Laguna South Coast Cinemas
162 South Coast Highway,
162 South Coast Highway,Laguna Beach, CA 92651
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JackCoursey: Circa 2009 I was friends with one of the managers Regency had at the theatre and attempted to get some interior shots one day before opening. Unfortunately, mine also came out poorly. The auditoriums were far too dark (even with the lights up), the projection booth was so small (dominated by a shared projection platter) that it was impossible to obtain a decent angle, and the original stage area was behind a padlocked door. If there are any interior photos out there, I would speculate they are either pre twinning or from the current remodel project, as it was a very difficult venue to photograph in its' latter years as a cinema.
Would be great to see some interior shots of the theatre. Did some just before it’s closure but even with the house lights up, the photos did not come out well.
Plans to renovate the South Coast were approved by the Laguna Beach Planning Commission on 1/6/2021. Rivian, an Irvine based electric car manufacturer, intend to reopen the venue, in late 2021, as a film, live event, meeting, and auto showroom space. The original stage, proscenium, and star shaped auditorium lighting fixture will be restored, but there will be a significant “repurposing” for the rest of the theatre. The current 653 seat twin layout will be converted back to a single auditorium and downsized to 127 seats. Further alterations include an elevator, skylights, a reconfigured lobby (doubling as a two vehicle showroom), and conversion of the second floor projection booth & storage areas to conference rooms. While Rivian has stated that there will be up to two movie screenings a week and the space will be made available for quarterly live events, it appears the venue’s primary use will be tied to their business interests. The Laguna Beach Historical Preservation Coalition has voiced their opposition to the plan.
The Laguna South Coast Cinemas closed Sunday, August 30, 2015 after its operator, Regency Theatres, was unable to secure a longtime lease to make necessary renovations and upgrades.
Regency, which operates 28 other neighborhood theaters in Southern California and in Yuma, Ariz., said showing movies there was costly and less efficient because of outdated technology in the two-auditorium, 550-seat theater. Films had to be ordered in advance and selection was limited.
Lyndon Golin, president of Calabasas-based Regency, said that distributors no longer provides movies on 35mm film. Everything is digital, he said, and we can’t get a lease with terms to make the investment there. He said he’s been given no reason why his lease won’t be extended.
Closing the Laguna Beach theater not only leaves the town without a place for the public to see movies but also shuts one of the last beach movie theaters along the Southern California coast.
(Based on a story that appeared in the August 30, 2015 Orange County Register.)
Closing for good today.
Currently closed due to flooding. Photo here:
A Historic Resources Inventory prepared for the State of Califronia in 1981 included the South Coast Theatre, and the report said that this this house opened as the New Lynn Theatre in 1935, and that the architect was James Conway. (This 9.8MB PDF file includes the data on the theater, along with numerous other buildings in Laguna Beach.)
It looks as though the 1930 rebuilding planned for Mr. Aufdenkamp by architect Walter J. Saunders was not carried out. The report also includes the information that the original Lynn Theatre, opened in 1915 on this same site, was moved to a lot on Ocean Avenue and operated there while construction of the new theater was underway. If the projected 1930 rebuilding of the original Lynn, which called for a large steel and concrete structure, had taken place, the building would probably not have been moved. The original Lynn was most likely a wood-framed building of the sort typical in Laguna Beach during its early years.
Although the Historic Resources report calls James Neil Conway a “distinguished theatre architect”, I’ve been unable to discover any other theaters he designed. Almost the only source of information about him on the Internet is this page from the Pacific Coast Architecture Database, and no theaters are among the five projects it lists. He was apparently a designer by profession, not a licensed architect. That means he would either have had a licensed engineer working with him on this project, or have had someone who was licensed to sign off on his plans, but I’ve been unable to discover who that was.
I’ve been working at the theater since summer 2008. I just thought I’d add some facts that haven’t been mentioned: We rarely ever go behind the theater where the stage is for four reasons: 1) It locks from the inside, so we have to climb over a wood post to open the door. 2) We can’t turn on the lights when there’s a movie playing, so we have to bring flashlight, and it’s pretty creepy sometimes. 3) We use it to store movie posters we don’t need any more. We also store a couple concession machines that are broken, like the nacho machine, the hotdog machine, and a snow cone machine. 4) Also, a couple people I’ve worked with say the’ve seen ghosts, and had posters fall off the rack. Some employees refuse to go back there. I remember hearing a rumor when I first started that someone had hanged himself behind the theater in the late 1950s. Also, there’s a small apartment up the stairs next to the projection room, that the owner occasionally sleeps in. The former owner of the theater gave it to him when he bought it.
