Mainzer Cinema II

659 W. Main Street,
Merced, CA 95344

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Showing 21 comments

Jamey_monroe45 on August 15, 2023 at 1:49 am

The 10 plex (Hollywood Merced formally Wallace Theaters) is now 13 screens on M Street.

crogg on June 20, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I’ve also seen conflicting information about the final closing date – was it in 2006 or 2011? Thanks!

terrywade on June 14, 2016 at 8:54 am

This theatre now has a for sale sign outside. Great marquee still left and the place needs to turned back to a single theatre again.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 27, 2016 at 6:52 pm

crogg: The date of the fire came from the NRHP REgistration Form for the second Merced Theatre. A section of it deals with the history of the Golden State Theatre Company, and that’s where the brief bit of information about the first Merced Theatre can be found.

Here is a link to a PDF of the Registration Form.

This article by Sarah Lim, museum director for the Merced County Courthouse Museum, appeared in the September 4, 2015, issue of the Merced Sun-Star and contains a bit more information about the original Merced Theatre. It gives the opening date as March 4, 1920 (the first performance was a live operetta rather than a movie) and says that the theater was destroyed by a fire in December, 1936.

A 1936 date for the final fire does not preclude the possibility of a fire in 1931 as well. Fires were a common hazard of theaters in those days, and many an early movie house suffered more than one in its history. In fact during the era of highly explosive nitrate film stock used in conjunction with intensely hot carbon arc projector lamps, it would be difficult to find a theater that didn’t suffer at least one projection booth fire.

crogg on May 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

Hi Joe,

I know it’s a long shot that you’ll respond after so much time, but I was wondering how you found out when the fire was that destroyed the original Merced Theater? I’m working on a research report on the Mainzer and have only been able to find estimated dates of 1931 of the fire and not December 1936. Thanks!

TomLafleur on December 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm

This link has 3 photos of the 1920 Merced and 1929 remodel plus a nice article from the Merced Sun.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Salih Brothers, currently listed as architects of this theater, operated a general contracting company. However, I can’t find any indication that they acted as architects on any of these projects. The original Merced Theatre, as Gary Parks says, designed by A. W. Cornelius. The application for the inclusion of the second Merced Theatre on the National Register of Historic Places included a bit of information about the first Merced Theatre, saying that it was opened in March, 1920 by Charles Douglas and Francis Egan, and that it was bought by E.H. Emmick, president of the Golden State Theatres circuit about 1923. The first Merced Theatre suffered a fire in December, 1936, and was rebuilt and reopened as the Strand in 1938. It doesn’t say who the architect for the rebuilding was.

Salih Brothers operated at least one theater themselves; The Center in Centerville, now part of the city of Fremont. Salih Brothers build the Center in 1946, and it was operated by the Salih family until 1973. A document from the Fremont planning commission says that the Center Theatre was designed by architect A. A. Cantin. If the Salih brothers had been architects, I would think they’d have designed the theater they built and operated themselves.

GaryParks on October 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

My friend Jack Tillmany has in his very extensive collection a 1920s color tinted postcard view of this theatre as the Merced. It was unquestionably designed by A. W. Cornelius originally. Its facade bears the design Cornelius used on so many of his theatres. In fact, it most closely resembles the California in Pittsburg, but a bit narrower.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on February 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Very nice looking theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm

A later issue of Boxoffice says that the Lindsay Theatre was the one in Lindsay, so that’s cleared up. I’ve found references to the Rio Theatre in Merced as far back as 1940.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I’ve found a reference to a theater in Merced called the Lindsay. The October 2, 1948, issue of Boxoffice Magazine said that the managers of the Strand and Lindsay Theatres in Merced had switched jobs. I suppose it’s possible that the reference was actually to the Lindsay Theatre in Lindsay, and Boxoffice just got the location wrong, but the two towns are quite some distance apart.

There’s also a Boxoffice reference to a theater called the Rio, in the August 29, 1942, issue, which mentioned Leo Reese as the operator of the Orpheum in Lakeport and the Rio in Merced. In the twelfth paragraph down on this Rootsweb page, a long-time resident of Merced recalls there being three theaters in the town in the 1940s; the Merced, the Strand, and the Rio.

kencmcintyre on September 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm

The related website is no longer providing information about the theater. I didn’t see any current events listed online. Does anyone know if the renovation is still ongoing?

