The Magnolia Theater. Gone Forever, but never forgotten.
Photo Courtesy Bob Meza
The MAGNOLIA theater, originally located on Magnolia Blvd. and N.
Evergreen Street in Burbank. The Magnolia was a marvelously bland movie
house. Housing approximately 737 seats and a huge 40 foot screen, the
Magnolia was an anachronism in the area.
The Magnolia was meticulously clean. Not
once would one experience the sticky floors or unique bathroom aromas
that became common at the Cornell. Even the air conditioning at the
theater kept the temperature and humidity fresh and comfortable.
The owner of the Magnolia, Al Minor was the preeminent Bijou
entrepreneur in Burbank having opened the Loma Theater and the Major
Theater in the 1920's. Mr. Minor was passionate about his theaters, and
the Magnolia was his crowning achievement in Burbank.
The theater was situated in what could be
called a residential area. Few businesses surrounded the theater, and
further west on Magnolia was a series of offices and production
companies. The location of the Magnolia was not a hindrance to its
success however. During the 50's and 60's the Magnolia always managed to
have a packed house. Due to the expert booking that took place there,
Audiences could see any of Hollywood's best action and dramas. While the
Cornell Theater started to mutate into an exploitation cinema in the
late 60's, the Magnolia continued to bring in prime first run features
such as "Rio Lobo", "Klute", "Deliverance" and "Rollerball".
Always running a double feature, the
Magnolia's price of $4.00 for adults and $2.50 for children under 12 was
not too extravagant. Add to that, that the Magnolia was the only theater
that allowed smoking in the auditorium (though only in the back rows,
those seats equipped with little ashtrays, a forerunner of the cup
holders we have now). And the addition of reclining seats for those who
smoked must have been another advantage to taking up the habit.
On those days (or nights) that the
Magnolia was busy, the scent of stale smoke and buttered popcorn brought
with it a feeling of home in the 70's. The Magnolia was a good theater,
but one with such an plain design on it's exterior that it remains my
least favorite theater. While comfortable and spacious, there was an
atmosphere there, and intangible quality that always told me I would
never be old enough to fully appreciate this grand old movie house.
The Magnolia closed its doors in shortly
after the Cornell Theater passed away. The building was soon purchased
(it was rumored) by Barbra Streisand who turned the building into a
state of the art recording facility. The Studio is now independent as
the 'Babs' has retired (again). But driving by, I still get an urge to
step out in front of that building if only to catch a faint memory of
what had once been a grand palace of darkness and flickering light.