Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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Historic Huntridge Theatre may be torn down

It was one of the earliest movie theaters built in Las Vegas and remains among the oldest entertainment centers in Southern Nevada.

Built in 1944, the Huntridge Theatre survived the demise of the single-screen cinemas and was reborn as a popular concert venue. The landmark at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway will observe its 61st birthday Oct. 10, but its days may be numbered.

The historic building, which received a $1.5 million grant from the state Commission on Cultural Affairs just last year, may be headed for demolition, if its owner has his way.

Eli Mizrachi is scheduled to appear at a meeting of the Cultural Affairs Commission on Sept. 30 in Las Vegas to propose that he return funds allocated for the maintenance of his historical building.

In return, Mizrachi wants the state to remove the covenants that prevent the building from being altered or demolished without approval of state Historic Preservation Officer Ronald James. The covenants that prohibit the demolition run though 2018. James said this kind of flip-flop has never happened since the state started handing out grants to preserve historic structures in Nevada.

The Friends of the Huntridge Theatre operated the facility until Mizrachi's family purchased it in January 2002 and handed it over to Eli Mizrachi to operate. The theater's Web site reports that Eli Mirachi now owns the Huntridge Theatre.

The theater closed in November 2003 for renovation. It was supposed to reopen as a performing arts center, with the addition of a supper club, lounge and some limited gaming.

As recently as March of this year the plans for the theater were used as a selling point to potential developers the city were hoping to get interested in the aging area east of Las Vegas Boulevard.

The meeting of the Cultural Commission is scheduled for the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society in Lorenzi Park, on Washington Avenue near Rancho Drive. The Huntridge Theatre was the anchor to a commercial complex adjacent to the Huntridge subdivision built during World War II. The art deco building was not just a movie theater, but a cultural center for those who lived on what was then the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Hundreds of area children took advantage of the 25-cent admission price to the Saturday morning Kiddie Matinee through the 1940s to watch a feature film, maybe a Superman serial and three or four cartoons. In the evening, in addition to first-run double features, live entertainment might be featured on the large stage.

The theater even hosted Sunday Mass for the new parish of St. Anne Catholic Church before its first church was built in the desert at Maryland Parkway and Oakey Boulevard a half-mile to the south.

As progress and the emergence of multi-screen theaters took their toll on other venues in Las Vegas, the Huntridge was able to hang a little longer by converting to two screens and showing second-run, double features and eventually Spanish-language films.

The Huntridge, under Mizrachi, had established a reputation as one of southern Nevada's best non-strip concert venue in recent years, drawing acts as diverse as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and hometown heros the Killers to hardcore bands such as Fugazi, according to news reports and the theater's Web site.

In 2004, the Beastie Boys performed at the Huntridge as part of MTV's "$2 Bill" concert series, and the band had performed there in the early 1990s.

In 1996, Las Vegas officials approved a $75,000 loan for the historic Huntridge Theatre. The roof of the Huntridge collapsed before a punk rock concert the previous year but no one was injured.

The Huntridge Theater has closed its doors on July 31, 2004, according to the Huntridge web site. The full restoration project of the theater is expected to begin August 2004 for a six to eight month remodel, the web site stated.

The renovation, set to be completed by 2005, will include three different showrooms, new interior, lights three full bars, gaming and retail stores, among other changes, the Web site stated.

The Huntridge is listed in the National Register of Historical Places and the State Register of Historical Places, the Web site states. Many movie stars visited the Huntridge to promote films, including Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Marlene Dietrich and Vincent Price, the Web site stated.

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