Sierra Theaters: Local entrepreneurs since 1979

From the current issue of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Vintage movie theaters have helped define the charm of Gold Country towns for decades, including ones in Angels Camp, Colfax, Auburn and Grass Valley. But in an era of Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV, movie theater owners face challenging times.

Few have done a better job of upgrading their theaters to attract the iGeneration and others than the Getz family, owners of the Sierra Theaters in Grass Valley. Now operated by the Getz’s son-in-law Michael LaMarca and daughter Azriel and a spirited staff, Sierra Theaters epitomizes the kind of locally owned, family business that has helped our region thrive.

Mike Getz began his career in the movie business in the early ’60s. He helped launch the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” midnight phenomenon in theaters throughout the country. To view independent films locally, Mike and Barbara Getz started the Nevada Theatre Film Series in 1979.

In 1989, the Getz’s opened Sierra Cinemas—a four-screen, first-run movie theater in Grass Valley—now home to Nevada County’s first movie bar and café. In 2001, they opened Sutton Cinemas, a two-screen theater in the Brunswick Basin.

Then in 2003, they bought the historic Del Oro Theatre in downtown Grass Valley and began an extensive remodeling effort. Thousands of people filled the streets to witness the lighting of the tower—which had been dark for over 20 years. “It has become a jewel in the crown of Grass Valley redevelopment,” says one local.

The Art Deco-style building, built in 1941 by United Artists, received new seats, a state-of-the-art sound system and digital 3-D projection. On weekends, teenagers and 20- somethings line up beside retirees to watch the latest Star Wars release and other movies.

The theater’s exterior showcases local art- work: a public mural by trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, featuring the South Yuba River. The Getz’s are passionate about the Yuba; Barbara is a longtime board member of SYRCL (South Yuba River Citizens League).

Last year, the Del Oro tower and marquee were again refurbished and updated, bring- ing the look of the historic building closer to its 1940s origins.

The Getz’s also have expanded the content beyond Hollywood movies. The Del Oro features live performances from New York’s Met Opera live in HD and London’s National Theatre.

(Photo: Kial James)

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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