Nothing left of the Lynn / Laguna at 250 Ocean but a newish looking multi-story office building – right next to the Historical Society, by the way.
Having grown up in Laguna during the 50’s and 60’s I spent a good deal of time in this movie palace, most of it on Saturday for noon show of cartoons, shorts and a feature film. Not mentioned are the great murals located in several recessed alcoves on both sides of the theater, (now hidden by drapes) they depict important events from California’s history. Painted by two local artist in he 30’s, Al Dupont and David Rosen, both now passed. Al also painted the buried pirate treasure mural that was in the old Jolly Roger on PCH.
The theatre we see today (minus the twinning) opened on June 26, 1935, with the Jane Withers film “Ginger”.
Here are some 1983 photos:
Here is how I understand the history of Laguna Beach theatres:
The first Lynn Theatre operated for several years at 255 Forest Ave (now a Boardriders Club clothing outlet) and closed in the early 1920’s. In 1922, a second Lynn Theatre (still billed as the Lynn) opened on the current theatre’s 162 South Coast Highway site. This theatre was heavily damaged by flooding, rebuilt, and reopened in 1935, as the New Lynn. At some point, likely during the New Lynn’s construction, another Lynn theatre was opened at 250 Ocean Ave (billed as the Ocean Ave. Lynn). When the two theatre’s were sold to the Vincent family, circa 1936, the New Lynn became the South Coast Cinemas and the Ocean Ave. Lynn became the Laguna Theatre. All of these Lynn theatres were named after a member of the original operator’s family Lynn Aufdenkamp.
The Lynn and New Lynn Theaters were mentioned in the April 10, 1937, issue of Boxoffice Magazine. Apparently both theaters were in operation simultaneously for a time.
The Boxoffice item reads: “Ronald Vincent has changed the names of his two theatres at Laguna Beach, the Lynn being redubbed the Laguna and the New Lynn being called the Southcoast.”
This is the Lynn circa 1929, from the LAPL:
My grandmother’s brother, Amos (Al) Stricker was the contractor who built this theatre. His name used to be stamped in the sidewalks.
Here is a 1948 photo from the LA Public Library:
The work on the Lynn Theatre in the 1930s appears not to have been a simple remodeling, but major reconstruction. According to a card in the Los Angeles Public Library’s California Index, Southwest Builder and Contractor issue of September 26, 1930, announced that Los Angeles architects W.J. Saunders & Son were completing the working plans for the theatre for Fred Aufdenkamp. The estimated cost of the project was $50,000.
Another card in the Index cites a Los Angeles Times article of October 19, 1930, saying that Walter J. Saunders was preparing plans for the Lynn Theatre at Laguna Beach.
The only other reference in the California Index to Walter J. Saunders in connection with a theatre notes his 1912 plans for remodeling the 1882 San Bernardino Opera House.
At the Laemmle Theatres website, clicking on the “Laguna, Laguna Beach” link takes you to the Laguna South Coast Cinemas page at the website of Regency Theatres, apparently the current operators of this twin. There are a couple of small photos of the theatre’s exterior on the page.
In regard to the stage: The original theatrical stage still exists, behind the screens, but is basically sealed off and only accessible via a constantly locked door. The area is covered with a few decades worth of dust/debris and in no condition for use (without major work).
The projection booth and food storage room are accessed from the building’s exterior, via a stairway in the courtyard (i.e. one has to go outside to access these areas). Perhaps, the most unique feature of this theatre is what could very well be the most expensive view of any theatre in existance; the theatre faces Laguna Beach’s main beach. The box office, concession stand, and projection booth balcony all have clear views of the beach/ocean/historic life guard tower.
The theatre’s interior is rather plain, but well maintained. Unfortunately, the twining of the theatre resulted in significant sound bleed through; especially from the left theatre, which is equiped with DTS.