Chino Theater


Photo: Neil Nisperos

If you’ve ever been through Chino (and if not, why not?), you’re sure to have seen one of the city’s most striking buildings, the one-time movie theater on Central Avenue near Riverside Drive.

A tower has the word “Chino” in vertical letters, and according to a story by my colleague Neil Nisperos (he of the accompanying photo), the red neon, long gone, will soon be replaced at city expense.

Using redevelopment funds, the city will pay $15,000 for that work as well as $1,200 a year for electricity and upkeep for 20 years, plus $600 per year to the property owner.

The idea is that the sign will restore some beauty and interest to Chino’s main drag. Well, it can’t hurt.

The movie theater opened in 1947, around the same era as Upland’s Grove, which has a similar scale and look. In 1960, the theater became a 10-lane bowling alley, which lasted until 1988. Since 1992 it’s been the T-Shirt Mart.

That’s like a capsule history of the American economy!

I’d like to know more. Anyone want to share their memories of this building?

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  • T

    Apparently the sign still works. If you are traveling from the south side you may notice that the red C is still visible.

  • The girl I asked to go to the prom with me couldn’t go due to overprotective parents…so I wound up bowling at this alley that night!! I was a Chino High student.

    [On the bright side, at least you got this anecdote out of it. — DA]

  • Jim Lugenbeel

    I lived in the neighborhood east of the Chino Theater for a time when I was in elementary school. On Saturdays, they had matinees (as they did in Pomona, where I also lived for most of my childhood).

    I remember going to the matinees and seeing such shows as “Frankenstein,” and then running, terror filled, the few blocks to my home afterwords.

    It should also be noted that there was a drug store next door (Thornton’s Drugs, I believe) that had a “comic book club” where, for a nominal fee, one could read all the comic books you could digest in an afternoon before the movies…..alas, those kind of childhood joys aren’t available to the current crop of kids…

    [Thanks for the Chino lore, Jim. — DA]

  • Dennis Sampson

    Since you almost seemed to be begging for comments about the Chino Bowl in your Sunday column, I’ll throw in my 2 cents.

    My first memory of it was in the mid-’50s, when my Dad loaded up the neighborhood kids in his near new ’55 Chevy wagon (I still have the car) and took us all down there to see “Bambi.”

    In the ’60s, for lack of a better place in Chino to hang out, that was where we passed a lot of time. There was a pool table and a couple of archaic pinball and electronic games in the lobby. I remember a friend took a dive through the glass (untempered) door on the south side and walked away without a scratch.

    In the early ’90s, I and some friends in the construction industry were given the opportunity to help remove the old lanes and keep them for tabletops, workbenches, etc. I still have a piece.

    I suppose to complete the circle, I should drive down there in the ’55 and buy some T-shirts, but my wife already tells me I dress bad plus the ’55 is in serious need of its restoration being completed.


    [Sounds like that circle is a long way from being completed! Dennis, thanks for the commentary. Even if I did have to go begging. — DA]

  • Patti Weisgerber

    I basically grew up at Chino Bowl from 1967 on. Mickey & Beverly, parents of my best friend Sandy, owned the place. It was only 10 lanes, but that’s all we needed to make some great memories. I was sad to see the day they closed the doors. I may be able to dig up some old pictures of those better times.

    So much has changed over the years, but the building will always be home to me. I spent many hours on leagues, hanging out, working the kitchen and counter, cleaning, re-setting pins, keeping score for the guys with huge thumbs who bowled for money, etc. Too bad there’s nothing like it today for kids to grow up with.

    [Thanks, Patti. If you find a good photo or two, e-mail ’em to me so I can share them here. — DA]