Merced Theatre

301 West Main Street,
Merced, CA 95340

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DavidZornig on November 5, 2016 at 8:21 pm

1961 photo added courtesy of Keith Ensminger‎.

Mikeyisirish on December 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

A few July 2012 photos can be seen here and here.

ajtarantex on October 27, 2012 at 12:06 am

The Theater is completely restored and is open now

jerryellis on December 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

My parents operated a department store on 17th and K in Merced. As I recall there was a small theatre, The Rio, located on 16th near K, which showed mostly Spanish speaking movies. This was in the late 40s and 50s.

William on August 11, 2008 at 8:58 am

The Merced Theatre opened on Saturday, October 31, 1931 by Golden State and Realty Company.

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 7:00 pm

BTW, in case you have not seen it:

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Before the previous owner left the theatre, I was able to go through the theatre from top to bottom. This theatre really “got it” from the previous owner. It should be absolutely stunning when it is all put back together. The stage is astoundingly large for a movie/vaudeville house with plenty of wing space. In the orchestra ready room under the stage, I found a couple of what were probably original seat end standards.

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Joe pointed out on the Mainzer page /theaters/4405/ of this website that the Strand name appears to have been moved to the former Merced Theatre #1 about 1936. This would make sense to differentiate the older theatre from this present-day Merced Theatre of 1931.

So let’s see here: We have (in no particular order) for Merced:

Elite Theatre (1914)
Strand Theatre
Rio Theatre
Merced Theatre (1921?)(Strand, Mainzer)
Merced theatre (1931)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2007 at 5:41 pm

In 1914 there was also a theatre called the Elite operating in Merced. In that year the manager of the Elite, C.H. Douglas, formed a company with plans to build a new theatre.

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 3:15 pm

There is some thinking that the Merced #1 was also named the Strand at some point. Could be, there were a few Strand Theatres in the Valley, but mostly very old. The Strand in Modesto had a Wurlitzer that was installed in 1918! Monterey had a Strand Theatre of 1917.

A late friend of mine who once lived in Merced, tracked down the information about the Merced #1 and the organ burning up. Ken Roe has the Film Daily Yearbook, but I don’t think his records go back that far. However, if a Strand or Rio shows up on FDY, at least there would be an address to work with.

I visited the Merced Theatre Foundation website this morning. Things are moving along with the fundraising with a nearly $2m grant given for restoration of the 1931 Merced.

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 10:14 am

Here is something I just added to the Mainzer’s Cinema Treasure’s page blog: /theaters/4405/

Now to add more confusion to things, the 5-rank Wurlitzer went to the original Merced Theatre in 1921. That is a given from the Wurlitzer opus list. In 1920, the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, IL (still in business) shipped a small theatre organ to an unnamed theatre in Merced and was their Opus 311. So now the question, was there a Merced Theatre 1 AND a Strand Theatre—two different locations? It is highly unlikely that on theatre bought the Wicks and then the next year bought the Wurlitzer.

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 9:58 am

Yes, it was what is now the Mainzer Theatre. The organ was to have been moved to the new theatre in 1931. However Merced Theatre #1 had a fire that took out the stage and organ. As a result the organ was hauled to the dump with the other debris.

It was not much of an organ and without major additions, it would never have been of much use in the new theatre. Style 170: 2-manuals 5-ranks Open Diapason 85 pipes, Trumpet 61 pipes, Vox Humana 61 pipes, Flute 97 pipes, Dulciana 73 pipes plus the usual percussions.

If you go behind the Mainzer Theatre, you can see where the original stage loading doors were—now bricked-in. I have oftne wonderd if the 1930+ redo of the present Mainzer was not done by S. Charles Lee.
The redone interior (after the fire) looks very much like a Lee design. According to some old theatre books which had a bio on Lee, he did the redesign of the marquee on the present Merced Theatre,
circa 1943 or so.

Sam2 on May 25, 2007 at 11:03 am

Drama Dude, I actually found a recent photo of our old house. It is indeed 171 E. Main St. now and looks to have blue siding on it now, when it was white stucco back then. I was shocked to find it for sale for close to $300,000.00, pretty good for what was a $85.00 a month rent house in 1963!
This was the house I always believed was haunted. On our first day of moving in,(we moved from the $80.00 a month house next door), I was sitting at the top of the stairs, (most of the attic had been converted into a 3rd bedroom).

