Elmo Theatre

Morro Street and Marsh Street,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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raymondsoto on November 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

myname is Raymond soto and I usto live on the 700 block of morro st in 1946 and I usto go to the elmo theather on saterdays I was 9 years old the curtan that was hanging in front of the screen must be worth a fortune right now do you know where it is….p.o. box 266 thermal cal 92274….760-989-3750

dmelin on March 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Hotel Granada- My uncle lived in the Granada with his father who owned it for a number of years. I think we would be talking about the time peiod of the early 1950’s. I’d be happy to provide info if you have some specific questions. Thanks. FYI My dad remembers the Elmo quite well and used to play in the basement, which contained dressing rooms. I also have a large umbrella vase (or gian ashtray) from the theatre that my grandmother gave me, as her father was an Elk.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hotel: I’ve been unable to find anything about the Granada Hotel, but I think you might have the wrong spelling for the original owners' surname. I can’t find any references to a Remage family in San Luis Obispo on the Internet, but there are multiple results for a search using the terms Ramage and Obispo. This page at Find A Grave lists 13 people with the surname Ramage buried in San Luis Obispo County.

There are probably still members of the Ramage family in and around San Luis Obispo. This web page, for example says that a Tim Ramage competed in the 2011 San Luis Obispo Triathlon. A Ramage Drilling and Construction Company is headquartered in nearby Paso Robles.

If, as I suspect, the spelling Remage was the result of a typo in your original source, then the Granada was probably owned by members of the Ramage family, and it’s likely that at least one of the living members of the family in the area will know something about the hotel.

HotelGranada on March 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Hi, I am searching for information about the Hotel Granada which was located next to Elmo Theater. The only info I’ve been able to find is this photo of the Elmo and a postcard written from the Hotel Granada stationary that says ‘next to Elmo Theater’. Does anyone have any information about the Hotel? I know it was built in 1922 and was operated as a hotel for 40 years. The original owners are Mr. and Mrs. Remage. Any help would be hugely appreciated. Thank you

SLOnative on May 20, 2008 at 9:58 am

I remember your uncle Les Hacker, as I grew up just two blocks below the KVEC radio studios. They used to put on life radio dramas and a lot of us neighbor kids would sit in the audience watching the sound effects man make thunder, rain, horse hoof sounds all on a small table.

In those days radio was king. I caught the live Mel Venter Breakfast Gang broadcast at the neighboring art deco Fremont Theater one year. The San Luis Obispo Centennial parade was held in May 1956. The city got caught with it’s pants down in 2006 and were unprepared to celebrate their Sesquicentennial. All we have to show for it is a defunct website: www.slo150.com

I’ll be in touch.

sanmyn on May 19, 2008 at 9:04 pm

My Uncle, Les Hacker, owned and managed Station KVEC from the early 30’s through 1965. I lived in SF but would visit several times a year and spent my summers in SLO. I have many photos of SLO in the 50’s and recall the SLO Centenial celebration held in 1950 in the Obispo Theatre. I have shots of the interior that exciting day when Mel Venter and his Breakfast Gang held the radio show there. Also shots on the outside podium near City Hall where Earl Warren, CA Gov gave his speech; several movie stars attended. Arland Chevrolet furnished the convertibles for the Grand Parade. Also have photos of City Hall and the murder trial held there in 1950. ()

SLOnative on May 6, 2008 at 5:45 pm

The El Monterey theatre name was changed to “Obispo” in December 1928 and equipped or “talkies”. Why the name change? Because the citizens of San Luis Obispo couldn’t understand why “their” theatre was named for the rival county to the north…even though it was on Monterey Street. The El Monterey curtain was removed from the Obispo and installed in the Elmo during that time. In the late 1950’s the Elks Club purchased property south of town and the great destruction of 1960 began: This historic 1911 brick building was torn down, along with the high school, the old high school/junior high and three grammar schools because the local school board was reminded that the Field Act made them responsible for the death or injury of any students during an earthquake.

