:19 pm

There’s no better way to pass the time, in my opinion, than discussing the existence of a bowling alley that went out of business 65 years ago in a town I’ve never visited. And some people like fishing…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 28, 2005 at 9:08 pm

ken: What you have found may be a picture of Susanville’s Orpheum Bowling Alley. Although the name Orpheum is most closely associated with theaters, there have been (and are) other businesses that use the name. I know of at least one music store (an appropriate enterprise, given that Orpheus was a musician), and there are a few bars called the Orpheum here and there.

Given the date of 1946, it seems certain that your photograph depicts the Orpheum Bowling Alley, though. That’s not to say that the bowling alley was not perhaps located in the former quarters of a theatre, of course, and kept the name to save on the cost of a new sign. It does seem a very odd choice of names for a bowling alley.

kencmcintyre on December 28, 2005 at 6:08 pm

Undated photo:
View link

View link

I could go out on a limb and say that this 1946 photo shows another theater in Susanville called the Orpheum. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any photos of an actual building that would verify this:
View link

GaryParks on October 29, 2005 at 12:32 pm

My cousin, Gary Lord, was projectionist at the Sierra circa late 60s/early 70s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 25, 2005 at 8:39 pm

The earliest references to the Sierra Theatre that I can find are pictures taken by J.H. Eastman in 1937, such as this one.