The Guild 45th, Wallingford’s high street cinema, remains ‘always in our hearts’

ALONG the main street of WALLINGFORD stands a theater known since 1957 as the Guild 45th. It has been closed since 2017. Earlier this month, its bow sign and marquee, deemed a safety hazard after a truck hit them, was demolished.

The marquee had recently injected some fantasy and inspiration in times of the pandemic. As of December 18, 2020, its east face displayed only one word: “Scarfface”. He moved on last July 18 to another pun: “Vax to the Future”.

The sharp humor masked an austere tendency. Virus-related restrictions have sent cinema revenues plummeting across the country. Insiders note that certain demographic groups (like older women) have stopped going to the movies altogether, which in turn is affecting the types of movies in production.

‘Twas not always so. Before video rentals, DVDs, and the Internet (not to mention TV), neighborhood movie theaters were ubiquitous magnets. For Wallingford, the love story began a century ago.

What became the 45th Guild at 2115 N. 45th St. was opened in 1921 by WC Code as the Paramount Theater. The 40-by-90-foot building could accommodate 475 people and hosted films and live productions, with occasional political or business gatherings.

It was renamed the 45th Street Theater on September 1, 1933 by its new owner, HW Bruen. With a neon marquee, the art deco mini-palace has become what the Seattle Times called “symbolic in the architecture and design of the century of progress.”

More than two decades later, in December 1956, the young and untraditional Seattle Cinema Guild began booking classic American and foreign films at the 45th. The following year, the remodeled theater acquired its current name and became a so-called art house, showing the world’s ‘greatest’ foreign films, banning under-18s and providing free coffee and cigarettes between shows. The first offer was a French sexploitation film, “Companions of the Night”.

The fare had widened in February 1983, when, four years after joining the Seven Gables chain, the Guild 45th added a steeply sloping 200-seat auditorium to two storefronts to the west. In 1989 it became part of Landmark Theatres.

Citing too many changes, the city’s landmarks board voted 6 to 2 in May 2016 not to protect the 45th Guild, and it closed 13 months later. In early 2021, its deteriorating structures, including a former restaurant between them, were painted with a colorful mural by Urban ArtWorks to deter random graffiti.

What will happen to the Guild 45th site? Los Angeles owner 2929 Entertainment has said nothing. But the 1933 films on the marquee in our ‘Then’ photo suggest clues: while the theater is certainly ‘Ever in My Heart’, no one would be surprised if it were to give way to another modern, faceless monolith. – like the disaster that befalls the characters of “Deluge”.

About Cecil Cobb

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