United Artists Theatre

823 MacDonald Avenue,
Richmond, CA 94801

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Showing 19 comments

rockyroadz on September 25, 2022 at 11:15 pm

The site/link that Joe Vogel posted in 2008 for the 1959 photo of Macdonald Ave at night/Fox Theater, no longer exists. However, through the magic of the web-gods archives, you can view it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20200303212813im_/http://eastbayhistory.com/images/3488.16%20-%20Macdonald%20Ave,%20night,%20Fox%20Theater%201959_web.jpg

atmos on March 30, 2017 at 4:40 am

Opened 27 Aug 1922 and closed 27 Sep 1957.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Max: That photo was actually uploaded by John Rice. His most recent comment at CinemaTreasures is on this page, so that’s where you’d probably be most likely to catch him (I don’t think CT sends notifications of comments made on photo pages.)

maxieboy on September 10, 2014 at 11:48 am

Hi Garrett,

I am a post-production assistant on a local documentary in which THIS EXACT photo was used. The director and editor do not remember the original source of the photo, which they need for acquiring the rights, so it is my job to find out. I was wondering, do you know the source of the photo? The director believes it’s from a Richmond history book that includes a second photo of the exact same location, but in the ‘80s when the street has been through complete economic collapse. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


JohnRice on December 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Growing up in Richmond, the UA was the only local theatre that seemed to me like a movie palace, although certainly not a grand one like found in nearby Oakland or San Francisco. It had a balcony (closed much of the time) and when CinemaScope came along the Scope films with four channel magnetic stereo sound were pretty impressive in that big auditorium. I suppose it was my favorite theatre in Richmond, not that we had much to choose from by the mid 1950’s. A nice middle aged woman behind the concession counter would save 8 x 10 stills for me and sometimes even allow me to slip in to see a free show. Fond memories of the UA!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 4, 2011 at 5:27 am

The December, 1919, issue of The Architect and Engineer included a theater at Richmond for the T&D circuit among the projects slated for 1920 by the office of architect A. W. Cornelius. This house most likely opened that year. The T&D Theatre at Salinas was on the same list.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 31, 2010 at 6:32 am

Thanks again Joe.Your research is always welcomed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 31, 2010 at 6:28 am

My source for the name of the architect of the 1936 remodeling of this theater misspelled his surname. It should be F. Frederic Amandes.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 9, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Here is a 1959 photo of MacDonald Avenue at night, with the Fox Theatre (formerly the Costa) on the left. The U.A.’s marquee would have been in the foreground on the right, but this picture was apparently taken when the theatre was being remodeled into a Woolworth store. The building is covered in scaffolding, the vertical sign is gone, and the marquee looks to have been rounded off for Woolworth’s use.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm

During WWII, photographer Dorothea Lange took numerous photographs of Richmond, most of them related to the Kaiser shipyards and their workers, but including quite a few that depicted scenes on McDonald Avenue. Today they are available in digital form as part of the Lange collection displayed online here by the Online Archives of California.

A very few of the photos depict the street’s theatres, including this one, showing the U.A. in 1942, when it was still the Fox, and also showing its next door neighbor, the Studio Theatre. Some time later the Studio was renamed the Crest, and its sign is visible just past the U.A. in the second of the two photos to which Lost Memory linked in the comment just above this one. I don’t think the Studio/Crest is listed at Cinema Treasures yet.

GaryParks on August 20, 2007 at 11:30 pm

Yes, most definitely the Richmond UA was originally the T&D (and then the Fox). I have a postcard of the facade when new, with “Blood and Sand” starring Rudolph Valentino on the marquee. I have seen photos of the facade as remodeled by Amands, and it was sort of deco, and not altogether a good, cohesive design, in my opinion. It was, however, better than the plain and flat facade which replaced it.

GaryParks on January 4, 2007 at 11:15 pm

I need to add to the list of similar-facaded theatres by A.W. Cornelius the T&D in Berkeley—long since renamed the California and remodeled several times—still in operation.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 12, 2005 at 6:50 am

In light of the comment above by Gary Parks, saying that the original architect of this theater was A.W. Cornelius, I re-checked my source of information, and I think he is probably right. I found a reference to an article in the magazine Architect and Engineer of March, 1936, which says that the former T&D Theater in Richmond was being remodeled for Fox Theaters, to designs by Architect F. Frederic Amands.

It doesn’t give the name of the original architect, and I have been unable to find any other references to Cornelius in connection with this theater, but as this remodeling took place a year before the announcement of the proposed theater designed by Walker and Eisen, I think it likely that their project was for a different theater, intended for the same block of MacDonald Street, that remained unbuilt. Given the fact that Cornelius designed so many theaters for T&D, it does seem most likely that he was the original architect of the United Artists.

Also, I noticed that in his comment on the Fox Theater (formerly the Costa) in Richmond, jwr gives the address for the United Artists as 823 MacDonald.

Georob on April 12, 2005 at 1:45 am

A parking garage for the Kaiser Medical Center sits on the site today. And yes, Woolworths did indeed leave the upper part intact, as I drove past the site when it was 50% demolished(around ‘86 or '87) and the back was exposed. You could see the old balcony and the murals on the walls, followed further down by a straight ceiling line and the back wall of Woolworth’s lunch counter below that…quite a sight.

I then drove by the front, and could see the old ornamentation peeking out from underneath the plain facade that Woolworths had placed on it in the early 60’s

Unfortunately, this stretch of Macdonald Avenue had(and still has) a justly deserved reputation as a high crime area, so I can’t believe that this building could have ever been commercially rehabilitated
as a theatre or performing arts venue. I DO think though that Kaiser Hospital or even the City of Richmond could have preserved the remaining interior similar to the Rivoli/Smart&Final/Longs Drugs
building in Berkeley, if not for commercial purposes, perhaps as a museum, library, or lobby. We’ll never know.

GaryParks on February 23, 2005 at 4:44 pm

If the theatre here discussed is the ORIGINAL Fox, not the Fox which was formerly the Costa, than the original architect was A.W. Cornelius. This theatre, beginning its life as the T&D, was one of several Cornelius-designed houses which had very similar Italianate facades. Others include the California in Berkeley (operating but remodeled several times), the California in Pittsburg (still largely intact, closed, but apparently headed for revival), and the T&D/Fox California in Salinas (remodeled several times but with most of Cornelius' original facade intact behind the present art deco one, usually closed but occasionally used for live theatre).

GaryParks on February 23, 2005 at 4:38 pm

I do recall a 1980s article in the San Jose Mercury News which was reporting on a planned revival for downtown Richmond which mentioned discussions being held about bringing back the UA Theatre. Perhaps the Woolworths had only remodeled the bottom portion of the building, leaving the upper part intact, and so its revival as a theatre was then an option. Regardless, the building was gone by the time I first visited Richmond (hunting for theatres) in the early 1990s. The area where the T&D/Fox/UA had stood was levelled and replaced by new development. Apparently historic preservation was not seen as the method for “reviving” that part of downtown.