Towne Cinema

2017 Fresno Street,
Fresno, CA 93721

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fox West Coast Theatres, Robert L. Lippert Theatres Inc., T & D Jr. Enterprises

Architects: Eugene Mathewson, Gale Santocono

Styles: Atmospheric

Previous Names: State Theatre, Fox State Theatre, Esquire Theatre, Sequoia Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Fox State Theatre exterior film display

Built on the site of the Barton Opera House, later renamed Hippodrome Theatre on Fresno Street in downtown Fresno, near the Fulton Mall.

The State Theatre was opened by T&D Theatres in March 1928, and it was taken over by Fox West Coast Theatres and renamed Fox State Theatre in September 1928. Taken over by Lippert Theatres in 1947, the facade was remodelled to the plans of architect Gale Santocono and it was renamed Esquire Theatre. From 1952 it was renamed Seqoia Theatre.

This was one of the favorite movie theaters from my childhood. I had always heard that it had been an opera house before its incarnation as a movie house. The book, “Vintage Fresno” confirms this. Largely, it, along with Fresno’s Hardys Theatre, showed MGM movies during the 1950’s and 1960’s. But it also screened things from Columbia, and other studios. I saw “Gigi” there, and “Bye, Bye, Birdie”.

The Sequoia Theatre was still operating as a movie theatre when I left Fresno in 1969, but had been renamed Towne Theatre in 1968. It went over to screening Adult movies. I’m guessing that it was closed and demolished in the late-1970’s or the early-1980’s.

As a young teen, the manager gave me a “job” of sorts. I placed posters for his movies into retail stores in exchange for movie admissions.

I would love to learn more about the last years of this theatre.

Contributed by Christopher Stone

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

danwhitehead1 on January 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

Does anyone remember a house called, I think, the Fine Arts? I don’t think it was a very attractive house and was told it had once been an army theatre. It may have even been a quonset hut; I just really can’t recall. I was sent there a couple times by Mr. Tate of Walnut Properties when I was installing the 35mm equipment at the Pussycat at 56 N. Van Ness Ave. back in 1983 (the Pussycat is now closed). The memory of the place that I think was called the Fine Arts is very, very dim. In fact, I can’t even remember if it was a porn house or not. Can someone help me out?

CSWalczak on January 3, 2010 at 11:29 am

It is listed here on CT as the International Theatre: /theaters/5117/

danwhitehead1 on January 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Thank you very much C Walczak. I was beginning to think I was going crazy.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 13, 2010 at 4:02 am

Interesting that Eugene Mathewson was the architect the 1928 State/Towne Theatre. Southwest Contractor & Manufacturer of July 11, 1914, reported that Mathewson was the architect of the major remodeling that year of the Fresno Theatre, the State’s predecessor.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 2, 2014 at 6:23 pm

A photo of the new facade of the Esquire Theatre, recently remodeled for Robert Lippert, can be seen on this page of Boxoffice, May 22, 1948.

authorchristopherstone on February 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm

In its day as the Sequoia, the theater was strictly first-run venue. The multi Oscar-winning musical, “Gigi,” had its first Fresno run there – as did “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “The Time Machine,” and “Viva, Las Vegas.” It had a large orchestra seating section, with three or four steps up to mezzanine seating.

authorchristopherstone on February 19, 2020 at 12:43 pm


In the mid-late 1960s, I regularly attended The Fine Arts Theatre. Rather than being a porno venue, the Fine Arts booked foreign-language films, most of which were much racier than American films of the era.

For example, I clearly remember seeing several Sophia Loren-Marcello Mastroianni comedies there. To my memory, the theater was still showing foreign films when I moved away in September 1969.

rivest266 on January 30, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Reopened as Sequoia on April 12th, 1952 and closed in 1967. It reopened on February 14th, 1968 as Towne as it is taken over by Trans-Beacon theatres.

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