Downtown's long-abandoned 1927 California Theatre has suffered for far too long. Its demolition by neglect is a tactic that is only costing the developer owner when it could instead rival the Balboa Theater or serve a multitude of other purposes.
San Diego's premier movie palace, the California Theatre was heralded as the "Cathedral of the Motion Picture" when it opened in 1927. The grand Spanish Colonial Revival style single-screen theatre and office building is listed on the local Register of Historical Resources. Its opulent interior originally featured gold leaf ceilings, murals, a huge Wurlitzer organ, and was able to seat 2200 film goers. In the 1970s, it became a memorable concert venue, but shortly after a 1988 renovation, it closed and came under imminent threat of demolition. Miraculously, it is still standing but vacant two decades later. Meanwhile, only a few blocks away, the restored and reopened Balboa Theatre stands as a preservation triumph. Like the Balboa, the California desperately deserves its long-overdue second chance to shine after years of neglect and vandalism.
A defaced California Theatre. Photo by Sandé Lollis
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