Opened circa 1940 and named for land developer and Temple City founder Walter P. Temple, this proud single-screen theater once stood on the corner of Rosemead and Las Tunas Blvds. Seating 750, it was designed by S. Charles Lee, a prolific Southern California architect with more than 70 movie houses to his credit, almost all of them now closed or razed.
Having grown up in Temple City, I personally have many fond memories of the movie house. In fact, ask any “old-timer” about the place and they’ll happily recall its unique wagon-wheel fence, creaky balcony and 12-cent Saturday matinees featuring plenty of cartoons for restless kidlet audiences throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
The Theater’s Final Curtain
Sadly, however, by the late 1970s the Temple had become better known for its sticky floors, sagging seats and second-rate movie experiences. Purchased by the Edwards Cinema chain, the Streamline Moderne building was demolished in 1982 and replaced with a contemporary four-screen cineplex — quite an innovation at the time for the sleepy little San Gabriel Valley hamlet.
But the relentless decades marched on, and within 25 years the four-theater bigbox had itself become obsolete, thanks mainly to even bigger movie megaplexes in nearby Pasadena, Alhambra and Arcadia, along with the advent of Netflix and Internet videos. Leveled in 2006, its former site now remains a vacant dirt lot awaiting yet another undetermined redevelopment project. (A number of locals continue to lobby for a new theater.)
With or without a theater to call its own, my childhood hometown nevertheless celebrates 50 years of incorporation May 30. For additional historic Temple City photos, visit its Chamber of Commerce website.