AKA: Merced Theater #2, Merced, CA; Strand Theatre, Merced, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Reid Brothers, Architects (firm); James William Reid (architect); Merritt Jonathan Reid (architect)

Dates: constructed 1930-1931

2 stories

301 West Main Street
Merced, CA 95340-4819

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The Reid Brothers of San Francisco, CA, designed this 1,645-seat theatre for the Golden State Theatre and Realty Company chain, the main exhibitor of films in central California. Supposedly, the building cost $380,000 to erect, but figures released by theatre owners were notoriously inflated. On the exterior, the Merced had a Spanish Colonial Revival look popular with movie palaces of the 1920s. Its tower served as a beacon, drawing motorists toward the theatre; the tower focused attention on the Merced's entryway, which was further accentuated by its protruding marquee. Originally, it was designed as an "atmospheric" movie palace, the auditorium's side walls affecting, in concentrated form, the exterior facades of a rural Spanish street; ownership changed its name to the Strand Theatre, 05/18/1935; United Artists purchased the venue in the 1970s and operated it as a four-plex by the mid-1980s; it was closed in the spring of 2002; the City of Merced bought the building for $700,000 (half of the asking price) and planned to use it as a community performing arts facility; it was to open c. 2005.

Movie theatres reliably drew great numbers of customers during the 1920s and 1930s, and often generated significant profits. To add to the investment potential of a property, owners frequently built the theatre as part of a larger, more diverse, mixed-use building. Often, a theatre would anchor a two-story commercial block that housed retail storefronts on its first floor and apartments or offices on the second. The Merced had five street-level retail openings and 10 offices above.

The theatre, which opened in Halloween night 1931, was renovated and "modernized" in 1978 when the orchestra pit was torn out, and the auditorium was gutted and divided into multi-plex.

PCAD id: 3363