Ponderosa Theatre

340 Mobil Avenue,
Camarillo, CA 93010

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Additional Info

Architects: Howard Leach, Carl Schwartz

Functions: Religious Services

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Ponderosa Theatre

Howard Bayer opened the 604-seat Ponderosa Theatre on July 28, 1964. The theatre was a replacement for his 224-seat Valley Theatre, which closed on July 12 after 26 years. The Oxnard Press-Courier noted that the architects were Carl Schwartz and Howard Leach of Oxnard who designed the theatre with a lobby box-office. The 50-foot curved screen was the largest in Ventura County and the balcony was reserved for adults.

Being the only theatre in Camarillo, the Ponderosa Theatre started out playing family or GP movies. In a January 1971 Press Courier interview, Bayer said he lost money for two years when he played family or GP movies. He reluctantly began to play the X and R-rated movies and was criticized in the community but said he had to play those movies to stay in business.

In April of 1972 the Press Courier reported that that Mr. Bayer was in negotiations to sell the closed theatre. The new owner experimented with adult movies in 1973 before changing it to a discount dollar house in 1975. In early 1979 the theatre’s advertisement disappeared from the movie listings.

By April of 1985 the Ponderosa Theatre had been closed for six years and the city planning commission allowed the theatre to be converted to a banquet center. Since 1993 the former theatre has been home to the Camarillo Center for Spiritual Living.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

KPmusmag on March 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Thanks so much for creating this page and for the info about The Ponderosa’s history. I went to quite a few movies there from 1974 – 1976. For the size of the building, they had a very large screen. Among the films I saw there were: The Sting, What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, The Duchess and The Dirtwater Fox, Mame, The Great Gatsby, Earthquake, Airport 75, The Sound of Music, and The Poseidon Adventure. They usually showed double features. Sometimes they were strange. After Mame played with The Great Gatsby, which made sense, Mame played with Airport 75. I heard someone comment after that one: “Helen Reddy in that musical was alright, but Lucy in that disaster pic – sheesh!” The last time I can say I am sure the theater was open was Summer 1976. I remember, because they had a series of “Musical Mondays”. On about 6 successive Mondays that summer, they played a musical on Monday afternoon. I recall seeing Hello, Dolly!, Camelot, Carousel and The King and I. It was a treat to see them in widescreen format, as this was long before widescreen home video. If anyone has a vintage pic, please post it! My Dad is an avid photographer but I have looked through all his pics and there is none to be found of The Ponderosa. I would love a reminder of what it looked like in the day. Thanks again!

markgraves on February 27, 2016 at 10:41 am

We went here for years in the 60s — saw all the James Bond films and Saturday afternoon matinees. Also saw ‘A Hard Days Night Here’ when I was 6 years old. Howard and his lively crew only charged $1 back then — it was the place to be every Friday and Saturday night. We used to joke about Howard’s toupee flying off one day — it never did. Can still hear his voice and how he phrased movie titles on the theater’s telephone recording!

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