I was looking all around thinking we we’re just like the people on TV now, because we had a two story house. Then I noticed the attic door was open, it was closed when I sat down. I got up and closed it, and made sure it was latched, then sat down again, to continue my grandeous day dreaming, and heard the attic door slowly creak open, then turned to watch it open as wide as it would go. I took the stairs two at a time, and neither my brother, or I, would sleep in that room, unless my grandparents slept in there.
The stairs were very narrow, and steep, and there was a small landing where they turned. Our Toy Poodle couldn’t get up, or down the stairs, he had to be carried. One morning he woke my mother up with a slow persistant barking. She thought he wanted to be let out, but when she got up to look for him, she couldn’t find him, he was at the top of the stairs, and wanted someone to come get him down.
My brother and I were getting dressed for school one morning, and he told me he woke up during the night, and there was an old man sitting at the foot of our bed. I asked him why he didn’t yell, and wake someone up?
He said he was too scared, and that he pulled the covers over his head, waited then looked, and he was still there. He said he did it two more times, and finally on the third time, the man was gone.
We refused to sleep without a night light, it was a small lamp that sat on top of our chest of drawers. One night after we’d gone to bed, we were talking quietly, and the light went out. We BOLTED down the hall, and into the living room. My dad told us we were babies, and scardy cats, and that the light bulb had probably just burned out. He walked us back in to our room, turned the switch, and the lamp came right back on!
I would never stay alone in that house, I remember once when my mother had taken my brother to the doctor, I wasn’t allowed to go, and after a few minutes alone, I got the dog, and sat on the front porch and watched TV through the screen door until my mom came home.
My mother even admitted, (in later years), that she always felt like someone was watching her in that house.

tomdelay on September 9, 2006 at 10:09 am

Does the Merced Theatre Foundation have a website yet?

MaryJ on August 27, 2006 at 6:45 am

Anyone can join the Merced Theatre Foundation (free), by writing P.O. Box 716, Merced 95341, (209) 722-3266. I have recently returned to live in Merced; I spent my childhood at this wonderful theatre. It was absolutely appalling that anyone was allowed to nearly destroy such a treasure. Fortunately the foundation is now restoring everything to its original state. It’s about half done now; there is a 75th Anniversary gala in October 2006.

If you join, you will get a newsletter and information on the restoration. Thank heavens some local citizens decided to save this magnificent building.

Sierrasue on March 26, 2006 at 12:50 pm

I lived in Mariposa as a small child in the early and mid 1950s. Each Saturday my mother would drop my sister and me off at the Merced Theatre while she went grocery shopping. Naturally for a seven year old, it seemed bigger and more lavish than it would as an adult, but THIS is the theatre that started my fascination with movie palace architecture so many years ago. For a city the size of Merced, this was quite a theatre.

Jearjet on March 11, 2006 at 9:10 am

While growing up in Merced, the Merced Theater was a fantasy escape. The massive Moorish seats in the lobbies where like thrones in a Spanish court to me. The richly tiled water fountains were places where I imagined Zorro swinging through for a sip of water. The Auditorium was a luxurious blend of intriquing tapestries, warm balconey lighting, evening sky, arched walkways, massive stage and plenty of mysterious windows and doors to keep a young kid distracted. It was a great place to escape the San Joaquin Valley summer heat and hang out with family and friends.

Now living in the SF Bay Area, I’d glady get involved helping to restore this gem. The Alhambra in Santa Barbara is very similar in style. Merced would do well to learn from the Alhambra’s business model.

brainfaded on March 4, 2005 at 9:00 pm

Sam, if you lived between 16th and 17th, and between H and I, then you lived on what is now Main St. I have been a resident in Merced for nine years and it’s grown a lot since I moved here, so I can only imagine how much it’s changed since the sixties, but a few of the old houses have survived, so yours may still be there. I wish you luck.
After the new theatre moved in, the Merced Theatre became a two dollar theatre. Me and my friends used to always go there to hang out and see movies. I’ll be glad to see it restoredto a live theatre, as such, it will probably strive here, the live theatre business seems to be making a killing.

sfowler55 on May 13, 2004 at 11:53 am

I lived in Merced as a child from 1962 to 1964. I have many fond memories of the Merced Theater. I was always so facinated by the ceiling, and the faux buildings that ran around the sides of the auditorium, I always wanted to go up there and take a closer look at them. I hope the theater will be restored to it’s former glory. I live in Ft. Worth now, but would love to return to Merced someday. I’ve looked for our old house, but I can’t find 171 E. 17th St. on a map. Have some of the street names changed?

tomdelay on March 11, 2003 at 10:12 pm

Does the Merced’s restoration still include bringing back the unique Reid Bros. atmospheric auditorium and architecture? With an 80' wide stage (including wing space), the stage and lobby are largely original—even if much of the lobby is painted-out.

The auditorium was a different matter with virtually nothing left of the original 1931 Spanish-style atmospheric auditorium interior/proscenium.