Menhennet/Rowena Theatre Building
Phoenix theater owner Bill Menhennet opened this building to house the town’s first “talking movies,” though it also showed silent films, with a score played by a piano player in a loft in the theater. Joe and Alice Woods purchased the theater in 1932 and renamed it the “Rowena" after Joe's mother. The Rowena entertained thousands of Chandler residents for several decades.
Backstory and Context
The Rowena Theater, located at 81 W. Boston Street in Downtown Chandler, was opened in 1932. It was owned by Joe and Alice Woods, and for many years was the only movie theater in town.
People came from all over to see movies at the Rowena. Many bought a hamburger and soda at the café next door before heading to the Rowena for a feature film. Boys shined shoes all day Saturday so they could make enough money to see the show that night.
The Woods family eventually owned two more theaters in town – the Parkway Theater (1945-1979) on San Marcos Place, and the Mustang Drive-In (1951-1969) at the corner of Ray Road and Arizona Avenue. The Rowena closed its doors in 1955. In later years, the building has housed various tenants from the Salvation Army, to a specialty glass shop, to a restaurant.
During the Second World War, Americans across the nation banned together to work for the war effort. Bond drives were organized, everyday items were rationed, victory gardens were planted, and items such as milkweed and scrap metal were collected.
In 1944, local Chandler youngsters contributed to the war effort by bringing scraps of metal for recycling to a special matinee at the Rowena Theatre.
The Rowena Theatre, located at 81 W. Boston St. in downtown Chandler was in business from 1932-1955. The Joe & Alice Woods family ran three theatres in Chandler from 1932-1979 (Rowena 1932-1955, Parkway 1945-1979, and the Mustang Drive-in 1951-1969).