Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Cinema Graveyard: Vineyard Twin

After the Mann Rancho Bernardo 6, this was probably my most frequented theater when I was growing up in San Diego in the ’70s and ’80s: the Vineyard Twin Cinema in Escondido, California. Just a short drive north from where I lived in Rancho Bernardo, this – along with the RB6, the Poway Playhouse, and the Plaza Twin – was the closest theater available to me before a surge of multiplexes in the area crushed these little movie houses out of existence in the 1990s.

The Vineyard Twin – and the little shopping center it was part of – opened in 1974, and both were unique in that the entire structure was made of natural wood, giving it the look and feel of an aged wine barrel. Our family would visit the Vineyard many times throughout the 1970s, and when I acquired my driver’s license in the early ’80s, I become a more frequent visitor to the location, and then even more so in 1986, when I moved to the apartment complex directly behind it, just a short five-minute walk away.

And not only was it a decent place to go for movies, but it was just a pleasant place to visit overall, whether it was to grab a bite to eat before the show at Acapulco or Grand Central Deli, or enjoy some ice cream afterwards at Swenson’s next door. There was also a Book Works book store, a board game shop called The Game Keeper, a Stanley Andrews sporting goods, a place to buy re-soleable sneakers called, of all things, Second Sole, and most importantly for me, a Licorice Pizza outlet, where I purchased most of the records I owned throughout the eighties. I especially liked going there at night, where I could just stroll around and enjoy the shops, the lights, and the cool evening atmosphere.

In the black-and-white photo above, you can see the Vineyard Twin on the left side of the shopping center, where the silhouettes of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, and W.C. Fields can be seen on the cinema’s left wall. In fact, this was the only photograph of the Vineyard Twin I could find on-line; the photo you see at the top of this post is actually that of the Mexican restaurant Acapulco, which I’d taken a decade ago when I traveled to Escondido in hopes of getting one of the theater, and discovered I was far too late. By that time, the entire shopping complex was gone, save for that lone restaurant space, which sat forlorn and unoccupied for years (it can be seen in the bottom-left corner of the shopping center in the old photo). From what I hear, it’s gone now as well, leaving nothing of the Vineyard but a parking lot.

By my count, beginning with Airport ’75 in late-1974, I saw 36 movies at the Vineyard Twin during its quarter-century of existence, which doesn’t seem like much when compared to the 150 or so I saw at the RB6 during that time. But that Vineyard total is taken mostly from memory, and is deceptively low; for many years the theater distributed the old-style ‘construction paper’ tickets that were torn in half upon entry, and which never included the movie’s title or date the film was seen. This of course made it impossible for me to later track and verify what I’d seen there, or even if I’d seen a particular movie there, so I had to trust my memory, or what I could find in journals or notes I’d written years earlier.

But I do carry with me a handful of memories from those Vineyard Twin visits, which of course need no date or time stamp, and for me were equally as fond as those remembered from the Rancho Bernardo 6:

• My Dad and I went to see Jaws there in 1975, after having seen it a few times already, and we arrived early for our evening show. The guy at the ticket window asked if we wanted to go in right then, in the middle of the current show, instead of waiting outside, and then just stay seated afterwards for the screening we’d bought tickets for. So we did, and decided it might be fun, at certain key scary moments, to not watch the movie, but to watch the audience reactions instead. And it was fun, seeing a few hundred very-still patrons suddenly screaming and jumping a mile off their seats.

• My brother and I had to sit in the very front row for a crowded screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, my first time ever doing so, and we had to crane our heads back to see the screen, which we basically only saw the right half of; I was never again so close to a screen to watch a movie as I was that night for CE3K.

• My first theatrical nude scene took place at the Vineyard Twin, when Jenny Agutter bared all for my 13-year-old self in Logan’s Run.

• I saw my first and only current-release Hitchcock film there, which also happened to be his last: Family Plot. I also saw John Wayne’s last there, The Shootist, as well as my first Bond at a theater, The Spy Who Loved Me.

• I once went on a date there with not one but two girls at the same time, my Vons co-workers Kerry and Deanna, when the three of us went to see the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John romance comedy Two of a Kind. I admit, it wasn’t the greatest movie to take a pair of girls to see on a first date, but believe me, I wasn’t complaining.

