Family struggles to keep former El Sereno movie house

The former Mazatlan Theatre in El Sereno has seen better days. The movie house on Eastern Avenue near Huntington Drive has not screened a movie in decades. The marquis on the front of the Art-Deco style building is often blank, and the light bulbs are missing from the letters that spell out MAZATLAN. Inside, the rows of seats have been ripped out and the interior has been rented out primarily as a banquet hall and event space  for the last three decades by the De Anda family. Now, the De Anda family is in danger of losing the Mazatlan amid financial troubles. Some young family relatives staged a concert at the Mazatlan last month in hope of attracting attention – and business -to what is now called Mazatlan Hall. Apparently that was not enough. Writer and activist Iris de Anda, who fears the neighborhood landmark will be auctioned off to a developer, has launched an online fundraiser to help her family keep the building. “The failing economy is taking its toll on our dedication, blood, sweat, & tears,” said De Anda on the Save the Mazatlan Indiegogo page.

The family is about $25,000 short of  the $50,000 needed to hang on to the building, which De Anda envisions being transformed into a community center showcasing music and art and hosting social gatherings and workshops. So, far however, only about $500 has been raised and De Anda does not provide details as to how the family would keep the Mazatlan afloat after avoiding an auction. Still, De Anda is counting on residents of El Sereno to show their support.

“We need places that provide a safe environment to meet, to engage, to connect, & to reach out,” De Anda said. “A place where local bands can get up on stage & rock out because sometimes all we really need is a good song.”


  1. How about try showing movies?

  2. Not trying to troll or anything but some of the money used for “Bring Back Broadway” could have helped the El Sereno community and The Mazatlan. Just saying, not hating.

    Way to step up CD32.

  3. How do you own something for “three decades” and not have the mortgage paid off? It couldn’t have cost that much 30 years ago.

    • second mortgage?

    • You’ll be surprised to see how many people do it this way, refinance after refinance. That’s why americans are the most in debt people in the world. If you can’t afford it just don’t buy it, that’s my motto!

      • I agree, HLP Hood, my motto as well. And to those who want to see movies there again, the article says they ripped all the rows seats out.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Did they buy a boat?

      • I will not question my fathers ability to pay off the place in all this time. It is always easier said than done. Now that I am an adult I am ready to help him manage it in a different way. It is always easier said than done. My vision is for a healthy community place. All I ask is that people help if this speaks to them. We are each on our own journey & will fight for our own dreams.

        • I don’t mean this to challenge Iris’s and the De Anada family’s position but I’m wondering what plan do you have to ensure that your privately owned space, that gets rented out for profit, will be used for community benefit in the future? Aside from pay-for-use rentals, has it ever been used a community resource space?

          It’s completely unfortunate that your family is now facing the possibility of losing ownership, but are there any benefits El Sereno would gain from letting the space go up for development, like… to an actual movie theater operator, business spaces, etc…?

          I’m playing devil’s advocate here but I’m all for community spaces, responsible development, family owned businesses and revitalization. I’m going to side with whichever option can prove to be a greater benefit to the neighborhood, not to one family in particular. Maybe the Eastesider or other news outlet can help with additional information.

  4. Would it be eligible as a Historic-Cultural Monument?

    Saw this last week for the first time. Didn’t look like the current ownership is doing the place any favors.

    • Correction. After seeing the photos, it actually looks pretty good.

      I don’t know that many people will want to donate money for a privately-owned venue, though.. If there was a legit non-profit created, people would probably feel more comfortable.

  5. Where is Guy Caballero when you need him?

  6. Esmeralda Quinonez

    They should do 80’s movie night or Horror movie nights. They should also try doing a showing of “The ROcky Horror Picture Show” they way they used to do at “The Rialto” in Pasadena before they closed that down. They should show the movie along with all the gag gimmicks that the movie usually runs with (Water guns, toilet paper) I’m sure they would get packed with customers.

  7. If there’s anyway I or my family can help . I’m all in , my family has been in the same situation with out business . Maybe we can have a street fair . I’m sure there something we can do as a community to help them out .

  8. I agree w Yang. Ive been a part of this community and alwas thought it would be nice to provide movies to the community as the highland park theater does. Im sure that w enough creativity this could be saved. This place has so much potential! Think Mohawk Bend on sunset.

  9. The place is a dilapidated eyesore, adjacent to a drug alley. Tear it down!

  10. El Sereno homeowner near Mazatlan

    To the resident who want the Mazatlan torn down because its adjacent to a drug alley; why not tear down ALL the homes and businesses that are adjacent to what you call the “drug alley”? How simple; that’s the answer to the nation’s drug problem, why not do this across the city, or across the state for that matter? I could see the headlines now, “Every home and business that happens to be adjacent to a ‘drug alley’ demolished. Genius solves the U.S. drug problem!!”. You must be on drugs to even think that the Mazatlan is the reason for the alley being the way it is. Do the community of El Sereno a favor-STAY OUT OF THE ALLEY!- then maybe it’ll be drug free.

  11. Since this is a historical building, would it not be eligible for some sort of funding/grant as such from the city? Has this possibility been persued? I live nearby, and think with it’s location and solid structure, it could be a great place to display local art, hold cultural events, dances and music that represents the cultures of the community. It would be very sad to have some vulture developer(s) get ahold of it, tear it down and replace it with some ticky tacky structure.
    As for “resident’s ” comment above, one can only wonder how they can suffer through another day here, if it is so awful. Surely they will be leaving at the earliest opportunity, and good ridance.

