El Segundo’s beloved and historic Old Town Music Hall has reopened to the public.
By Maureen Kingsley
One of El Segundo’s iconic cultural treasures, Old Town Music Hall, on the 100 block of historic Richmond Street downtown, has once again reopened to the public. As it did before it was necessarily shuttered in March 2020 because of the novel-coronavirus pandemic, Old Town Music Hall (OTMH) screens classic films and presents live concerts in a beautiful and historic building that is 100 years old this year. The theater’s centerpiece is its Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, acquired more than 50 years ago by the theater’s late founders, Bill Field and Bill Coffman (known affectionately as “The Two Bills”).
“During our 18 months of closure,” says James Moll, one of three volunteer members of OTMH’s board of directors, along with Angie Hougen and Danny Tokusato, “our audience made small donations to help keep the theater afloat and to pay its lease and utilities.” He says donations came in from classic-film fans all over the country, and some of the funds were used to establish online ticketing and to upgrade the theater’s ventilation to address COVID-19 concerns.
Fresh, new exterior signage appears above the front entrance of the theater, too. It was painted by Lorenzo Rams of Hawthorne.
Beyond these improvements, though, the OTMH experience is “essentially the same as it’s been since 1968,” James says, “and we aim to keep it that way. It would be a shame to try and modernize this historic theater.” Retaining the mission of its founders—to keep classic film and music alive for subsequent generations, and to preserve the look of the historic movie palace—is paramount.
OTMH is one of the only remaining community movie palaces in the country. It is one of just a few venues anywhere that screens silent films from the 1920s with live organ accompaniment. “The place just feels special,” James says, recalling his own time spent at OTMH as a child during the 1970s and 1980s. “Walking into the lobby is like time-traveling.”
During the theater’s open house this past August, held in conjunction with El Segundo ArtWalk, James recalls hearing visitors say things like, “My parents used to bring me here!” and “I remember coming here with my grandparents!” He and Angie love the idea of younger generations discovering both the theater and the old films and music presented there. “A lot of younger people are now our audience,” James says, and he and Angie hope the glamour and vintage charm of the theater continue to appeal to the next generation of movie-goers.
This month, Old Town Music Hall will screen such Halloween favorites as Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man, and look for a live holiday concert in December, featuring renowned organist Donnie Rankin.
“We like to get into the true ‘spirit’ of Halloween,” James enthuses, “with decorations galore. And in December, the theater looks absolutely stunning for the holidays.”
Come see for yourself! Purchase tickets for the OTMH online in advance of your chosen screening, or simply walk by and check out the theater in person at 140 Richmond Street in Downtown El Segundo.
All photos by Sarah Ainsworth of Sarah Ainsworth Photography.
Top: Old Town Music Hall lit up for its grand reopening in September. Newly painted signage by Lorenzo Rams.
Middle and bottom: Details of Old Town Music Hall’s exterior.
This story appears in the October 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.