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Tejon Theatre

Photo from the Bob Meza collection.
1200 Baker St
Bakersfield CA

Record #5016  
 Opened: June 16, 1947
 Closed: Yes (date unknown)
 Current Use:
Capacity: 1003 seats
Architect(s): Charles H Biggar
Architectural Style(s):
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As:
 Previously operated by: Banducci & Lemucci Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by Paul Linfesty.

The Tejon Theatre opened on Tuesday, June 16, 1947, with a "major studio prevue". Built at a cost of $350,000, the theatre sat 1,003. Regular performances began on Wednesday, June 17, 1947, with It Happened in Brooklyn and Calendar Girl. Admission prices were 65 cents loges, 55 cents general, and 16 cents (not a typo) children. The theatre was owned and operated by the Lemucchi family, a longtime local theatre dynasty.

The second-run theatre prided itself as being Bakersfield's "Family Theatre," and avoided such controversial films like The Graduate and Rosemary's Baby. When the MPAA ratings system started, the theatre had a strict policy of booking only G and M (GP, PG) films. The only time the theatre deviated from this was when they booked the R-rated Network in May 1977.

The Lemucchi's finally called their theatre operations quits on February 28, 1979, with the final showings of The Late Great Planet Earth and Alaskan Eskimo. The theatre was sub-leased to an exhibitor of Spanish-speaking films, and this policy apparently continued well into the 1980s.

In November, 1991, the Tejon Theatre was once again lit and showing films. The theatre starteed with an arthouse policy (John Sayle's City of Hope was the first offering) but this was not to last. The theatre quickly became a sub-run theatre at bargain prices, and featured double and sometimes triple features. The theatre closed again in 1992.

Then in 1994, a young couple took over the theatre and for the nearly two years they operated it, brought very adventurous programming to Bakersfield. Arthouse film bookings proliferated, with special cult midnight films and restored Hollywood classic matinees. At least one foreign or independent film opened a week. Even documentaries like Unzipped and Crumb showed here. Oftentimes opening night extras included jazz or big band groups performing before the feature. For The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert, 600 people showed for the opening, which included a live drag-show contest. For the big train film festival (!) an archival 35mm print of the Buster Keaton classic The General was obtained from the Eastman House. Other films that weekend: Strangers on a Train, The Lady Vanishes, The Train, and Runaway Train. It was also the home to Bakersfield's first (and last) Gay & Lesbian film festival.

Alternative rock groups also performed latenight weekends, including Bakersfield's home-grown KORN.

After working hard to fix the theatre up (the couple actually moved into the theatre, taking space behind the screen), it was all taken away in the spring of 1996 by Jose Arrendando, car owner dealer, who said his plans were to turn it into a live showcase for the local Latino population. This never came to pass, and he eventually sold the building to a local church, which is now up and running, after what seems to be a several year remodeling.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

August 2001 photos from the Bob Meza collection.

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April 2001 photos from the Bob Meza collection.

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Last featured 1/23/2005. Last edited 2/23/2020.

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