The Original Ramona Theatre
— Darrell Beck
On the rainy night of March 4, 1947, the new Ramona Theatre opened to the public.
The bright lights of the marquee brought a welcome and exciting mood to the customary darkness of Main Street, attracting a large and enthusiastic crowd from all around Ramona and the backcountry — in addition to a contingent
of Hollywood dignitaries.
The feature of the evening was the premiere showing of “Suddenly It’s Spring,” starring Paulette Goddard and Fred McMurray, accompanied by a newsreel and cartoons that provided a program that contributed much to the gaiety of opening night.
Owned by Jude Poynter and operated by his brother-in-law, Robert Bivens, the new theater was equipped with the latest Simplex movie projectors, featured a modern design in the art-deco style, and seated 350. Two wide aisles were covered with brilliantly designed carpet of gold, red and blue.
The theater was designed by architect Clarence J. Smale of Los Angeles and constructed with cement block walls and two large bow-truss roof structures. Contractor Frank W. Beck was in charge of construction, assisted by George Miller and other local craftsmen and laborers.
Ramona Theatre remained a popular entertainment center for quite a few years, but changing times brought a decline in attendance. It was those changing times that inspired Jack Harrington, also known as “Cactus Jack,” a colorful local entrepreneur, to take over management in the early 1960s.
In 1975, Poynter decided to repair the theater. He fixed it up and turned it into a “twin cinema.” It was then taken over by Gary Cook, who kept the theater in operation until 2002, when it was sold to Orrin and Cheryl Day.
The Days restored the theater, which they renamed “Ramona Mainstage,” in an art-deco style. It features a new dining option, Old Town Bar-b-que, as well as beautiful murals, special seating, a dance floor, impressive lighting, decorated ceilings and trusses, and a completely new exterior facade. Ramona Mainstage is located at 626 Main St., next to the The MainCourse restaurant.
Ramona Mainstage is home to music concerts, big-screen movies, stage plays, town hall-type public meetings, events and many other civic, entertainment and cultural activities.