Culver City had its first little theater on Main Street, on the site of The Culver Hotel. The theater occupied the main floor, with the city offices above, where the early trustees met. When Harry Culver built his Hotel Hunt (now the Culver Hotel) in 1924, the city moved down the street to Van Buren Place. The theater moved into a new structure in the 9600 block of Culver Boulevard and was known as the Meralta. It was in the same block as the Western Union, Southern California Water Co., Pulone's "Sweet Shop," (where my mother met my father), the Edison Co., Holland's Draperies, attorney R. H. Coombs, Mayo D. Wright Insurance and the Blaine-Walker Building which housed the early courthouse. Will Rogers acted as the Master of Ceremonies to open the new theater while Thomas Ince provided the movie, The Galloping Fish for viewing.
"Meralta" was derived from owners' Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta's surnames. They lived above the new plush theater. It appears, from old directories, that Merrill also had a real estate office and later an insurance office, first on Irving Place, then on Culver next to the theater. In a 1990 interview, retired principal Gladys Chandler, described Pearl Merrill, who served on the Board of Education, as "forceful, positive, with a big heart." She told me that Merrill traveled all over the country at her own expense to interview teachers.
During World War II, the Meralta Theater caught fire. There was a wartime moratorium on building, so the city allowed the theater to relocate temporarily to the second floor auditorium of the city hall (corner of Culver and Duquesne). The projection booth remained until the city hall was demolished to make way the new city hall, which opened in 1995. The rebuilt Meralta Theater operated for many years. The Meralta Plaza was constructed on the site of the old Meralta Theatre as a redevelopment project in 1983.
The Culver Theatre
The Culver Theatre began construction in 1945. It was built in the late Moderne style, and like the Meralta, was a source of jobs for local youth. The theatre received Historic Landmark status from the city. As the need for single theaters and ushers with flashlights declined, the Principal Theater was sold and reconfigured into a triplex. The Culver underwent changes of ownership, as the Mann chain purchased the theater in the early 1970s, and later Great Western Theatres, Inc., and NCC Theatre Corp. In 1985, the Culver City Redevelopment Agency bought the theatre. The Culver ceased operations in 1989. Some might remember Ad Chamberlain's print shop located in the back of the theater as well.
The Studio Drive-In Theatre
The Studio Drive-In on demolition day
The other theater located in the city was the Studio Drive-In, which closed in the 1990s. That property became the new home of Kayne-Eras Center and 57 single family homes.