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. The theatre remained in operation under the watchful eye of Harold Martin (William’s son) through the 1970’s.
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 leaked into the auditorium, leaving a musty smell that lingered for a year. Fortunately the treasured landmark suffered no structural damage because of the reinforced concrete construction 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 major earthquake retrofitting.
After the fire, the theater 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 returned the facility to full operation as a Community Arts Center and began raising funds for the purchase and restoration of this valley treasure.
In March 2018, the Foundation secured the purchase of the building with financing provided by the previous owners. The “Century Club” campaign was established to raise funds for the renovation of the theatre — in celebration of the theatre’s 100th Anniversary in 2021!
For more information or to volunteer, call the Ticket Office or contact us through our website.
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