Garden of Allah Theatre

43 E. St. James Street,
San Jose, CA 95221

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This theatre—located in the North portion of Downtown San Jose and facing onto St. James Park—was housed in the former First Church of Christ, Scientist which had been built circa 1902 from a design by noted architect Willis Polk. The building features seven steps leading up to a pedimented portico with four Ionic columns. Above and behind is a dome. The plan of the church building is in the shape of an Eastern cross. Three doors lead from the portico into a small foyer. Just beyond is the auditorium/sanctuary, which features a balcony.

In the early-1950’s, the Christian Science congregation moved out of the building in favor of a new and slightly larger Colonial-Moderne building just outside Downtown along the Alameda thoroughfare (not far from the Towne Theatre). At some point shortly thereafter, the old church became the Garden of Allah Theatre showing movies. The interior was only changed a little, with the cathedral glass leaded windows being covered over, the auditorium walls being sprayed with acoustical texture, and a screen being placed in front of the choir loft and organ, which was left in place. The foyer was painted in the chalky pink color then so in favor for theatre decorating.

If anyone knows more about this building’s use as a movie theatre, please contact us!

After the movies left, San Jose Children’s Musical Theatre used it as a live facility. In the intervening years, it has stood vacant, just barely escaping demolition several times. Today it is officially a landmark, and it is scheduled to be retained and restored as part of a development which will occupy much of the entire block.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

GaryParks on December 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Ads appear in the papers for this theatre in 1972 and 1973, and it appears in the City Directory for that time period as well. Whether it operated without advertising during other years, or these indeed were the only years of operation is something not known at this point.

radiodavey on July 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm

My girlfriend and I were into old movies, lived downtown in San Jose, began to frequent the Garden Of Allah. After a few visits we met the owners. They found out I was an art major and asked me to do posters for their very cool events, including conerts as well as retro/foreign and art films. I did it for free, they had said they would help me get exposure in San Francisco.I was young and totally trusting.Never got a personel address or phone number. I went to see them with art for an up coming movie, they had closed up. No word, no phone number, nothing. They had all of my original art. I was heart broken. Many years later I can imagine they were not making it, and just fled the venue. I hope they came out ok…I’d love to find out what happened…..

davidcoppock on May 27, 2018 at 6:45 am

Is it known what the devolpment plans are for the building?

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