Built in 1921, the Hemet Theatre that stands today was not the first movie theater in Hemet’s history. William Martin built the first theater in 1913 on Florida Street, just across the street from the current location.
In 1918, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake on the local San Jacinto Fault caused significant damage to the theater along with most of the buildings in the Hemet downtown area.
When Martin rebuilt the theater on the north side of the street, he reinforced the building with concrete block walls to protect his investment. Those concrete walls remain, as does the nostalgic charm of the 1920’s theater.
The theater has been renovated twice: once in the 1940’s and again in the 1960’s, when the pointed marquee was replaced with the current flat version.
In 2000, the Martin family sold the property to two die-hard movie fans, David Bernal and Emerson Bixby.
Once the oldest continually run single-screen movie theater in the nation, the business was forced to close in January 2010 when a fire destroyed the adjacent storefronts. Water damage from the firefight had leaked into the auditorium, leaving a musty smell that lingered for a year. Fortunately the landmark suffered no structural damage because of the reinforced concrete that Martin had used for the building. This sturdy construction also has a major benefit for any restoration plans. The movie house is one of only a few local buildings of that era that can be restored without significant earthquake retrofitting.
Since the fire, the theater has struggled to get back on its feet. In 2013, the Historic Hemet Theatre Foundation negotiated a 5 year lease/option to purchase the theatre. The Foundation restored the facility to full operation began raising funds for the purchase and restoration of this historic treasure.
In March 2018, the Foundation finally secured the purchase of the building with financing provided by the owners. The “Century Club” campaign is now raising funds for the renovation of the theatre within the next four years — just in time for the 100th Birthday Celebration!
For more information or to volunteer, call the Ticket Office or contact us through our website.
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