Talkies Come to Chula Vista

The ad below appeared in the Chula Vista Star newspaper on Friday, February 7, 1930, on page 6. The same edition also carried a front-page article announcing an upcoming “Gala Opening” at the theater on Sunday, February 9th.

The Seville Theatre, at 388 Third Avenue, had been open and showing movies in the town since 1927. But those movies had been silent. While sound films had been introduced in 1927, the technology was still new and still spreading slowly to movie houses across the country, and across San Diego County. So the premier of a “100% All Talking Program” at a local venue was a special occasion.

“Last Sunday night marked the opening of one of the finest talkie theatres in Southern California with the introduction of sound at the Seville Theatre,” proclaimed an article on the weekly Star’s front page on the following Friday, February 14.

“Third Avenue was appropriately decked out in its finest flags and banners for the occasion,” reported the article. A line of searchlights scanning the skies Hollywood-style included a truck-mounted “six million candle-power light…loaned by Airtech at Lindbergh Field.”

The box office opened at 5:45 p.m. as a 20- piece orchestra “composed of local music students” entertained the crowd. When the lobby doors opened at 6:15 moviegoers were greeted by the recently elected “Miss Chula Vista,” Louise Turner.

The filmed program consisted of a Metrotone newsreel, an “animated talking cartoon…Harry Langdon’s first all-talking comedy,” and ended with “the big feature of the program,” Joan Crawford starring in “Untamed.”

“The entire house was sold out for the first show,” reported the Star. “By 9 o’clock the lobby was again packed and the line extended around the corner of the theatre and down Third Avenue, waiting for the second show.”

The Seville continued to operate until 1955. It was demolished in the early 1960s.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego County newspapers and the website, Cinema Treasures.


Illegal Vines

The headline below is from a front-page article in the Escondido Times-Advocate’s edition of Saturday, October 9, 1920:

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Prohibition had gone into effect in January 1920, transforming the growing of grapes, which had been part of San Diego County’s agricultural scene going back at least to the days of the Spanish Missions, into a crime.

“Several thousand gallons of mash in vats ranging in size from 500 to 1,200 gallon capacity, hundreds of gallons of wine and five tons of grapes were seized in three raids made in and near Escondido by federal and county officers Wednesday evening,” began the article, which went on to say that “The haul at the trio of wineries is the most extensive raid yet made in this county and brings the number of places raided around Escondido to a total of five during the last few weeks.”

The law allowed for a certain amount of winemaking for individual family consumption and for the making of “sacramental” wine for religious purposes. A number of San Diego winegrowers utilized those exemptions to try to survive.

However, only four San Diego County wineries survived after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, according to Richard Carrico’s 2016 book, Of Wine on the Lees Well Refined:A History of Wine and Wineries of San Diego County.

Winemaking thankfully made a comeback here. As of 2019, there were over 150 commercial wineries in the county, according to the San Diego County Vintners Association.

To that the History Seeker can only say: Cheers!