An Exciting Night at the Old Meralta

Excerpts from Motion Picture Herald, July 22, 1939:

“Here is an example of a striking transformation in the old Meralta theatre in Los Angeles, which incidentally was completed in seventeen days.”

night1_pe  “The “Front of the Meralta before remodeling. and the auditorium shortly after the work  had started.”



“Above and below, the front and auditorium of the Meralta after modernization.”


Ride a Crooked Mile

His Exciting Night


Since 1996, legendary theatre historian,  Cezar Del Valle has been conducting a popular series of  theatre talks and walks. Currently accepting bookings for 2017:  historical societies, libraries , senior centers, etc.

He has also joined with Local Expeditions to present a series of walking tours.

Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.

Currently editing and updating the third edition of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, Volume I.





Human Billboard Lights Up Hollywood Boulevard

Exhibitors Herald-World, July 6, 1929:


“Probably the first human billboard ever constructed for exploitation of a motion picture was erected to publicize the opening of the M G M’s ‘Hollywood Revue of 1929’ at Grauman’s Chinese theatre.

“This sign, the letters of which were formed by living girls in scanty costumes, was erected on the busiest boulevard of Los Angeles and for five blocks in either direction the streets were roped off to traffic.

“The sign measured 40 feet in length and 35 feet high, was set on a silhouette of Hollywood’s skyline, base with an effigy of Grauman’s Chinese theatre placed in the center.  The letters in the sign spelled Hollywood Revue and were of the raised type covered with silver cloth with the girls in the channels. The whole sign was lighted with colored lights and made a striking appearance.

Bessie Love acted as master of ceremonies and pulled the cord which unveiled the display. Thousands of people who had gathered to see the display gave a thundering applause which was recorded by the newsreel photographers.”

The Hollywood Review of 1929

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, a three-volume history of borough theatres. The first two chosen 2010 OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE YEAR by the Theatre Historical Society. Final volume published in September 2014.
He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2015: historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc

Now selling “vintage” on Etsy

Musical Prologues at the Kinema, Los Angeles

Excerpts from Exhibitors Trade Review, March 4, 1922:

“The Kinema Theatre, one of the Gore Bros., Sol Lesser, and Adolph Ramish West Coast Theatres, Inc., chain, is giving its patrons an entirely novel form of stage presentation. Heretofore it has been the custom to create atmospheric prologues to mesh with the feature films. The new stage offerings at the Kinema are linked with music.

"The Beethoven Sonata"

“The Beethoven Sonata”

“Famous paintings of musical history have been selected as the backgrounds. A series of art slides first are shown, giving a brief history of the painting for that week. The composer after whom the painting was created is then shown via slide route and the Kinema Symphonic Orchestra then gives a brief selection from that composer’s work.

“A slide is then shown of the famous painting. Immediately afterward the curtains part, showing the exact replica of the canvass in the flesh.

"The Discovery of Handel"

“The Discovery of Handel”

“The first of the series was patterned after the famous Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven. The second was taken from the canvass ‘The Discovery of Handel.’

“In both instances the set settings were exactly as in the canvass and the artist made up to impersonate the figures of the painting”



Meralta Theatre, 2035 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90033


 Exhibitor’s Trade Review,  April 29, 1922:
“K.C. Manny, manager of the Meralta Theatre, a Los Angeles suburban house, put Goldwyn’s Watch Your Step over by means of two unique exploitation stunts at very little costs.

“Obtaining an old steam automobile with a high-speed record, he place it in the lobby. Running a wire from an ordinary electric socket to a buzzer placed under the hood of the machine, he obtained the suggestion , which was further heightened by a mounted six-sheet hung directly over the automobile, and a row of stills stretched from stern to stern of the ‘old boat.’

“Taking advantage of the possibilities of the title, Mr. Manny had a stencil  made, reading

‘Watch Your Step’

and lettered the sidewalks within a radius of half a dozen blocks of the theatre, in addition to stencilling the title on the automobile. Three-sheets, one-sheets and color enlargements, obtained from the exchange, added color to the lobby display.

“A ten-dollar bill more than met the cost of both stunts.”

Meralta Theatre

Cullen Landis

Watch Your Step

Above photograph is from Exhibitor’s Trade Review, May 27, 1922

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the year by the Theatre Historical Society.