    • Historical? In what sense? That it is an old building with long-deferred maintenance does not make it significant. After driving by again I surmise the land-value is more than the structure. I have to agree: Tear it down.

  12. I think people like Paco Bell need to stop making judgement calls on what is and isn’t historical based on observations made while “driving by”. Goes to show he doesn’t live in the community and feels no sense of pride towards it. Many of us Residents remember growing up with the Mazatlan as part of our lives. On weekends with our parents we would take nice local family outings, and the Mazatlan was always a favorite, watched many a childhood movie there. Later, when we got older, I remember going to the Mazatlan with my friends. Friday and Saturday nights were especially fun times to go hang out and watch a movie. Nice, chill, and safe; that was the Mazatlan. It gave many a youth an outlet from the school and home routine, it was nearby, had good movies and was safe to go to. So to us who grew up in El Sereno, it is historic, part of the community’s fabric then and hopefully will be here for our kids to enjoy as well. The difference being we know what it has meant to have a place like the Mazatlan and to why we need to preserve these historic buildings; people who make judgement calls based on a “drive by” don’t know a taco from a chamaco como paco.

    • A family outing to the Mazatlan?? LOL ! The Cameo was the ONLY movie house. The only thing historical about the Mazatlan was the number of tacky quinceneras that ended in fistfights. You can still sell your Christmas trees without this building on the lot.

  13. That’s buisness ! Why are they asking the community at large to bail them out.
    This is what happens when you make poor buisness choices.

    • This is about something bigger than a small family business. It is about creating community space. It is about saving a building that has history & character. El Sereno does not need another 99 cents store or a Fast Food chain. I grew up in this neighborhood & always had to venture outside of it to do anything. Our kids deserve better. We are not asking for a bail out like corporations on wall street. We are asking for the community to come together to build something beautiful.

      • I think that your suggestion would make sense if a community organization – or, more likely, a private investor – had an ownership stake in the building. I know it’s a bit late in the process, but maybe your family could find an investor who is willing to accept 50% ownership in the building in exchange for paying your family half of its current market value.

  14. I think people need to stop and really think about what they are writing and stop the criticism. It is these narrow minded people that have nothing better to do than to write garbage about places that are have probably existed long before they were even born. This is the problem with society these days. There is no regard for anything historic. Even the technology today has robbed children of the art of writing, reading and listening and holding onto what is deemed sacred. If the Mazatlan were to be saved, then yes, movies can be shown, plays can be showcased and other community events can be planned. However, it sounds like the majority of people like the idea of another strip mall or fast food joint to add to the many existing ones in the area. Saving the Mazatlan would not be about the family, it would be about saving the community as a whole.

  15. The true Paranormal teams in Southern California


    What I am going to tell you is the truth and I hope you and your family will make the right decision. We just got word that you will be letting a so called team “Boyle Heights Paranormal Project” in to your theatre to do paranormal events and investigations. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE! They are only interested in making money and pocketing it for themselves. Do not believe that they are in it to help the community or your family. They have a history at their Linda Vista Hospital for doing the exact same thing and that was making money. Nothing went to the hospital or the community. They have fooled many people mostly kids in Boyle Heights that don’t know any better in to taking their money but they have NOT fooled any of the paranormal teams in Southern California that know exactly what they are about. This STU-CON 4 event that you have let them have will bring a bunch of their only friends that support them. Since they lost Linda Vista Hospital they are only looking at your family’s theatre as a stomping ground for them to take over and pocket profits. Do not let them .

  16. I read all the current comments and hope the structure can be saved. I grew up in El Sereno and have good memories of the theatre. I remmember going the see movies on Saturdays with friends for $.09 at the old El Sereno theatre. The Cameo was more expensive at $.12.

  17. Tear the eyesore down. For years it looked like crap, a fresh coat of paint now and it looks “OK” but a few years later it will look like crap again.

  18. We've been down this road before.

    We’ve had several attepts at public spaces, the Xokolatl Cafe, the famer’s market, the eastside cafe. What doe these things have in common? They really don’t cater to the community of El Sereno as a whole… Why? because we are not silver lake, echo park or the new highland park. We are El Sereno. What galvanizes folks here is not a $4 dollar coffee or paying $5 dollars for a strawberry or having murals of fidel and Son Jarocho music. You mentioned a public space for music and bands. What days are these going to take place, what type of music? Will it become like the Airliner in Lincoln Hieghts that invites outsiders to our town and then encourages genterfication? I hope not. I suggest A MOVIE THEATRE. The highland theatre is still up and running offering a $3 dollar movie day to FAMILIES! everyone loves movies young, old, men, women, boys, girls, my tias, and tios, you name a person that hasn’t or doesn’t like going to the movies? How many of us go spend $20-&50 of our money in Alhambra? Why not in our own neighborhood? Why because we don’t have a theatre. Sure it will be an investment and cost money, but if you say yes to a theatre I will bring out my paint brush and bucket of soap and start helping out. If your gonna bust out with the same old Fidel-Commi pride, hipster, organic scene then close it down. El Sereno doesn’t need it. I say theatre!!! or bust!

  19. I left el Sereno in 1981 and that eyesore looked exactly the same. Tear it down and build a real hall

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