Coming to the end of an era


Jenna McMahon

The Carlsbad Village Theatre located on State Street is closing. The theater has been open since 1927.

Jenna McMahon, Staff Writer

From black and white films to plays and concerts, The Carlsbad Village Theater has been a part of the Carlsbad community since it first opened in 1927. Many renovations were made in the late 1900’s to make it into the old fashioned building we see today standing on State Street.

In the early 1900s, only having single-screened theaters was not uncommon, but by the late 1900s, so many multi screen theaters had been built that it was hard for single-screens to stay in business. Knowing that the theater business had changed, theater owner’s, Judy and Tom McMahon, knew they would have to do more than just movies.

“[The theater] used to be almost strictly film, but over the intervening years between when my parents sold it in 1986 and when we took over, there were so many multiple screen theaters that were built the single-screens just really couldn’t survive as a single-screen, between the rent you had to pay for the films and the wait system,” Judy McMahon said. “They were going on TV before any single-screen could rent them from the film companies, so single-screens died out because they couldn’t compete in the market. So when we took over we knew it couldn’t be a movie theater anymore, it was gonna have to be a multi-purpose theater, so that’s what it became, we did plays, concerts, business seminars and independent films, all kinds of different things.”

The theater has been in the Dunham-McMahon family since 1961. The Dunhams sold the theater in 1986, but the buyer stopped making payments. Due to this, Judy and Tom took over in Sept. 1993 and have owned the theatre ever since.

“It was very busy because I had a full time job and Tom had a full time job, we had four kids growing up and now we suddenly have a theater to take care of,” Mrs. McMahon said. “We were just very glad that it was just a weekend operation because otherwise I don’t know what we would have done.”

Mrs. McMahon’s family had previously owned four theaters in San Diego prior to purchasing the Carlsbad theater. They bought their first theater in 1956 when Mrs. McMahon was 14-years-old. Because of this, she was accustomed to the theater business.

“There were pluses and minuses,” Mrs. McMahon said. “It was fun to kind of be there and have all the kids come from the high school and that on the weekends and see them all, but it wasn’t so much fun in high school because I didn’t get to go to the football games or the basketball games because I had work.”

After owning the Carlsbad Village Theater for 56 years, the McMahon family is selling the theater. The news has shocked and saddened many people due to the theatre playing a large part in their lives and shaping the community they are apart of, but it is time for someone else to take over.

“My husband and I always knew it would probably not continue as a theater because theater groups don’t have the money to buy theaters or build them,” Mrs. McMahon said. “The most logical thing for it to become this day and age is a restaurant/brewery and I think that is what it’s going to become.”

The Carlsbad Community Theater group has done many shows at the theater throughout the years, and students all over Carlsbad have performed at the theater. It has been a part of their lives as well as many others in San Diego County.

“It’s sad because I grew up doing theater,” Sydney Knowland said. “My first play was there and then my last play Willy Wonka was there and it was so fun, I have so many memories from that place. They treated me so well, everyone was so nice and it was just a great time.”