Kaweah Theatre

149 South E. Street,
Exeter, CA 93221

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Westland Theatres

Functions: Retail

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Ritz Theatre

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It was a car repair shop and a few other things before it became a movie theatre, probably in the early-1930’s. It was was part of a chain of theatres called “The Ritz” in the early-1930’s. Charles and Iris Pease bought it in 1937, and it became known as the Kaweah Theatre. It’s marquee had an Indian head in neon lights. It was named after a local branch of the Yokuts tribe of Indians, located a few miles northeast of Exeter. It closed about 2 or 3 times for renovations, especially in 1942. It opened again in 1943. It closed for good in 1950, because of the early influx of television and low theatre attendance and higher operating costs.

It’s sister theatre which was on the block north of it was the Exeter Theatre. It was also owned by the Pease’s. It was around during the silent picture era and was originally owned by a Mr. Cooke. The Pease’s bought it in the early-1930’s as part of the Harvey Amusement Company. By 1950 both theatres were operated by the San Francisco based Westland Theatres chain. It closed down temporarily in 1952 and opened around 1953 to go to a CinemaScope screen and projectors etc. It finally closed in 1959 without any news coverage or fanfare!. The same reason was television saturation and low attendance. They also opened a brand new state of the art theatre in Farmersville which is around 3 miles west of Exeter. It was called the Rancho Theatre. It opened on August 1, 1947 with a western motif and was set on fire on April 28, 1948. The Pease’s also had an interest in the Sequoia Auto Drive-In Theatre which opened in 1949. It closed down, I believe in the 1980’s. They also owned the Grove Theatre in Lindsay, which is 8 miles south-east of Lindsay. They owned many other theatres from Salina to Los Angeles. Mrs. Pease is related to former Western film star Russell Hayden, who began his career with Hopalong Cassidy sidekick Lucky Jenkins and later on in the 1950’s TV series “Cowboy G-Men”. He also owned the Pioneertown movie location town and ranch, by Yucca Valley.

I know some more about both the Kaweah Theatre and Exeter Theatre and I have photos of both. I will have to get permission to post the Kaweah Theatre photos in black and white and color in the 1940’s. My friends Paul and Janet Stinnett own the Kaweah Theatre, and rent it out at present. I will add more information on the two theatres as I go through my records.

Contributed by Bob Slate
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