• After seeing Big Trouble in Little China with my brother in the summer of 1986, I decided I wanted to introduce my friend Steve to it as well, so a week or two later we headed out to the Vineyard for a late-afternoon screening, with a stop at a nearby Straw Hat Pizza for dinner beforehand. We’d allowed ourselves plenty of time to eat prior to the show, but after waiting at our table for nearly an hour, and still no pizza, we decided dinner would have to be skipped. We went to the counter to get our money back and head out, but were now told the pizza had just come out of the oven and was ready; with no time eat it there, we took it to-go, and ate the mouth-burning slices straight from the box while standing in line outside the theater, a dining concept I’d never tried before, and would never try again.

• A co-worker friend of mine from the hospital where I worked, Dave, joined me one evening at the Vineyard  Twin for a screening of the Steven Seagal action film Fire Down Below. We sat in the back row, where behind us – running parallel to our row of seats – a wide area led from the auditorium entrance to our left to the center aisle on our right. A few minutes after the lights went down and the movie had started, we heard a commotion to our left…odd slapping sounds, and hushed exclamations of surprise. As soon as I turned to look, a pair of hands were suddenly slapping the head and shoulders of Dave, and then of mine! It confused me at first, then I realized what was happening: an old guy, thin and stooped over, had entered the movie late, couldn’t see a thing in the dark, and was working his way blindly down the back of our row, using his hands – and our heads – to guide him along!

I didn’t know it at the time, but that screening of Fire Down Below in late-1997 would be my last-ever visit to the Vineyard Twin. By then, I’d moved from my apartment in Escondido to one in Poway, about a half-hour drive away, and I was now spending my movie-going days and nights at other theaters around the San Diego area. At some point, the place became a second-run discount theater, and in 1998, after Regal merged with Edwards and opened an 18-screen multiplex in nearby San Marcos, they closed the Vineyard Twin forever, quietly and with little fanfare. Eventually, the entire Vineyard shopping center was torn down, save that one restaurant building, and an Albertsons supermarket – and its parking lot – went up in its place.

Looking back, I wish I’d known of its closing beforehand; I would’ve stopped by and visited once last time, and seen whatever movie happened to be playing there that day. I could’ve even stopped by Swenson’s for a chocolate shake afterwards, or browsed the shelves at Book Works for a while, if either establishment was still there, and open for business. And yes, I did see one of those three movies listed in the ad below: Bronco Billy, with my Dad in 1980.


22 comments on “Cinema Graveyard: Vineyard Twin

  1. Doug

    As kids I never went to that one, but we frequented the Gemco store that was up there in Escondido..It seemed miles away from where we live in Mira Mesa ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      I remember that Gemco…I went there many times as well. It was located where the old Escondido Drive-In used to be, on W. Mission Avenue.


  2. Reid

    Don’t forget Ridley Scott’s first movie, Alien? I think we all felt traumatized after that one 🙂 and a sound beginning for a great director.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Hey Reid! I definitely remember seeing Alien…my Dad took you, Bob, and I in the summer of ’79 (how about this for accuracy: August 1, 1979 at 5:35 pm). But we saw it at the Plaza Twin, not the Vineyard Twin! And yes, it was quite the traumatic experience…far more traumatic than Nightwing, which you and I saw that summer at the old Bijou in Escondido.


  3. Dracula

    The 70s Vineyard, sort of like the Mercado but no stucco! Unfortunately, I don’t recall the number of times I went to the movies there, you’ll have to update me with that info. I remember Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor with the waitresses in those red stripped outfits and that huge bowl of ice cream to share, that was the place to take your double date. Next door was the Escondido Mall another stop for us as well as Mini City. After Logan’s Run did you need a cold shower? I like these type of articles on the site!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Too bad the Mercado didn’t have a movie theater as well…though I’m sure the RB6 would’ve put it right out of business. And the Farrell’s wasn’t at the Vineyard, it was next door at the Escondido Village Mall, down at the west end past the pet shop, Village Records, and Yellow Brick Road. Hard to believe that Mini City is gone now as well; I tried to find info on when it closed, but there was no mention of it on-line.

      And oddly enough, I only have one documented instance of you and I seeing a movie together at the Vineyard Twin: Arthur, on August 13, 1981. There may have been more, but because of those unidentifiable tickets, we may never know.

