Guild Theater

3825 Fifth Avenue,
San Diego, CA 92103

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Guild Theatre, San Diego, CA

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Hillcrest Theater was built in 1913 as a silent motion picture house. It has the distinction of being the first film theater built in San Diego that was not downtown. Though small in size, it also had a balcony. It was distinctly Spanish Colonial in style, and even sported a bell tower at the apex of the facade.

For a reason unclear, it closed in 1917, but was re-opened in the 1930s by the Fox chain, who ran it for two decades. It was renamed the Guild in the 1950s but by the 1970s was showing adult films. Landmark took it over in 1978 and it became a popular art house. By 1996, a theater group called “Crazed Imaginations” led the theater audience in late-night sing-along showings of the film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which was a big hit.

Sadly, in 1997, the theater was closed, the same year the historic Park Theater was closed a few blocks away. In 2002 an entirely new structure replaced it, the new one with a facade made to simulate the appearance of the original, sans the charming interior and details. The new structure is a designer furniture showroom today.

Contributed by R. Christian Anderson

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 15, 2005 at 1:45 am

Southwest Builder and Manufacturer of March 22nd, 1913, announced the issuing of the building permit for this theater. The owner of the theater was J.K. Stickney, the projected cost was $7500, and the building was described as being built of hollow clay tile (a commonly used construction material in early 20th century Southern California, but which was later found to be highly susceptible to damage in even moderate earthquakes, and very costly to retrofit- which may account for its having eventually been demolished rather than renovated.) The architect is not named, unfortunately.

neeb
neeb on June 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m5tw0jn06l1qm4y66o1_1280.jpg

Are we sure the entire building was completely demolished? The presence of the “hut” on top of both buildings would indicate extensive remodeling, but total demolition seems a stretch.

Does anyone have pictures of the demolition?

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on August 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

exprojector23
exprojector23 on November 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I believe the original intent was to preserve the facade of the building, but it was determined to be unstable and not up to code. The current facade is a replacement.

exprojector23
exprojector23 on November 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm

The “hut” is in fact on top of the building next to the Guild, not on top of either the old or new building.

exprojector23
exprojector23 on November 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” showed at the Guild for a number of years up until 1984, when it switched over to the Ken, where it ran for many years before switching to the Guild some time in the ‘90s. The last movie shown at the Guild was “Female Perversions,” which despite its title was not a throwback to the theater’s adult days, but a fairly good movie starring Tilda Swinton. (I attended the final showing.) The Guild closed the same night as Landmark’s Park Theater (http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1563).

LomaUsher
LomaUsher on March 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I remember seeing “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover” at the balcony of the Guild. It was a charming cinema. Much missed!

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