In reading a recent interview with Quentin Tarentino for his new movie Grindhouse, he refers to the Carson Twin Cinema theatres in Carson as a place he used to watch movies when he was a kid. This sparked a bit of nostalgia in me, as I used to also go to the Carson Twin almost every weekend to watch movies from 1984 to 1986. Granted, this was about eight years or so after Tarantino, but surely the theatre had not changed in that time, it wasn’t even remodeled!

My mom used to drop me off at the Carson Twin on her way to the Samerika Bingo parlor that was located just down the street, at Avalon Blvd. and 223rd Street. The theatre was located on Avalon Blvd. at the North end of a dilapidated strip mall called the Scottsdale Shopping Center that was located at the intersection of Scottsdale Drive. The theatre itself was a separate box shaped building adjacent to this sleezy Ranchero Mexican Bar that was located at the end of the strip mall. I remember seeing the scantily clad “bar ladies” getting dropped off in the early evening by their “boyfriends” or pimps, I’m not sure which.

I remember everything about that place. The movies were NEVER first run. The lobby was bare except for a badly stocked concession counter and a lone Galaga video game machine. The staff was mostly Samoan kids from Carson who knew the security guys at the Samerika Bingo hall down the street. I became good friends with those guys and had good laughs discussing the crappy films I saw there. I remember one of the guys was crazy good at Galaga and would play for thirty minutes on one quarter. I tried to beat his high score, but never could.

The theatre had crappy stained carpet in the lobby and down the aisles and there were only two cramped rectangular auditoriums, hence the name “Twin.” The walls were not particularly thick and there was crappy sound dampening, so if there was an action movie next to the one you were watching the explosions would echo into the adjacent theatre. That kinda sucked. The chairs were all pretty thrashed, the floors between the seats were sticky, but the place was clean, for the most part.

I remember this old white guy used own it, but he didn’t spend much time there. Or at least, I really didn’t see him much. I mostly remember the big Samoan kids that ran the place. Watching a movie was an experience there because everyone would talk to at the screen, and the kids were funny! The comments were as much a part of the movie as the movie itself. Watching “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween,” and other terror films there was a awesome, I really looked forward to it. There were also a lot of teenage coming of age films shown there a lot like “Class,” “My Bodyguard,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and “Porky’s.” It was really just an excuse to show some T&A.

Occasionally, fights would break out amongst older kids in the theatre while a movie was going on. This sometimes would happen when Kung Fu features were being played. I guess the fighting on screen would inspire some of the kids to try some Kung Fu on each other. Fights were usually stopped pretty quickly though and I always felt safe there. I remember “Game of Death” would play a lot at there. They must have owned the reel and put it on about twice a year. I love that film.

By all definition, the Carson Twin Cinema was a grindhouse theatre that shaped the way I see film today. I am not surprised that Tarantino used to frequent the same place. Even though he was there a few years before me.  I eventually worked at the Video Shack, a small video store in Wilmington to complete my self-taught film appreciation degree. Thanks Quentin, for reminding me about the Carson Twin and the good ol’ days in Wilmington and Carson once more.

8 Comments »

  1. Good read. Thanks! Takes me back to my childhood.
    Used to watch the kung-fu flicks and early T&A stuff. I loved this place! Samoans w/big afros, gangsters and hot buttered popcorn. What’s not to love about that???

    RC

    #1 by Rich C. — February 26, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  2. Loved the article.Brought me back to the days of saving my allowance to go the movies. I remember sneaking into see The Hills Have Eyes.Freaked me out, creepy ass movie.
    I remember sneaking into the other side when security wasnt watching. and yes the carpet was gross!! but what memories. thanks

    #2 by deanna — February 17, 2010 @ 6:47 am

  3. Yes, this place was cool. Dollar to get in and watch 2 movies. I remember watchin Dawn of the Dead when it first a came out. Popcorn was da bomb. Kung Fu and Scary flixs were the best! The only store that’s still alive is Foods Co now called Payless foods.

    #3 by vibesta — May 31, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

  4. Dam My father ran that Bingo Hall , It was just like he said it was , bad carpet gum stands Ku fu kids , pops drop me off while we watch Ku Fu flicks all day Walther Clark.

    #4 by Terek Clark — November 6, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

  5. Born and raised in Carson, I remember riding my bike here to watch movies. Eventually the Samoan staff were replaced after a man who was Chinese bought the theater and hired more responsible staff. My brother ended up working here and I used to spend all day at the Carson Twin during the summer in the mid 80’s. I even worked behind the counter selling candy and tickets. The owner was cool and I used to go up in the projection room, walk in and out of the two theaters, eat free popcorn and candy, and play free video games because the owner would open up the games and trip the mechanism to give me free credits. I saw James Bond “A View to a Kill” here, “Goonies”. I used to repair/splice the celluloid film when it broke during a movie so it would keep playing. The film was huge and use to take up giant tables they laid on. We would have to run the film through the projector and on to another huge table. Then after the movie ended you would get the beginning of the film, run it through the projector and run the movie in the opposite direction. The film weighed like 100’s of pounds. Thanks to digital now that no longer is done, and no more loud projector room, with the projector clacking away. Great memories at Carson Twin. I live about 6 blocks from the original site, now replaced by condos.

    #5 by David G. — May 9, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  6. my 2 friends and i used to see the b-movies there. sometimes my sister and her friends would go with us. i remember the chinese owner. this was between 1984-1986. i saw purple rain, indiana jones and temple of doom, a lot of b-horror flicks. i remembert every friday, the daily breeze newspaper had a coupon on fridays for the carson twin. it was a 2 for 1 coupon.

    #6 by david r — October 16, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

  7. How about the huge rats that use to crawl around the ugly curtains of the theaters. Also, the popcorn came out of huge bags and were pre-popped. Those were the days!

    #7 by Larry K — November 1, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

  8. I worked at the Straw Hat Pizza Palace that was 50 yards from the Carson Twin. We used to get into movies for free and give some of the theater workers free pizza. 1 year BEFORE Billy Jack came out it was audience tested at the Carson Twin and I got in for free. The theater ran LOTS of the Kung Fu movies in 72-74 timeframe.

    #8 by Tim — August 29, 2017 @ 1:20 pm

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