      As for Logan’s Run…well, I didn’t even know what cold showers were back then.


  4. Dracula

    Funny, we just watched Arthur on TCM the other night. Many hours spent at Mini City checking out the light blue Athearn boxes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Until a friend of mine gave me the DVD of Arthur as a birthday gift a few years ago, I hadn’t seen it since that night at the Vineyard in ’81. And I still have a few of those Athearn boxes…four to be exact. A BN switcher, two boxcars (Great Northern and Southern), and a BN caboose.


  5. Dracula

    The last of your HO graveyard. Put it in a display case with some track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Yep, that’s all that’s left, save for a few lengths of track. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those display cases, but the cheapest is around $30…I may have to wait on that.


  6. Joe S

    Dear Monolith: I have always wanted to visit the Monolith, it’s safe to say it was a ‘bucket list’. I finally made it to the top on the Western Horror Trail (Bone Tomahawk) and I look forward to visiting again and taking more trails less traveled – maybe ‘British Noir’ or ‘Evelyn Ankers Night’. I have included a picture of my journey, reaching the top of the mountain!

    Joe at Monolith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Todd B

      Congrats on accomplishing what few have accomplished before…many have perished attempting to scale those lofty heights. And funny you should mention: the Monolith is hosting a double feature of Brighton Rock and Captive Wild Woman on the exact day of your next visit to CM headquarters in Peoria (date and time subject to change without notice). Hope to see you conquer the Monolith again soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dracula

    I’ve always scaled the Monolith in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. Has the altitude increased as you now have to wear winter gear? On my next visit do I need to bring an ice pick?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      I’ll need photographic proof of this scaling attempt of yours…and I do believe flip-flops are considered improper attire for a sanctioned Monolith climb. And if you bring an ice pick, we’ll use it to chip ice for the margaritas.


  8. Love these trips down memory lane. Thanks for sharing and 2 girls on the same date!!! Just like an Elvis movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      Thanks, Mike! It’s my goal this year to post more of these…I’ve got a few others like this in draft form that I’ve been working on. And it was kind of like an Elvis movie; I stood up and started belting out ‘Hound Dog’, and for some reason they took off running.


  9. Love that name “Second Sole”.

    I remember the store “Licorice Pizza” coming up once in convo with you. Such a brilliant name that at the time I never heard of before but then low and behold a Paul Thomas Anderson film comes out with the name. I haven’t seen it yet or even know if it has anything to do with the record store?

    This post is amazing Todd. So many cool memories. I love the ticket stubs, the B&W photo where you can see those figures like you mention and all the great memories seeing films with your Dad and friends.

    Ain’t no one forgetting those Jenny Agutter lil puppies 🙂 and even more in Walkabout!!

    Wow seeing The Shootist on the big screen. So cool.

    Brilliant read bro.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Todd B

      I do enjoy writing these types of posts…gives me a chance to re-visit my past, and dig up artifacts from my closets that I’d forgotten I’d still had. And I’m forever grateful that I had the smarts to hold on to my ticket stubs, from both movies and sports. Going to libraries and tracking down the dates and times in old newspapers, to discover which movies I’d seen way back when, has been a blast.

      I haven’t seen Licorice Pizza, either, so I had to look up the movie and see about that title; apparently, it’s never seen or mentioned in the movie, but the director said it was taken from the name of the record store, and he thought it would make a great title for his film. It’s too bad, though, that there isn’t a store in the film the characters go to…that would’ve been fun to see a re-created Licorice Pizza outlet.

      I know about Walkabout, but I’ve never seen it…and don’t forget An American Werewolf in London! Another…well, eye-opener!

      Glad you liked the post, Mikey…thanks!


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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 230

From the Monolith: 127

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 6
1940s – 20
1950s – 38
1960s – 34
1970s – 36
1980s – 35
1990s – 7
2000s – 13
2010s – 41

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 43
Comedy – 35
Crime – 23
Documentary – 5
Drama – 27
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 27
Western – 8

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 28
8 star – 36
7 star – 33
6 star – 22
5 star – 23
4 star – 25
3 star – 18
2 star – 20
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 93
G – 1
PG – 32
PG-13 – 35
R – 60
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 9

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