Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Who could forget the fabulous Crest or the Tower Theater? Fresno’s drive-ins were the most popular with teens, among them the Moon-Glow and the Sunset. The world’s largest outdoor screen was housed at the Sunnyside Drive-in. Did you hide in the trunk to save 50 cents or possibly steam up the car’s windows? Share your old Fresno theater memories here.
Christopher Stone
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Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by Christopher Stone » Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:00 pm

I loved the movies and I spent a lot of my time, during childhood, attending Fresno's indoor movie theaters. My earliest Fresno movie memory was the White Theater, seeing a triple feature for nine cents, usually, but not always, cheesy horror and science fiction, "This Island Earth" is comes to mind. Later memories are of the Warners Theatre, later Warners Cinerama, and today, Warnor. The Tower Theater, in the district of the same name, is where I saw "Psycho" on my twelfth birthday.

Back downtown, there was the Crest, a church the last time I was in Fresno. The Sequoia Theater, later Towne Cinema, is long gone. The Wilson Theatre is a church, and I believe the old Hardys Theatre was a Spanish-language cinema when last I went into town. As a teen, I remember attending the Fine Arts on Maple. I think there was an Azteca Theatre in Fresno then, too. Does anyone remember when the Fresno theatres sponsored a yearly Oscar contest? Two years in a row, I won an unlimited three-month pass for two to all of the theaters in Fresno.


Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by impresario » Fri Jun 04, 2010 1:16 pm

Sometimes Fresno loses things, sometimes they just forget about them. The Mexico Theater is still alive downtown, but more for selling tickets than events. It started as the Liberty Theater, then the Hardy Boys and continues as the Mexico owned by the Valdivia family. The Azteca Theater, too, still exists. It is the last theater in Chinatown, when I believe there used to be five theatrical and movie theaters. Hopefully it will be remembered and treasured in the future!
Azteca Theater
fresno movie theater ad.jpg
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Lost Fresno
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Posted by EW1951

Post by Lost Fresno » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:14 am

White Theater was around for ages (next to Hotel Fresno). It was a famous spot for performers on the vaudeville circuit from around 1910-1930. I saw a three-bill monster movie bash with my dad there around 1958. They showed the original Frankenstein & Warewolf. Their price was 10cents then, at the time when it was 25cents at Crest Theater.

* Hardys Theater. Was once called the Liberty Theater and that name is still engraved in the stone near the top (if the theater is still there). I haven't been in Fresno since 1997.

* Sequoia Theater. Was a good place, close to the Mall. I remember that me and my cousin went there on the Saturday after JFK got shot, because the all the TV news coverage was too real. Saw Beatles Hard Day's Night there.

* Wilson Theater: Saw plenty of Beach Party and early 60s Elvis there. Also, a live Halloween Show where the stage had performers dressed like monsters.

* Warner's Theater: One of the most elaborate of the old-theaters. Saw Mad Mad World there and then it became a Cinerama theater around 1964. On late 1950s winter- weekends we'd exit around 5-6pm and Fulton Street was starting to fill up with older teens cruising the Main.

* Tower Theater: Saw 'The Shaggy Dog' there. It was fun to play and jump on the colored tiles next to the ticket-sales box.

* Moon-Glo Drive-In: Was popular in the 1950s and sold the world's worst pizza. haha.

* Starlite Drive In: Now Macys(?) at Fashion Show Mall's west side.

* Motor-Inn Drive In: Charged $1 per carload of people.

* Sunnyside Drive-In. Opened around 1964 or 65. Was a great, clean, new place.

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Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by DS30's » Fri Oct 22, 2010 4:19 pm

The theaters I went to the most were the Fox Wilson and the Fox Crest, as I began at the Wilson as an 'usherette' in 1949, then was 'promoted' to the candy bar, but still actually ushered people to their seats. Movies were shown continuously, and you could see two features for 25 cents, or stay and see both again. Later, I was also a cashier, and sat in the 'box office.' selling tickets. We could go to the theater and see any movies we wanted at any time.

I was working at the Wilson when the Crest opened, and I was one of the usherettes selected to work for the Grand opening. We were paid to 'rehearse,' for the opening, then we were shown the movie that was to be shown, because we weren't allowed to watch the movie while we were working. There were several 'movie stars' who were invited to attend, but the only one I remember was Nancy Davis, later Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Also attending were the big-wheels of 20th Century Fox, including at least two of the Skouras brothers.

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Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by jeremi08 » Sat Apr 30, 2011 1:22 am

i just remembered this White theater

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Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by bryanharley » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:54 pm

KFSR 90.7 held an event, "The Fresno Grand Opry," in May 2011 at the Liberty Theater (Hardy's). They asked us to do a video tour of the balcony area since it would be closed to guests. Here's our video if you're interested in seeing what this amazing theater looks like inside!

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Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by Steverino » Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:38 am

But why are they goint to close all these seats???

Big J
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Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by Big J » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:24 am

Awesome, Bryan. What a get to be allowed in like that. Have wondered for years what condition the place was in on the inside.


Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by Guest » Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:45 am

I remember Wilson theater, on Saturdays would show 3STOOGES movies, cartoons,news reels, etc, for 50 cents. Parents would drop off their kids at the curb and we would be there for 2 to 3 hrs. Popcorn was a dime, candy was 25 cents, IT was a blast!!!


Re: Fresno's Downtown Movie Palaces

Post by RoughRider1961 » Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:23 am

1956. I am 12 years old. My Mom gives me a dollar and tells me to go have fun. I get on the bus by John Burroughs School and ride it downtown. Ten cents each way. Matinee at Hardy's Theater - .25 cents. Will Flash Gordon get out of this week's jam? Gotta be there next week to find out. After the movie - Ice Cream Sundae at Grant's = .40 cents.

I still have change from my dollar. Cheap "babysitter" for the entire day, and it was safe for a kid to be out and about on his/her own without any worry about their safety. Days long gone!

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