No Certainty for Downtown City Landmark
Morgan Hill – The Endersons finally got too old to hang on.
The historic new Granada Theater, which screened its first feature in 1951, was sold last week to downtown property owner Manou Mobedshahi, who already held a lease on the building and owns the Downtown Mall adjacent to the theater and its rear parking lot.
The theater had been owned by Edward and Irene Enderson since 1970. It’s been out of operation for more than a year, and Irene Enderson said Thursday that she and her husband could no longer stand the physical or financial strain of firing up the projector one more time.
“We just got too old to take care of it,” she said. “My husband didn’t want to start it up again. He’s 82 and didn’t think he ought to be doing that right now and he’s right.”
Mobedshahi said Friday that he has no preconceived notions about what he will do with the building, but reiterated his belief that a movie theater may not be a financially viable option.
“This can’t be about who’s a preservationist and who misses the theater,” he said. “I bought this building to do something fantastic for all of us downtown. We have one shot at this.”
Mobedshahi is currently working on a mix-use proposal for a downtown project which will mean the demolition of the Downtown Mall and the construction of 30 condominiums and retail in its place. He said he’s willing to meet with anyone who has an idea of how to make the Granada a downtown attraction once again.
Mayor Dennis Kennedy says he believes Mobedshahi is committed to preserving the theater as an entertainment venue of some sort, but not all city leaders are so sure.
“It all depends on whether we see actions that match the rhetoric and whether somebody steps forward,” Councilman Greg Sellers said. “To date, that hasn’t been the case. We could have movies showing at the Granada today if not for owners who think that’s not a good use of the facility.”
Sellers is holding out hope that the eventual operator of a new multi-plex destined for a new shopping center development will see wisdom in a joint operation with the Granada. The lead developer of that project has said he will explore whether such an arrangement is viable.
“We have to be sober, I don’t want to be Pollyanish about the prospects,” Sellers said. “The idea has some validity, but we need people to actually come forward on their commitments.”
Irene Enderson is hopeful, but doubtful, that someone will see a business opportunity in showing movies at the Granada again, and that the theater will take its place at the center of a bustling downtown.
“I hope somebody comes along and says ‘hey, this makes a good theater,’ and starts it up again,” she said. “So people can go and see a good show and downtown can have the traffic we used to have.”
The Endersons are intertwined with the history of the Granada. After Irene’s father died, she went to work as a candy girl and usher at the first Granada Theater, which made way for the new movie house in 1951. She met, Edward, a projectionist in 1949. In February 1951, they were married.
“We spent our first anniversary working at the show,” she said.
In 1961, the couple began running the theater and in 1970, they bought it outright and stayed with it for another 34 years. Irene said her fondest memories are of the theater’s annual Christmas shows, when parents would drop off their children for a feature and cartoons while they did their holiday shopping.
“People would leave their kids and go shopping, so their kids wouldn’t know what they were buying,” she said. “I think the kids always knew what they were buying, though.”