Varsity Theatre

456 University Avenue,
Palo Alto, CA 94301

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Donald John Long
Donald John Long on November 21, 2002 at 11:22 pm

I’ll always remember those wonderful times going to the “New Varsity” as it was known, in the 1970s and 1980s, to see art, foreign, classic and concert films in a real European-style ambience. The “New Varsity” was the only American movie theater I’ve ever been to which had a bar and restaurant inside the lobby, and little railing-tables in the auditorium, where it was all perfectly legal to buy alcoholic beverages and food (mostly sandwiches) to bring inside the theater to eat while you watched the movies. I really enjoyed the freedom of enjoying a beer or a glass of wine while watching Pink Floyd or The Marx Brothers, in the days before David Packard’s new Stanford Theater became a reality down the street on University Avenue in posh Palo Alto.

GaryParks on April 27, 2002 at 2:01 pm

To correct one item in the main description: The present Varsity was built from “scratch” and opened in 1927. The “old” Varsity that opened in 1912 was on the opposite side of University Avenue a couple of blocks to the West. The building that housed the “old” Varsity still stands, and has housed a Round Table Pizza and a Baskin and Robbins in recent years.

GaryParks on April 27, 2002 at 1:57 pm

I was part of a group that, although we lost the battle to keep the Varsity as a theatre, stayed on and fought to have as much of the interior preserved as possible. Some may think that the conversion to a bookstore is awful, but it could have been worse had it not been for our efforts. Originally, the remodeling called for removal of the marquee—to be replaced by a postmodern “shorthand” replica of the original—complete gutting and destruction of the lobby, and destruction of the arched sidewalls of the auditorium, and probably removal of all ceiling ornament. Due to our efforts, all these items were saved and restored.

Michael on October 9, 2001 at 12:19 pm

The Varsity was most likely one of The San Francisco Bay Areas Biggest losses. Even till the last show Cinema Paridesio/and Rocky Horror it kept it’s glam. I went and was shocked buy the transformation Borders did to this artifact and it is awful….LONG LIVE THE VARSITY.