This architect’s drawing of the new Madera Theater thrilled the town when it was published in the Madera Tribune in 1941. Before the year was out, the building had become a reality. Before movies, people were entertained in the Old Madera Opera House on the corner of B Street and Yosemite Avenue. Residents flocked there to see live performances. In 1912, movies came to town when Charles Leggett turned the Opera House into a primitive theater. Walter M. Brown built the first real Madera Theater to replace the Opera House in 1913. (Madera Images; Bill Coate)
A huge and deadly fire struck the Madera Theater on November 30, 1940. The blaze broke out about 5:30 p.m. and resulted in the death of volunteer fireman Clyde Hammond when he and another fireman, Owen Barr, fell through the roof when part of the building collapsed. Barr was able to survive by crawling under the water-soaked debris. (Madera Images; Bill Coate)
The original Madera Theater (former Madera Opera House) burned on November 30, 1940. This new Madera Theater was built in 1941, opening on September 5, 1941, when it was operated by the T & D Jr. Enterprises chain. The New Madera Theatre was designed by the architectural firm Cantin & Cantin.
By the 1990s, the Madera Theater had fallen into disrepair and was abandoned. Several attempts were made to transform the old landmark into a community theater for the performing and visual arts, but those ideas never got past the discussion stage. After a heated debate, which divided Madera, the decision was made to demolish the building. (Madera Images; Bill Coate)
Many Maderans mourned the Madera Theater after the wrecking ball hit it. There was talk of building a new city or county government complex on the site, but this never materialized. Longtime Maderans still look with nostalgia up Yosemite Avenue for the Madera Theater sign that seemed to let everyone know where they were. (Madera Images; Bill Coate)