The Lorenzo

In San Lorenzo where I live, there is an old theater named “The Lorenzo Theater” once one of the finest art deco styled theaters of the San Francisco bay area as well as of California. United Artists purchased the land then erected the theater shortly after. The theater was built in 1947 and was in operation until 1982. Since I was little I remember seeing the building and always wishing I could have seen it in its younger years. My grand parents often told me of stories of times they went on dates there. My grandmother lived in San Lorenzo during her teens and went to the theater often. My great grand father was good friends with the original manager Sol Bolnik so she went to the movies often. The theater is full of styles from the 1940’s as seen in the pictures below. My dream since I was little was to buy the building and restore it to its former glory. It would be a place to go relive the past and see old movies of the bygone era. There is a restaurant attached to the building that was Bertolas Italian food. I even had plans for that section of the building too. I wanted to turn it into a Candy store and soda shop. The theater has a lot of history and it NEEDS to be SAVED!!

Where were you April 5, 1947? My self, I may have been alive in my past life, taking advantage of all that 1947 had to offer. But during that time my dad wasn’t even alive. In 1947 in a little town called San Lorenzo a momentous event was taking place, as the Lorenzo Theater opened for business. The 700-seat, $465,000 theater brought the Villagers out in black ties and formal attire. There was a party at the Homes Association Community Center before and after the film “Dark Mirror”, starring Olivia de Haviland. The Lorenzo Theater was the first in Northern California with fluorescent painted murals and black lights. This was twenty years before the Fillmore in San Francisco made this popular and you probably won’t find them anywhere else today.

United Artists purchased the land from the Bohannon organization to erect the theatre. Sol Bolnik was the manager for four years until he went to manage the Ritz Theatre in Hayward. Ned Culver and son Gary took over for ten years. The family and community oriented theatre held Saturday morning ten cents kiddie matinees, and gave free passes to Wednesday movies during the summer for school safety patrols and held Halloween costume parties in the 1950’s During the 1960’s, the theatre went through a rough period. There were sixteen managers in a year and a half. The Culvers returned in 1973 to manage again. But with neighboring cinemas and the economy, there was a decline in attendance.

In 1978 the Parmar brothers leased the building from United Artists to show foreign films. When the five-year lease expired, the theatre closed! United Artists sold it to realtor Angelo Campana after a group of investors backed a young college student to develop the idle theatre into a dance hall, but because an agreement couldn’t be made for parking, the proposal had been.

In 1991 Mr. Campana died and his estate tried to find buyers. Potential buyers wanted to make a center for teen, a show room for classic cars, a daycare center and a place to produce and sell beer. But because parking was limited and agreements with the Bohannon organization to rent parking spaces could not be made, no deals were ever developed.

Vacant since 1982, the theatre fell into disrepair. It’s frequent visitors were pigeons, rats and transients, which left a massive mess. Again, the Parmar brothers returned to purchase the historic art deco facade theatre in 1993. They wanted to convert it into an international food bazaar. But, because they couldn’t provide twenty parking spaces to get approval from Alameda County planners, they decided to put up a for sale sign in 1996.

In 1998 Larry Leal, former resident and graduate of Arroyo High School, founded the Lorenzo Theater Association after taking pictures of the interior, contacting many people and forming a committee. They are forming a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of the Lorenzo Theatre, and to provide to San Lorenzo and all surrounding communities a safe and family oriented facility for cinematic entertainment and pursuit of the arts.

On February 3, 1999 more than 100 residents attended a meeting to discuss ways to raise funds to purchase the Lorenzo. They heard the goals of the Lorenzo Theater Association and discussed the importance of buying and restoring the theatre.

Unlike the Village, the theatre had remained a historical structure. It can become a beacon to a new and revitalized San Lorenzo Village Square with community involvement.

It KILLS me to just see it sitting there. If I hit the millions in the Lotto it will be the first thing to purchase. It literally tears me up inside to see a part of history slowly dying over money. It is so sad. The theater may be in an architectural coma at the moment but I feel it alive in me every time I walk by it or drive by it. Please if you have a local house, building, theater, park, etc that has historical value PLEASE look into donating what you can to help save it! If you would like to donate to help save this wonderful theater please go to www.savethelorenzo.org

All historical information was provided by:

If you have not seen the movie called “The Majestic” staring Jim Carrey, it is a MUST see. It reminds me of the Lorenzo. It is in my top 5 favorite movies ever!

Thanks for reading,

Skrach

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] is and forever will be the heart and soul of this building. I wish a company would take over the Lorenzo Theater in my town.. I am scared that it might be too late to save […]

  2. […] Lorenzo has been SAVED! […]

  3. i live just down the way from the Lorenzo, near target and Kennedy park. It KILLS me to see this place everyday and it’s just sitting there. I still see the beauty in it. I wish they would just fix it up and it can be a place for vintage shows and dress ups and all kinds of vintage vaudeville that people would fall in love with all over again! There’s so much they can do and so much history there.


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