309 E. Grand Avenue,
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Grand Theater Project (Official)
Previously operated by: Pussycat Theatres
Architects: Clifford A. Balch
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: Ritz Theater, Pussycat Theater, Bijou Theater, Picture Palace, Big Screen
News About This Theater
The Ritz Theater opened on September 9, 1937 with Robert Taylor in “Broadway Melody of 1938”. It was operated by Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson. It is 8,400 square feet. It showed three different double-features a night. Wednesday nights were 10 cents and had a keno game at intermission. It was highly successful until 1951 when a fire gutted the interior. It reopened in 1954, but because of television, it did not do as well.
It managed to stay open but around 1970 it became an X-rated movie house called the Pussycat Theater. The theater manager was arrested when a movie was thought to be “obscene”. The theater was reopened with family films on December 8, 1976 and renamed the Bijou Theater, but the venture failed. The theater was remodeled again in 1981 and featured Spanish language films. In 1993, the theater was renamed once more as the Big Screen Theater and showed art films, but that did not last long. In 2003 the theater was once more called by it’s original name the Ritz Theater, but the double bill only lasted nine days and the theater closed.
New owners Chuck and Leona Borough purchased the theater later in the summer, but as of yet, have not decided what to do with the building.
The theater is relatively intact. It needs to be restored to it’s 1954 appearance. The look of 1938 seems to be gone forever. It would make a marvelous venue for classic films because of Escondido’s active retirement age population. Grand Avenue is beautiful tree-lined street that thrives on it’s antique shops and coffee houses. There are two live theater venues within blocks of this theater. There also is a Friday night classic automobile “cruise-in” every Friday night that is well attended.
Owned by the New Vintage Church since March 2019, by November 2019 a major renovation was under way to convert it back into a cinema and multi-use performing arts complex. It will reopen as the Grand Theatre.
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