This moderate-sized neighborhood theatre, completed in 1940, was built by Douglas Aircraft Company, the Santa Monica-based airplane manufacturer, to serve its factory employees.
During World War II, the Aero showed movies round-the-clock, in order to accommodate the three-shift Douglas Aircraft manufacturing activities.
Designed by R. M. Woolpert, the Streamline Moderne-styled Aero is an anchor of the Montana Avenue business district and has always been the only movie theatre in northern Santa Monica. It originally seated 600 in a single-level auditorium, with a small stage and screen.
Throughout its years as an operating theatre, it showed a typical neighborhood theatre’s format of a combination of extended-run and second-run motion pictures. The Aero also featured Saturday morning shows for kids. Attendance gradually declined, and by the 1970s the Aero had become a second-run theatre, eventually closing in April 2003.
The Aero was reopened in January 2005 by the nonprofit American Cinematheque. Although the theatre now only seats 425 and the exterior has been remodeled, the Aero retains its detached box office, interior and exterior lobby, and sign/marquee. Though still popularly known as the Aero, the theatre’s official name is now the Max Palevsky Aero Theatre. With almost daily screenings, the Aero features classic Hollywood, foreign, and art films.