Endangered Site of the Week
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 1:15AM
LasVegasLynn in Charles S. Lee, Endangered Site of the Week, Frank Sinatra, Huntridge Theater, Irene Dunn, Las Vegas , Lloyd Katz, Loretta Young, Suddenly, historical preservation

Each week a brief history on an endangered, historic site.


The Huntridge Theater 


Designed by renownrd theater architect, S. Charles Lee, the Huntridge Theater was built between 1942 and 1944.  It opened on October 10, 1944.  It's Streamline Moderne style and neon pylon sign were eye-catching in the small town of Las Vegas where the majority of buildings were only two-stories. 

Owned in part by Classic Film Era Film Stars Irene Dunn and Loretta Young, the Huntridge was built to accommodate the employees of the various factories  who worked eight hour shifts around the clock.

Next door was the Huntridge Station Post Office and the neighborhood that was built behind the theater became known as  Huntridge.  After the War, Lloyd Katz and his wife Edythe, were hired to manage and run the theater.  Katz had been a movie promoter in Los Angeles and brought with him his Rolodex filled with names of celebrities.  When "Suddenly" premiered, Frank Sinatra (the film's star) sold tickets from the enclosed box office and was photographed with swooning women clamoring to buy tickets.

As the neighborhood behind the theater began to grow, the theater became known for playing family oriented films.  Many students from Las Vegas High School, including former Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt and KLAS General Manager Bob Stoldal, worked as ushers there when they were teenagers.  Saturday matinees, Disney animated features and serials such as Superman all played at the Huntridge. When I was a kid, I think a movie there cost $.25 and my folks knew I would be there all afternoon!

While St. Anne's Church was being built at Maryland Parkway and Oakey Blvd, the Huntridge hosted the weekly Sunday Mass for parishioners.

Unlike other theater owners in town, the Katz's were opposed to segregation of any kind and because of that, they did not enforce any sort of seating policy where African-Americans had to sit in specially designated sections.

But as the town grew, the neighborhood changed and multi-plexes became the rage.   The Huntridge Theater began to look more than a tad long in the tooth. It closed for a time in 1977 and reopened as Revival House for classic films in the early 1980s.   It's large, roomy auditorium was cut in half to accomodate two screens.  Finally, after years as a second and third run theater, the Huntridge was transformed into the Huntridge Theater for the Performing Arts.  It was a very successful concert and theater venue during this incarnation.

In 1993, it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. 

A roof collapse in 1995 made it necessary to rebuild much of the interior.  The roof collapsed prior to a performance by the Circle Jerks.  When the band showed up and heard the news, they set up an impromptu performance for the 30 to 40 fans who were milling in the parking lot.  After the roof collapsed, money was obtained from grants and renovations were made including a catwalk, fly loft, loading dock area, green room and enlarged stage--and the upgrades and improvements turned what was once a movie house into a full-production theatre.

The Huntridge stage hosted diverse events from children's theatre, Mexican comedy and dance concerts, to choir recitals and church services. The Theatre also functioned in its original role as a movie theatre, holding screenings for events such as the Las Vegas Parks & Recreation's Summer Saturday Matinee Series, SPIKE & MIKE'S Animation Festival.

It was home to the first year of the CINEVEGAS Film Festival.  But the Huntridge Performing Arts Theatre was mainly known as Las Vegas's premiere all-ages Alternative music venue.

However, it was not to last. In 2004, the curtain came down on the successful venue.  The theater was sold to a local businessman (who owns the mattress store next door).  He talked of reviving the theater and applied for grants to restore the theater to its former grandeur.  From 1993 to 2001, more than a million dollars in grants were awarded to the owners of the Huntridge (both the Friends of the Huntridge and the current owner)

However, since that time the Huntridge has lanquished in a limbo.  The owner refuses to spend any money to restore the building and he refuses to sell the building.  Due to covenants placed on the monies he received for his proposed restoration, the building cannot be altered or torn down until 2018.

Preservationists and historians around the Valley are all concerned about the fate of this grand theater.  The Friends of Classic Las Vegas, the Atomic Age Alliance, Preserve Nevada, Preservation Association of Clark County and the Historic Preservation Committee are all keeping an eye on this historic treasure.


Thanks to Allen Sandquist (RoadsidePictures) for allowing us to use this photo. 

Update on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 12:23AM by Registered CommenterLasVegasLynn

I was driving west on Charleston Blvd on Monday and discovered that the Mattress Store that was next door the venerable Huntridge Theater is out of business.  No, signage, no more Going Out of Business signs in the parking lot, no signs of a business being in that corner at all.

While I won't miss Cima Mattress the family that owns the building also owns the Huntridge Theater.  With both buildings now empty, I would hate to think that the both structures might fall victim to the very popular way of dealing with buildings someone no longer wants, a fire of suspicious nature. 

The building that used to house Cima Mattress was once the Huntridge Station Post Office and had wonderful murals inside.  My mother and I used to go there to mail letters and bills when we lived downtown in the early 1960s.

We need to keep an eye on this.  The owner does not seem interested in selling either the former Cima building or the Huntridge.

Anyone heard what his plans might be? 

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