(Chico: A 20th Century Pictoral History)

230 West Second Street
Business Lifespan
1906-present (with breaks)
Building Contructed

El Rey Theatre is a movie house in downtown Chico. Until 2005, it served as a first-run movie theater, getting many of the big Hollywood titles. It closed in 2005, but reopened in 2007 and has been used ever since as a venue for live music, occasional film screenings, as well as annual film festivals. It was originally built in 1906, and served as a vaudeville, cinema and civic performance theater. It went through many name changes over the decades (The Majestic, The National, The American, and finally El Rey). It was one of Chico's original movie theaters.

Despite the conversion of most theaters such as the Senator Theater to multi-screen showings, El Rey remained a single screen venue and tended to play some of the larger blockbuster films when they opened because of the size. It became difficult for such theaters to compete against the large multiplexes that have become so popular, and this may have ultimately led to El Rey's demise in 2005.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the building itself is the murals painted on the inside. There are elaborate paintings of fairies adorning the interior walls. The building was being used as a live music venue for a while, although it was being offered as downtown office space when it closed. It was also an example of a theater turned church, a trend in Chico in which closed down movie houses are used by local churches, when Bidwell Presbyterian Church held services there. Currently, they hold their 10:30 service that is targeted toward young adults there.

GREAT NEWS!!! The El Rey is up and running once again! Open and showing great movies every weekend. A great atmosphere for downtown Chico, where you can see a movie without all the corporate advertising and high prices.


2010-02-28 14:01:41   The El Rey is a theater again: sorta. "Classic" and cult movies are currently being shown there on the weekends for $3-5. The movie list is on the JMAX Productions Website Here: http://www.jmaxproductions.net/jmax.php?v=24 —

2011-03-12 20:09:53   It is currently also a fantastic venue for high quality bands —

2011-12-15 15:48:30   I remember hearing/reading that this theater's name resulted from the fact that, following the 1940s fire, the owners purchased the marquee from a defunct theater somewhere along the coast – Watsonville, possibly. Could someone confirm this? —