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 6:02 pm


The story I heard from a friend of mine in Merced who had done research found that the present day Mainzer was the original Merced Theatre until the new Merced opened in 1931. (As said earlier, a fire in the now Mainzer destroyed the original organ that was to have been moved (and hopefully enlarged.) This sort of thing happened all over the Valley. The Wurlitzer list shows a 4-rank organ going to the Hanford Theatre in 1924. Huh? The present Hanford opened in 1930. How could that be? Wurlitzer seemed to be using a generic Hanford theatre rather than a Hanford Theatre. The organ in Hanford was in the old T & D Theatre in 1924 and enlarged and moved to the new Hanford Theatre in 1930. No way to prove it now, but I wonder if the same did not apply in Merced; the organ going to the Merced theatre?)

That said, my late friend in Merced interviewed old timers around town who said the Mainzer was originally the Merced Theatre (1). Your time frame above really works for the old Merced, then Strand Theatre (1936). [The Salih Bros. did lots of theatre replastering/modernization. At least two theatres they built from scratch were the 1935 Cascade Theatre in Redding and the 1936 Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz. Both of these theatres have fooled theatre experts before, looking like a Timothy Pfluger-design, but not. Here in Central CA, there is still a painting and plastering firm known as Saleh Bros. I wonder if it is not some relation? ] The Mainzer, ex-Merced 1/Strand 2, looked very much like an S. Chas. Lee design. Too much to think about, but, it sounds very reasonable that the Strand Theatre name was moved to the first Merced Theatre to differentiate it from the more modern theatre.

And now an Elite Theatre to research.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2007 at 5:32 pm

To add still more confusion, the L.A. library’s California Index includes this card referencing a 1914 Southwest Contractor & Manufacturer article about plans for a new theatre to be built for a C.H. Douglas, who is named as the manager of the Elite Theatre. I don’t know of the planned theatre got built or not, but now we know that Merced had a theatre called the Elite operating in 1914.

Another card in the index, headed with the name Strand Theatre, contains the two references I noted in my first comment on December 11, 2006 (where I erroneously said that they were both from Motion Picture Herald, but in fact the 1928 reference is from Exhibitor’s Herald & Moving Picture World.) These suggest that a Strand Theatre was operating in Merced in 1928, and that a (closed) Merced Theatre was renamed the Strand Theatre in 1936. Maybe there were two theatres called the Strand at different times, as well as two theatres called the Merced?

tomdelay on October 3, 2007 at 10:11 am

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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 11, 2006 at 6:07 pm

OK, the 1930 article in Southwest Builder & Contractor actually says that the new theatre is to be built at “17th and J Streets” which means it is the new Merced Theatre that it refers to (the “1” on “17” had been blocked out on the library’s reference card for some reason.) 17th Street is now called Main Street, and J Street has been renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 11, 2006 at 5:07 pm

The web site link listed above for this theatre no longer works, and I can’t find a new location. A recent edit to the Mainzer’s Wikipedia entry says that the building has been sold and the theatre is currently closed.

Meantime, here’s a bit of stuff about the theatre’s history I’ve dug up at the L.A. Library’s online California Index:

The Motion Picture Herald of 5/19/36 published this item:

“The Golden State Theatre and Realty Company plan to reopen the Merced Theatre at Merced… under the name of the Strand Theatre.”
An earlier article in the same publication (2/18/1928) said that the Merced Theatre was being doubled in size.

The only other probable reference to the Merced/Strand I’ve found is from Southwest Builder & Contractor of 5/1/1936 which says that Salih Bros. of San Francisco had been awarded the contract for altering the theatre building, at an estimated cost of $25,000.

However, there’s a complication to all this nomenclature. Southwest Builder & Contractor of 1/17/1930 makes reference to a Mr. Frank Alberti, “…manager of the Merced and Strand Theatres…” who was announcing plans for a new theatre for Golden State at 7th and J Streets, to be designed by Reid Brothers (presumably unbuilt.) But this indicates that the Strand name was already in use in 1930. I suppose it’s possible that Motion Picture Herald just didn’t get the message about the name change for the old Merced Theatre until the time of the renovations in 1936.

tomdelay on September 18, 2005 at 12:55 pm

I have no idea who the architect was who planned the redecoration of the interior of this theatre after the 1931 (or so) fire. However, the interior looks very much like it could have been from the drafting table of S. Charles Lee.

tomdelay on September 23, 2004 at 10:37 pm

This theatre was the original Merced Theatre. In 1921 a small 5-rank Wurlitzer organ was shipped to this theatre. At some point, supposedly, a fire took place around 1931 (or so) that destroyed the organ (which was to have been enlarged and installed in the new Merced Theatre). Both Merced theatres were part of Golden State Theatres, later United California Theatres, later still United Artists.