He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014-15, historical societies, libraries, senior centers, etc.




Ask and Give Credit

Theatre Talks is currently searching for a solution to an ongoing problem.

Theatre Talks, Blogspot, March 25, 2011:

“It is annoying to discover one of your photos posted without credit on someone else’s page.
So it was recently on Facebook when I discovered—no name, no credit will be given —had downloaded a photo of my Flatbush walk for the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment. The image was by Betty who documents my theatre tours.  Another of her Flickr photos had also been used—once again no credit.”

Photo of the Columbia Theatre, California State  University Long Beach, giving credit  to source.


The Brooklyn Theatre Index Facebook page, March 30, 2013:

“Once again I have surfed the net and found my theatre photos posted on some other site without credit. The latest guilty party is Tinseltoes at Cinema Treasures who has uploaded quite a few of my photos.

These individuals seem to believe that because an image is on the internet it is free for taking. This is especially true if the photo is of a certain date. They don’t give credit to source or collection.

After contacting one person about his use of my theatre photos on his blog, he reluctantly gave me credit and in a snippy email told me about the date of the image.

If it were not for certain sources various photos would not be available to view. An organization/collector has acquired and preserved an historic photo that otherwise might be lost. It is part of their collection and deserves credit.

My collection consists of over 1,000 theatre prints and photos dating to the 18th Century. I am given careful thought to what I will post in the future. Almost certainly cancelling Flickr.”

For a history of  the Columbia Theatre visit Bill Counter’s excellent [more] Los Angeles Movie Palaces and notice how he gives proper credit to sources.

Cezar Del Valle is available for theatre walks and talks in 2013.

He is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the year by the Theatre Historical Society.

Woodley Theatre, 838 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90003

From Motography, July 14, 1917:



“The accompanying photographs of the Woodley Theatre, Los Angeles, is illustrative of what can be done to draw crowds and get business by cultivating the fine lobby hobby.

Edward Holland, manager of the Woodley, is wide awake to the drawing power of the unusual, and realizes the value of good advertising. In regard to the ‘Teddy at the Throttle’ display he says;

‘ This engine pulled in so many people that it had to sand its tracks to keep from slipping. And the display itself was very simple. I took the interior of a real engine and surrounded it with a cab made of compo board. Behind this I had a boiler which kept twenty pounds of steam pressure all day. The steam which was allowed to leak through the injector valve created a very realistic effect. In the fire box there was a piece of red silk blown by an electric fan.

‘The display for ‘A Royal Rogue,’ while simple proved very effective. People like change. They like to see something new and I believe in giving them what they want.'”

rogue (Medium)


For more on the Woodley (later Mission) theatre

Cezar Del Valle is available for theatre talks and walks in 2013.

He is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

Clune’s Broadway Theatre, 528 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90013 

Moving Picture World, December 23, 1911

Clunes Operating

Excerpts from a letter sent by Frank Chartrand, chief operator, Clune’s Broadway Theatre:

“Have seen several pictures of operating rooms but none equal to our own. It is up to date in every respect. Every convenience possible is employed, even to toilet and wash room.

“We have two Hallberg motor-generator sets supplying current from 110 volt D. C. circuit, three Motiograph machines, two being in use, alternating to avoid  any wait between pictures. We also have dissolver, cyclopticon for rain, snow, fire and cloud effects, color wheel and spotlight.

“Picture is 25 x 22, projected 110 feet.  Can pull 30 to 50 amperes, but only use 32 to 35 on account of having a very bright screen. The switchboard shown in one of the pictures, was built by Mr. Loper, our manager, who is an  electrician  of note.

“It is the best of its kind I have seen for some time. We can throw over from generator to rheostat or vice versa, without any stop. We also have a motor re-wind and many other conveniences.

“Size of room is 18 x 22 feet  by 22 in height. House seats 990, has nine-piece orchestra. Show runs 11 A.M. to 11:30 P.M.”

Moving Picture World replies (excerpt):

“It certainly is a pleasure to look at that room. It is, of course, larger than is really necessary but that is a mighty good fault and one not often found. Lack of space obliged me to trim top and bottom of photo so realization of the height (22 ft.) is lost.”

“I must correct you as to size of picture. If it is 25 feet wide it would be 18 3/4 high. Height is approximately 3/4 of width, you know.”

For more on Clune’s


Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.