Then and now: Quonset hut-style theater showed popular films


"Let's Live Again" plays at the Lakeside Theatre in 1948. Photos/Lake Tahoe Historical Society

The quonset hut Lakeside Theatre was about midway between today’s Applebee’s Restaurant and the Park Avenue stoplight in South Lake Tahoe.

So much snow in winter 1953 makes it hard to get to the theater.

Highway 50 then was only a narrow two-lane mountain road, thus more frontage area as seen in these pictures.

This building was demolished by 1963 and a beautiful new Lakeside Theatre (not quonset) opened near the Y in November 1963.

It was razed in about 2000 and the site now is CVS next to McDonald’s.

— Bill Kingman

In 1956 it was "Diane" starring Lana Turner that brought movie-goers to the theater.


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Comments (11)
  1. X LOCAL says - Posted: August 5, 2012

    This Theater was owned and operated by Rudy and Jeannie Buchannon, Rudy became the local Judge later, and in the 70s they moved to Hawaii. Great people and it was 35 cents to go to the movie. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: August 5, 2012

    When we were vacationing here in the 50’s my folks would drop me off at the Lakeside Theater so they could gamble. Les Wright wrote of a similar story last week.
    If the movie wasn’t something I wanted to see they would drop me off in front of the casino and they would find some slot machines close to the window so I could watch them pull the handles from the sidewalk. Pretty exciting eh?
    Kae, I have a photo from 1953 of my dad up at stateline that might be of interest.I don’t have accses to a scanner so let me know how to get this to LTN.
    Take Care, Old Long Skiis

  3. David Kurtzman says - Posted: August 5, 2012

    My first trip was a mid 1950’s family trip from Denver to San Francisco for a wedding. We stayed overnight in South Tahoe and went to Harrahs. Being underage (about 12) I was asked to leave the casino so I went to the Lakeside Theater where I saw Gone With The Wind. I believe part of the theater is now part of a house in the Glenwood area and possibly another on Edgewood Circle. Does anyone know more about this?

  4. Bill Kingman says - Posted: August 5, 2012

    Hi, David — I don’t know about remnants of the old Lakeside Theatre being in the Glenwood area, but there was the Tahoe Drive-In Theatre there from 1955 – 1984. In the 1940’s, Steve Myers (now age 91) built one of California’s first drive-in movie theatres where today’s Heavenly Village Cinema now stands at Stateline. It was mostly a pasture then, behind historic Cecil’s Market. Steve moved his theatre to a remote meadow in Bijou in 1955, where he had a long, long dirt driveway leading through the forest from his movie sign on Highway 50 at Herbert Avenue (those sign supports are still in use; his marquee was on top).
    That long dirt driveway became the start of today’s Glenwood Way.

    Copy and paste this link on your browser and then zoom-in for a surprising, surviving footprint:,+South+Lake+Tahoe,+CA&ie=UTF-8

    Today it is 1340 Glenwood Way.

    Have fun looking at it!

    Bill Kingman

  5. Garry Bowen says - Posted: August 6, 2012

    As mentioned before (thanks Bill for dredging up these old photos), the 1st Mayor of South Lake Tahoe, Brad Murphy, had his office in the left front side of the Quonset hut (under ‘Lakeside’) until the Judge built the Buchanan building across from where Denny’s is now. The Buchanan’s offered the far-right corner office to Mr. Murphy, a CPA, who wondered aloud ‘whatever am I to do with all of that space’ – but it was soon occupied by two more staffers, not including my mother, who was Brad’s right-hand person.

    When the City was incorporated (November 1965), Mr. Murphy became Mayor, and then sold his practice, given the immense challenge of starting a city from scratch; my mom then became the first comptroller of Barton Hospital.

    Good info on both of the drive-ins, too, especially the one behind the old Cecil’s, which most people here don’t know existed. . .I first learned about it from Ed Hegarty, the STHS basketball coach and PE teacher, who also taught a Real Estate (?) class, which I took as an elective. Mr. Hegarty owned the Beachcomber, just inside Lakeview, next to El Dorado beach. . .as a class we took a lot of field trips to various locations around South Shore and stopped to talk to contractors or whatever; it was on one of these journeys that we learned of the first drive-in and it’s precise location.

  6. Dennis Cocking says - Posted: August 7, 2012

    We moved from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe in 1960 and my father took me to movies there before I was old enough to go by myself or with friends. I love the storefront facade to cover up the stylish quonset hut behind it. In my high school years, the opening night of the drive-in each spring marked the official “end of winter” and meant lots of guys wearing their Block T jackets in case any interlopers from Reno were to show up. The other “rite of spring” was the opening of the original Jimboy’s Tacos near Sierra Blvd. Ah, the good old days.

  7. sunriser2 says - Posted: August 7, 2012

    Man you guys are old. I thought I was old because I use to ride my bike where Kmart/Grants is located.

    Someday I would like to put together some kind of scavenger hunt using the names of businesses that have been gone for thirty years or more.

  8. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: August 7, 2012

    Hi Dennis,
    I worked at the drive-in on Glenwood in the summers of 70 and 71. Changing the marquee atop that old building on the corner of Herbert and 50 announcing the newest film playing and also was a security guard trying to keep the kids out that were always trying to sneek in. Of the latter I wasn’t to succseful as I was easily bribed! Did a little bit of everything there.
    One guy owned all three theaters, I think his name was Bob Retzer. Don’t meen to name drop but Mark Gray(now with STPUD) was the projectionist and he was showing me how to switch the projectors from one to the other when the reel ran out. You saw this little white dot in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Thats when you shut down one and turned on the other with the next reel of film. Mark was good and made it seemless in continuity . Me? not so much.
    Lots of good times at that old drive-in-“So lets all go to the lobby and get ourselves a treat” as the the animated hot dog, popcorn container and ice cream bar used to sing during the intermission.
    Take Care, Old Long Skiis

  9. Biggerpicture says - Posted: August 7, 2012

    Kewl story Old Long Skiis! I think my first two years in town were it’s last two.

  10. Bill Kingman says - Posted: August 7, 2012

    Thanks for the added info, guys!
    As I recall,(the late) Bob Retzer in the 1970’s operated the drive-in, the single-screen Lakeside at the Y, the small Tahoe Cinema (which was tucked back in the corner between K-Mart and Raley’s), the tiny Stateline Cinema at Crescent V (exactly where the Heavenly Village Cinema is now, and which was the original Tahoe Drive-In site)(it would seem that soil was pre-ordained to show movies!), and he had the concession rights to show movies in the huge showroom of the Sahara-Tahoe or High Sierra (whichever name at that time) where Elvis performed.

  11. Terry says - Posted: August 16, 2012

    Hey Old Long Skiis.
    You posted on another site that you had worked for Gordon Nichols. Me too 68 thru 71 or 72. I worked on and off at the Station, Boat and with Sahara’s limosines. So am wondering who you are? I am at ttrent1 at juno dot com.