Peep Inside a 1930s Movie Theater Manager's Promotional Scrapbook
alluring glimpses into a lost world of ballyhoo in Old Town Pasadena.
Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.
For our latest post that’s hidden from the rest of the internet, we want to introduce you to a remarkable artifact held in the research collection of the Pasadena Museum of History, and the intriguing fellow who created it.
Like many early Angelenos, Les Clark hailed from Iowa, and settled in Pasadena with his family as a young man. His father Lester Sr., known as Roy, was a union plumber, but Les caught the theatrical bug. The Crown City proved to be the perfect place to break into show business.
In the early days of talking pictures, studio publicity departments provided their affiliated theaters with expansive press books and date books, from which local venues produced print advertisements and obtained marketing advice. But there was leeway in how much promotion a theater might engage in, and always room for creativity and local twists.
Pasadena was a sophisticated market, with several large movie theaters along the Colorado Boulevard artery hosting regular appearances by film stars. In the late 1920s, Les Clark took an after school job at the Colorado Theatre, quickly working his way up from doorman to head usher to treasurer—a position of remarkable responsibility for a teen. His mentor was Terry McDaniel, supervisor of Pasadena’s Fox West Coast operations.
Once Les made assistant manager at the Colorado, he dropped out of Pasadena Junior College (now PCC), eager to start his career. Before long, the Fox Pasadena needed a manager, and Les got the shot.
He quickly proved himself an indispensable, energetic theater manager with a gift for eye-catching gimmicks that boosted the bottom line.
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