10 Theater Bargains : Low-Priced Movie Houses Bring Down the High Cost of a Night Out

<i> Krampner is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. </i>

If inflation is under control, as some people claim, you wouldn’t know it by going to the movies. Within the past few months, prices in some theaters have reached $6.50, and further increases are being considered. When you throw in related expenses such as parking, food and baby-sitters, the cost of a simple evening at the movies begins to resemble the price of a view lot in Bel-Air.

This is one reason, of course, why God invented VCRs and videocassettes. Still, every now and then, you feel the urge to get out, grab some popcorn and watch a few coming attractions along with the flicks. The way to do this without busting your own domestic budget is to attend one of Southern California’s many low-admission theaters.

Some of these theaters are new, while others were built during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Some show mainstream films; others concentrate on foreign or youth films. What they all have in common is low prices; none of those listed below charge more than $3.50. And what makes low-admission theaters even more of a savings is that many of them show double features.

Many low-admission theaters are second-run theaters or, to use the trade term, sub-run. This means they get films two weeks to three months after the more expensive theaters, depending on how well the films do in first run.


How can these theaters charge such low prices?

As sub-run theaters they pay a lower percentage of their box-office rentals to distributors. Also, many are family-run enterprises, which keeps the overhead down.

“We’re a mom-and-pop operation,” says Chuck Wheeler, who manages Carpinteria’s Plaza Theater along with his wife, Patricia. “I’m the projectionist and my wife runs the candy counter. The only other people working here are the contract cleaners.”

So if you want to go to a movie but don’t want to splurge the rent money to gratify your craving, here’s a sampling of low-admission theaters that give you the chance to eat your popcorn (sometimes with real butter) and have it too.


Plaza Theatre, 4916 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria, (805) 684-4014. Tickets are $3; $2 on Thursdays. The Spanish-style theater was built in 1919 and is one of the oldest buildings in Carpinteria. It has a stage where, local legend has it, actors performed Shakespearean plays and Judy Garland appeared as part of the Gumm Sisters vaudeville act.

Peppertree 3 Cinemas, 10155 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 993-0211. Tickets $1 Monday through Thursday, $1.50 on weekends and holidays. Note: A $1.50 membership card must be purchased at the box office. Shows double features on each of its three screens.

Granada Theatre, 303 N. Euclid Ave., Ontario, (714) 983-4710. Tickets $2. Shows double features, offers real butter on the popcorn. The Granada is an old-style movie palace, built in 1927 as part of the old Fox West Coast chain. Theater owners plan to have an organ re-installed in the theater and alternate contemporary films with revivals.

Eagle Theatre, 4884 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock. Call (213) 256-3996 for movie titles and times, (213) 256-8181 for additional information. Tickets $2; on Thursdays, 75 cents. Shows double features.

Academy Theatre, 1003 E. Colorado Blvd.,2 blocks east of Lake Avenue, Pasadena, (818) 795-0694. Tickets are $2 for all seats Thursday through Tuesday, $1 on Wednesdays. Parking in the lot behind the theater on Catalina Street is $1, but parking is free Sundays and Mondays. Shows some double features, some single movies on its six screens.

Four Star Theatre, 5112 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire, (213) 936-3533. Tickets $3; $2 for senior citizens and children. There’s free parking at the Southwest Bank half a block west of the theater, and limited free parking behind the theater.

Family Four Cinema, 17161 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 963-1307. Ticket prices are $3.50; $2 for children 11 and under. Four separate screens, each showing a single film. Unlike most low-admission theaters, the Family Four is a first-run house.

Canyon Theatre, Canyon Shopping Center, Bonita Avenue and San Dimas Canyon Road, San Dimas, (714) 599-2345. Admission is $2. Shows double features and occasionally shows films at the same time they are screened in first-run theaters.


Vogue Theatre, 226 3rd Ave., Chula Vista, (619) 425-1436. Admission is $1.49. Shows double features on a giant screen.

Vista Theatre, 4473 Sunset Drive, 3 blocks east of Vermont Avenue, East Hollywood, (213) 660-6639. General admission $3; seniors 65 and over and children 11 and under pay $2. Shows double features.