El Cajon Family Theatre

126 S. Magnolia Street,
El Cajon, CA 92020

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Pussycat Theatres

Architects: Robert Halley, Jr.

Previous Names: El Cajon Theatre, Pussycat Theatre

Nearby Theaters

July 1983

Replacing an earlier El Cajon Theatre which was destroyed by fire in 1945 (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures). The El Cajon Theatre was opened April 24, 1946. In 1973, it became one of four Pussycat Theatres to operate in the San Diego area, screening adult movies. In December 1989 it was renamed El Cajon Family Theatre. It was closed in 1991 and was demolished.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

JayAllenSanford on June 29, 2010 at 11:04 am

There’s a photo of the El Cajon Theater’s Pussycat incarnation in this week’s new San Diego Reader, with an updated and expanded version of the ongoing Pussycat Theater project – View link

JayAllenSanford on June 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm

As of 1970, the El Cajon was owned by Vince Miranda at Walnut Properties, who began buying into the Dave Friedman/Dan Sonney-founded Pussycat Theater chain in the late ‘60s. El Cajon began screening softcore porn in late 1971 and then hardcore beginning in late 1972. This generated an endless array of local controversy, especially once the city began revitalization efforts in the neighborhood around where the old art deco-style theater sat.

Eventually, weekly protests were held in front of the pink-and-mauve theater by the Santee Bible Missionary Fellowship, and the city council made no secret of its wish to close the theater down and/or force it to return to screening family films.

It took until December 1989 before the theater finally shed its X skin. The first all-age screening at the renamed El Cajon Family Theater was All Dogs Go to Heaven, with all seats priced at $1.99. One of the theater’s new features was a “cry room,” where parents with noisy babies could watch the movie without disturbing other patrons. The renovated snack bar offered gourmet cookies, bottled mineral water, and nachos, alongside traditional movie treats like popcorn and candy.

In June 1991, operators announced the El Cajon would soon be shuttered for good. Walnut rep Barry Hartsfield said the price the city had been negotiating for the past year was acceptable.

“We are ready to sell,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune (6-13-91). The locale was razed the following year.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 30, 2010 at 6:09 am

There were two theaters called El Cajon, this one being a 1946 replacement for a house that had burned the previous year. Boxoffice of July 20, 1946, ran a double-page spread on the new El Cajon, which had opened on April 24.

The El Cajon Theatre was designed by architect Robert Halley Jr. (one of his last works, if not the very last) and his associate James Wheeler. James Wheeler might have been related to William Henry Wheeler, architect of the Balboa Theatre in San Diego (and former partner of Robert Halley jr.), but I’ve been unable to confirm a connection.

MichaelVinson on November 30, 2017 at 12:21 am

The theater in El Cajon couldn’t have been demolished in ‘81. I lived in El Cajon from '84 til January '87 and went to the Pussycat a number of times.

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