The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre
The Merced Theatre opened on October 31st, 1931 with the world premier of Local Boy Makes Good staring Joe E. Brown. The building was constructed over the previous nine months at a cost of $380,000.00. For the next 47 years it would serve the Merced community in a wide variety of ways including concerts, graduations, dance performances, weddings and of course, movies. It was and still is treasured by the people of Merced County. The Tower is the most recognized landmark in Merced.
The Theatre was designed by the Reid Brothers , prestigious architects from San Francisco for the Golden State Theatre Corporation, and boasted 1,645 seats with the first air conditioning for any building in the County. The City of Merced had a population of only 7,066 at the time. We believe the Theatre is the last project completed by the Reid Brothers as one of them died 3 months after the opening. The Theatre building includes five retail spaces and ten second-floor apartments on the Main Street frontage. What made the Theatre so special was the Theatre's interior. Sitting in the Theatre was like being in a Spanish castle courtyard with blue skies and even a cloud machine.
In 2002 the City of Merced Redevelopment Agency purchased the Theatre Building. Since that time the Merced Theatre Foundation has leased the Theatre from the City and is responsible for day to day operations. Theatre two remained operational for several years and the Foundation held monthly movies and other events by arrangement.
After 10 years, The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre re-opened with a nearly sold out Gala performance. Performing that night was The Preservation Big Band and The Merced Symphony.
The Merced Theatre could originally seat 1,640 patrons. The population of the City of Merced in 1931 was only 7,000. Over 20% of the population of the city of Merced could fit inside the theatre!
Today's capacity of The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre is 1,185 patrons. The Population of Merced in 2012 was just over 80,000.
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When the theatre first opened, The Reid Brother's had designed the theatre with a Spanish Courtyard. Patrons that visited the theatre believed that there were people living in the windows of the courtyard.
In 1979 when the theatre was purchased by United Artists, the facade was completely removed to make way for four movie theaters.
In 2012 when the theatre re-opened, the facade was restored to the way it was in 1931 using only pictures!
The Art Kamangar Center at The Merced Theatre has been host to hundreds of events since its re-opening April 21, 2012. The Theatre can be configured for movie screenings, stand up comedy, orchestras, concerts and live theatrical productions.