Journey Back 100 Years For a Local Movie Night Like No Other: The Art Theatre

By Monique Garcia


Watching the latest blockbuster in a movie theatre was always the highlight of my childhood. It was a rare and sacred occasion that was reserved for special celebrations like birthdays or straight A’s. To this day, the fond memories I have of these outings make me believe that going to the movies is a vital human experience. 


Like me, you might have passed the beautiful theatre on 4th Street for years without ever having thought to buy a ticket. From the second you walk through the door, the friendly staff and reasonable snack prices tell you that your experience will not be similar to moviegoing in a big chain theater. 


Watching Everything Everywhere All At Once at The Art Theatre was an entirely new but somehow familiar experience. It wasn’t until I was sat down, enjoying a baby bottle of prosecco and munching on some M&Ms, that I realized this was what I always expected going to the movies could be. Immediately, it was like I had a dream I never realized I had… come true. By the time that dramatic moment arrived, when the lights dim and the audience magically quiets down, I was hooked. 


“[The Art] plays an important role in the community as a beautiful piece of history and as the last remaining single-house movie theatre in Long Beach,” stated owner Jan van Dijs. “People go there to experience something new and something different and memorable.”


The Art Theatre, also known as The Art, initially opened in 1925 as a silent movie house complete with an orchestra pit and organ pipe. In its prime, The Art competed for customers with dozens of other independent theatres in Long Beach. 


That was until the devastating 1933 Long Beach earthquake. According to the California Department of Conservation, the 6.4 magnitude quake only lasted about 10 seconds but caused over $50 million in damages. After this, most independent theatres in Long Beach closed down due to structural damage and were never reopened. The 1933 Long Beach earthquake is a big reason that today, against all odds, The Art remains.


Over the years, The Art experienced many renovations as a result of ownership changes and attempts to keep up with then-current styles. This meant by the 2000s, The Art Theatre had a very Frankenstein-esque appearance. 


In 2008, a group of local investors bought the theatre and completed a full rehabilitation using the 1933 blueprints. The changes included a redesigned concessions stand, a replica of the 1934 marquee, and the trademark streamlined building details. By 2009, The Art was completely restored as an Art Deco gem with its 1930’s glamour.


Small theatres, like The Art, are emblems of a bygone era of American history. They specialize in a different type of immersive cinema experience than the bigger theatres. An experience that not only immerses you into a film, but a time in history as well. What it lacks in reclining chairs and 3D movie options, it makes up for in spades with history and ambiance. The Art’s nostalgic qualities automatically make watching any movie an unforgettable memory.


“Multiplex theatres don’t have the charm that we do,” stated manager Micheal Roberts. ”You could actually get to know the people that work here and it’s definitely more connected with the people around you.”


As the last single-screen theatre in Long Beach, The Art prioritizes its relationship with the community. The theatre frequently hosts film festivals and events dedicated to showcasing films of historical, cultural, and artistic significance. Locals, in particular, can benefit the most from its membership program options. Depending on what membership you choose, your perks range from free popcorn to having your name featured on the screen scroll before a movie. 


This is the perfect location for a date night or an outing with friends! Support independent and local art by visiting this historic gem. You can check out https://arttheatrelongbeach.org/ to purchase tickets or a membership. Watching any film at The Art makes for a special cinema experience that you definitely will not forget.


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