Back in the Day: Goodbye to Solano Theatre/Fairfield Cinema I

The building that was originally Solano Theatre, which became the Fairfield Cinema I and later Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club, was demolished this week.

The following Back in the Day column was published in the Fairfield Daily Republic on April 28, 2017

By Tony Wade

I wrote a column about numerous past local movie houses back in 2012 and then the next year about one in particular: the Solano Theatre, which became the Fairfield Cinema I and later Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club. Fire gutted the historic building in January 2013.

I read an article this week in the Daily Republic lamenting the mural on the outside of the building that was to be lost since demolition had begun. No offense to anyone, but that mural has only been there since 2005. The building, however, was a movie theater for more than 70 years and helped create movie-going memories for generations of Fairfielders.

Keith Hayes: I think I watched every western, Abbott and Costello, and Three Stooges movie that played in that theater from 1947 to the early ‘50s. Fifty cents got us into the theater plus a candy bar, coke and a bag of popcorn.

Diane Reguera: Solano Theatre is a special, iconic place around here. In the ‘50s, my mom packed sack lunches and sent us to the all-day Saturday show!

Tena Bateman: Saturday afternoon at the Theatre as a pre-teen was a must. Teen years was Friday night with friends. Saturday night was date night. Cannot remember the manager’s name, but I’m sure most of us were ushered into his office at least once during our teen years and threatened with banishment from the theater for throwing popcorn or spit wads.

Debbie Broughan: In the ’50s and ’60s, they would have live shows. I remember being there for Halloween. The actors would come off stage and the audience would become part of their act. Our school class went there to watch Romeo and Juliet. I sat there trying to hide my tears from my class.

Susan Macy Luckenbach: When I was 9 or 10 I was in Mrs. Lears’ dance class. We would go to the theater on Saturdays and during intermission we would perform on the stage as the Mousketeers. I thought I was Annette Funicello! If you were under 12 you got in for 25 cents, but over that cost 35 cents. I tried to get in at the lower price once until the manager, Andy Chantlas, who saw me and knew my mom, made me pay the correct price. Well, you can’t say I didn’t try!

Michael Tagudin: At the Saturday afternoon matinee back in the ’60s, I remember when the owner came out and made his little speech saying the movie wouldn’t start unless he could hear the pin he was holding hit the floor when he dropped it.

Cari Sherman Gibbons: In 1973, when I was 10 years old, my mom dropped me and my 6-year old brother and several of my girlfriends off at a Saturday afternoon showing of “True Grit.” My friends and I, with brother in tow, found a place to sit on the lower level. The place was chaos and in an attempt to gain control, the attendants walked around with flashlights to identify boys and make them move up to the balcony, thinking that would lead to a less-raucous atmosphere. However, my little  brother was terrified of being separated from our group. When the attendant beamed the flashlight on us I said, “This is my little sister!” Thanks to the ’70s fashion of long hair for boys, the attendant apologized and moved on.

Christy Thompson: I remember going to “The Kids Are Alright” (the 1979 documentary on The Who). Since there were only two people in the theater, I went out to the lobby to ask them to TURN IT UP! They did.

Dawn Best: I remember cutting school at Armijo my freshman year to see “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” when it opened at Fairfield Cinema I. It was actually the first movie I ever saw there. My parents have no idea I cut class. SHHHHHHHHHHH!

Victor Watson: I was sitting in the front row of the balcony with my girlfriend watching a horror movie and eating a giant bucket of popcorn. All of a sudden a scary scene came onto the screen. She grabbed my leg, which made me jump and the popcorn, bucket and all, went flying over the balcony, raining down on the movie-goers below.