Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gould Cinemas - Part 4

A couple weekends ago I took a little trip to my hometown...San Jose. I hadn't been there in four years, and even then I was just passing through on a Bay Area college campus tour I gave my younger cousins. My parents retired a while back and moved off to Clovis, so the SJ chapter in my life had come to a least I thought.

Of course I had to feed my Gould obsession by taking a look at the remains. Kinda painful to the eye, but here are some shots looking in from the cobwebbed window. Yes, that's a jar of giant pickles you see...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gould Cinemas - Part 3

The Gould Cinemas had a short life. 1979 to 1996...that's a 17-year deterioration from a hopeful neighborhood movie theater to a public nuisance. Planning Department records confirm that the City of San Jose staff knew the theater would be doomed to failure even before it was built.

Above you'll see a site plan of the Capitol Expressway/McLaughlin Avenue/Tuers Road area before it was developed as the Gould Center. The land was owned by the Gould family, and it was worked for agricultural uses of some type (like most of Santa Clara County in the waybacks), as you can see by the barn, well, and water tower.

As single family residential neighborhoods sprouted around the Gould property, in 1976 the City approved Elizabeth and Ed Gould's request to re-zone their land for a commercial development to serve the new homeowners.

When it came time for the City to review plans for the Gould Center, the Planning staff had huge concerns about the proposed theater location. Not enough parking, too close to the adjacent houses, too isolated, no connection to the rest of the retail businesses...but the developers didn't budge.

Here's a note on the plan indicating Planning's preference for the theater to be at the corner of Tuers and McLaughlin...where the Denny's ended up...

The Planning Department denied the proposal in November 1977, but a month later the Goulds appealed the decision to the City Council. Their strategy worked for them...the Council and Mayor Janet Gray Hayes gave their blessing.

Construction lasted a little over a year, and the Gould Cinemas opened for business in December '79, buried behind the other retail suites and far from Capitol Expressway street visibility. It wasn't long before the theater lost its sheen and settled into a last resort existence as a second-run theater catering to the younger set, spendthrifts, and psychos. Yeah, I saw movies there all the time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gould Cinemas - Part 2

Have you ever felt sick over just the memory of a nasty smell? I'm feeling it right now as I recall the disgusting funk that permeated the Gould Cinemas, the most whacked out movie theater in the history of San Jose. Ugh.

I don't think the air conditioning system was ever serviced in all the years the Gould was in existence. The stink would envelope you as soon as you stepped into the one of the three screening rooms. You'd hope it would fade into your subconscious, but trying to ignore it was absolutely futile.

Here's the crazy reported by the San Jose Mercury News, on March 21, 1993 a "mysterious gas" emitted during a screening of Leprechaun sent nine Gould patrons to the hospital. Firefighters responded to reports of mass coughing and figured that kids dropped smoke bombs or stink bombs. One customer likened the smell to roach spray. Harry Davis, the owner of the Gould, was philosophical when asked about the pranksters..."You know what they're going to do."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gould Cinemas - Part 1

And here we have a 1997 snapshot of the Gould Cinemas in San Jose. You can just barely see the ghost of the sign letters along the wood siding. At the time the space was being used by the local Democratic Party as a campaign headquarters, and I can only assume it's now vacant.

Hard to believe that from 1979 to 1996 operated a movie theater with disco lights, restrooms painted completely black, throngs of teenagers with no regard for the posted schedule, and the world's hugest pickles bobbing in a jar.

The Gould was a 3-screen movie theater tucked away at the ass-end of the Gould Shopping Center. Probably the worst location for any business, let alone a movie threeplex. I'm sure the residential neighbors weren't happy with loudmouth moviegoers loitering and honking and spilling toxic popcorn in the parking lot.

Despite the filth, the ridiculously sticky floors, and the deadly stink, it was fun for us kids. I remember watching these movies...

The Principal, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Believers, Angel Heart, Ghoulies, The Golden Child, Raw Deal, My Science Project, Splash, Ice Pirates, Red Dawn, Dreamscape, Terminator, Johnny Dangerously, Space Hunter, Yor, Metalstorm, Brainstorm, Nate and Hayes, Krull

The last movie I saw at the Gould was Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. About halfway through the show I turned to see that my friend Dave was as far forward he could possibly be on his seat without falling off, and I realized that he had the right idea.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Almaden Quicksilver

I took this picture of the Almaden 5 (formerly Almaden Twin) marquee during a visit back to San Jose in 2001. I can only decipher the first two lines of text...Cinema and All Stores Open During Construction. Never been back.

Although in junior high I usually watched movies at the nearby Gould Cinemas, the Almaden Twin was only a couple buses (72 & 26) away. There was also the draw of the skateboard shop, Go-Skate, where my friend Larry would filch stickers while his brother Robert rounded up coins for Thrifty Ice Cream. I remember watching Rad at the Twin, and I can still hear Robert laughing his head off when Chevy Chase ripped one in Spies Like Us.

Great times...skating, taking the bus, watching movies, laughing at fart jokes. I am amazed to hear from adults who proudly say they grew up without ever taking the bus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marquee Marq

Happy Oscars Day. And thank you, Los Angeles Theatre, for maintaining a polished marquee. You even manage to change up the text from time to time, like last year's homage to the Gloved One...

Monday, March 1, 2010

The gaucho came riding

Club El Gaucho isn't going anywhere...for now! The old sign was just replaced as part of the entry improvements at the Hotel Bristol. Do you think the D-Town Burger Bar opening soon in the Bristol should pay homage with a Gaucho Burger? Great name for a burger...Basement Burger.