The Beautiful Magnolia Theater

by Susie Hodgson

The beautiful Magnolia Theater, located not surprisingly on Magnolia Boulevard (at Valley) was an elegant edifice that dazzled the eye. It was built in 1940 and could seat more than 700 people. The architect was Clifford Balch, who specialized in theaters, and designed dozens of them. The owner was Al Minor.

Minor died in 1947. After that, his wife and son took over. But in 1950 they announced they had to sell due to a lack of profits. In either 1947 or 1950, depending who you believe, the theater was sold to the Sterling Pacific Group, who played only B-movies and cheap foreign (not chic foreign) films. But by 1952, the theater became a weekend-only business, and it closed in 1953.

But in 1954, the Magnolia was sold again to Jack Grossman-Harry Rosenberg Enterprises, who classed the place up. Soon such classics as On the Waterfront, Dial M for Murder and many more were being shown. Later, the Academy-award winning movie Gigi would have its premiere at the Magnolia.

Approximately ten years later, Grossman renovated the Magnolia, now featuring all-new air conditioning, an updated marquee, and a new box office with Italian marble.

The Magnolia has itself been the star of the silver screen. It has a cameo appearance in Arthur Pennís Night Moves, as well as a ďroleĒ on a 1973 episode of Columbo. It also played a part in 2016ís smash hit La La Land.

As time went by -- and television grew even more popular -- the life of theaters slowed considerably. The Magnolia closed in 1979. Its later incarnations included as a studio for Barbara Streisand (she even called it Evergreen Studios). Some say it was also used as a studio for Will Smith where locals would see big-time actors and singers go in and out of the building. It sold yet again in 2012. Today we are told itís a sound gallery or recording studio.

But it will always be a fond memory for Burbankers!

Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site:

Return to Burbankia