4th Street/Retro Row in Long Beach turns back the Clock

Apr 06, 2010 by Sean Belk

You didn’t just walk into a time warp or step off the DeLorean into a “Back to the Future” movie lot.

The bygone years of yesterday can be found right here in Long Beach on a section of 4th Street, notoriously called Retro Row.

This quaint corridor of boutiques, diners, coffee shops and an old-time movie theatre, once famous for showing silent films, remains a throwback to eras ranging from the 20s to the 90s and just about every age in between.

Long Beach is steeped in historical sites, so sometimes with a quick drive you’re caught up in all of its diversity. But if retro is what you’re looking for, it surely can be found here. From Walnut to Junipero Avenue, the strip touts a hodgepodge of eclectic shops that sells artsy passé furniture, vintage clothing, antique collectibles, and authentic roller skates made popular during the disco days of the late 70s and early 80s.

Its kitschy row of small businesses has also found ways to keep “retro” active, so-to-speak, by staying fresh by putting together clubs and events.

So the following is some information, and a few pointers if you come down to Retro Row for both the old and new.

The Art Theatre: a flashback of movie history

Built in 1924, the Art Theatre has lasted the test of time as one of the very last remaining old-time movie theaters, spanning from the silent era to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

In fact, according to Sunset Magazine, it’s the “longest-running single-screen theater in Southern California.” Back when it was first built, the theater was a prominent place to showcase silent films. The theater was originally known as The Carter Theatre with 636 seats, a pipe organ, a vaudeville stage and orchestra pit. It had a design akin to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with its modest ‘oriental’ construction. In 1934, the theater was remodeled, after a Long Beach earthquake hit, and was redesigned with an “art deco streamline moderne style,” complete with terrazzo paved floors and a new marquee.

Today, the theater continues to evolve with fashionable color and fanfare, showing a wide-range of films, from indie and documentaries to animation and foreign language films. You also might be able to catch a few mainstream showings and musical performances if you’re lucky. For the cult classic film buffs or just regular moviegoers, the Art Theatre is jam-packed every week with many events, catering to the thought provoking, the somewhat sophisticated, and just about anyone looking for a break from the norm.

Now known simply as “The Art”, the theater boasts a new wine bar and a coffee bar after the new owner, Jan Van Dijs, invested $1 million into restoring this historical icon in 2008. The theater celebrated its grand reopening after renovating the interior and exterior while still keeping the structure’s original art deco theme intact.

For the latest happenings, lists or showings and events, follow The Art on Facebook.

Roller Derby: Putting the Hip in your Wheels

When roller-skating was the thing to do, most people remember whizzing along the sidewalk or at your local rink with a feeling of exuberance, listening to headphones or just “grooving” to your own style.

For the most part, those days are long gone, but if a cadre of roller skaters has anything to do with it, roller-skating is still alive and well. Women in particular have been jumping at the chance to strap on a pair of old-fashioned skates and take to the streets, ever since Moxi Roller Skate Shop opened on 4th Street, in Long Beach. The retro shop offers all sorts of wheels, fashionable skates and even free roller skate lessons every Saturday.

The roller-skating buzz has taken on a life of its own and has gotten so much traction that, in fact, just last year an all-female competitive roller derby league, called the Long Beach Roller Derby, was formed.

The league consists of 120 skaters and volunteers and is readying for its first season which opens this year. The first event is dubbed “Total Dome-ination,” at the Spruce Goose Dome near the Queen Mary this Friday, April 9.

The league will be battling it out in bi-monthly roller derby events that include a roster of teams such as the Terminal Island Tootsies, 4th Street Retro Rollers, and the Bixby Rollerettes. So far, the league has been nationally recognized.

4th Street bike festival to keep cycling ‘In Motion’

Next to roller-skating, bicycling seems to be the entire craze now as well. And coincidentally, local eateries and retro shops on 4th Street make for a hip hangout spot on your local bike route.

Long Beach has already started its own bike-friendly efforts by increasing bike lanes, and promoting their awareness throughout the city.

Retro Row is doing its part this year by putting on the first ever “4th Street in Motion” bike festival May 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will occur alongside the citywide Long Beach Bike Festival, set for May 7-9. The 4th Street cycling event is scheduled to feature a long list of alternative transportation and bicycle-related activities for all ages.

A few other notable activities during the festival include: a bike-themed film festival, an Independent Film competition hosted by the Art Theatre, the Long Beach Roller Derby Retro Rollers team, a music stage featuring bands and deejays, performing artists, a wine and beer garden, and a group of vintage bike enthusiasts called The Cyclone Coasters who’ll be displaying classic bikes.

As Travelin’ Local’s South Bay writer and contributor, I can proudly say that it’s tres chic down here, so come on down for all the fun and activities.

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2 Responses to “4th Street/Retro Row in Long Beach turns back the Clock”

  1. retro clock says:

    Excellent post I must say.. Simple but yet interesting and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!


  2. swagsaver says:

    Got to love the older style cities like that. Thanks for the post.
    swagsaver´s last blog ..Walgreens October Coupon Booklet My ComLuv Profile


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