The Obispo Theatre building was adjacent to Sully’s bar (formerly Dan’s). The bar was robbed on the night of Dec. 28, 1975. Investigators told me that the person who broke in, set a fire in the upstairs office of the bar early Sunday morning to cover their tracks. The widow Henry C. Dalessi Estate was given two days (between Dec. 29 and New Years?) to decide to either rebuild or tear it down. Trivia: Photos of the Obispo fire are hard to date, because the marque displayed “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It took over 29 years to rebuild on the site because the city had somehow acquired the property for a parking lot! Today Plazzo Giusseppe’s restaurant sits on the site which is now referred to as Court Street, the old alley that cut between Monterey and Higuera Streets.

bcgreeneiv on November 9, 2007 at 8:20 pm

My parents and I were driving to Santa Cruz one early morning in the 1970’s when we saw all the smoke from the Obispo theater fire. We didn’t know what it was until we got back. Another classic building gone! I went there a few times, think I saw some kind of Sinbad the sailor movie there. I sure miss those beautiful lobby and interiors compared to today’s theaters with their plain decor.

tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 7:56 pm

The facade of the El Monterey (Obispo) is remarkably similar to the T & D in Salinas, Richmond and the still standing California Theatre in Pittsburg.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 7:46 pm

The Elmo was certainly demolished first. I’m not sure which theatre opened first because a firm date hasn’t been established for the original El Monterey. The Elmo apparently opened in 1912 (see comment posted by Bonnach on Jan 27, 2007, above.) The El Monterey was extensively rebuilt (though later photos reveal that the original facade remained largely intact) in 1928, which was about when it was renamed the Obispo, but that postcard photo of it looks very old, and might even predate the 1912 opening of the Elmo. I’m thinking the El Monterey might have originally been a nickelodeon, with the bulk of the construction budget poured into that ornate facade and very little spent on the auditorium.

tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 7:21 pm

So, if am I following this correctly, the Elmo Theatre (in the old Elks building, demolished in the late 1950s) and the El Monterey (later Obispo, demolished 1975 or so) is the correct chronology of these two theatres?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 6:09 pm

It’s been established that El Monterey was an earlier name of the Obispo Theatre (see Pat OD’s comment of May 25, 2006, and subsequent on the Obispo page.) In the SLO 150th Anniversary album there’s now a scan of an early postcard of Monterey Street, showing the distinctive facade of the El Monterey. The picture is undated, but from the style of the card,the vehicles on the street, and the fact that the theatre had no marquee, it looks as though it could have have been pre-WWI. The original El Monterey presumably took its name from its location on Monterey Street.

tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 9:07 am

Comparing the facade of the Elmo with that of the Obispo Theatre, they were, as expected, two distinctly different buildings. As I said earlier, a late theatre historian who lived in Moro Bay, Bob Longfield said the Obispo was owned by the El Monterey Theatre Company. It is congecture that the ElMo name was the shortened name for El Monterey.

As I said earlier above, the organ from the Elmo was enlarged by Louis Maas and moved to the Obispo in the late ‘20s. A much larger organ was moved from LA (Palace Grand Theatre opus 433) to the Elmo, the console of which is on the organ in the Fox Hanford Theatre in Hanford. The balance of the Elmo organ is, greatly added to, in the Fox Visalia Theatre. The remains of the Obispo organ are in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Visalia.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Here is a wider version of aroid’s picture:


It’s been ages since I’ve been there, but I believe the view is southward on Morro Street from Monterey, and if so then the Elmo must have been on the east side of Morro, north corner of Marsh. Is there anyone here from SLO who can confirm or deny this location?

Also, here is aroid’s birds-eye view of SLO, with the distinctive arc of the Fremont’s blade visible at left of center, and the Elmo at the right with its large, red stage house clearly visible:


bcgreeneiv on November 8, 2007 at 10:35 pm

The Elmo theater was gone before I moved to SLO in 1971, however, there is a picture of it on Flickr (not my picture) at:

The person ‘aroid’ who put this picture on Flickr has a lot of old pictures of San Luis Obispo in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Very interesting!

I work across the street from the Fremont Theater – what a classic!

kencmcintyre on June 3, 2007 at 2:03 pm

In an LA Times ad dated 1/24/25, the Elmo and the El Monterey have separate listings. No addresses are provided, however.

bonnach on January 27, 2007 at 4:15 am

According to “San Luis Obispo: A history in Architecture” by Janet Penn Franks, The Elks Club moved into a larger building in November, 1912. I contained a ballroom and the Elmo theater. The theater hosted vaudeville acts before it added movies. “Resembling a turn-of-the-century opera house, the Elmo had carpeting , upholstered red-plush seats on the main floor, two-tiered box seats trimmed with gold piping in the "dress circle,” and a balcony. The stage curtain depicted a path winding its way through stylized trees and flowers to a turreted castle. In later years the Elmo ran silent movies until the 1920s when the projectionist hung a sign on the marquee that read: “Elmo now talks.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 26, 2006 at 2:04 am

There now seems to be some question as to whether or not the Elmo was in fact the El Monterey. See Pat OD’s comment of May 25, 2006, on the Obispo Theatre page.

William on October 6, 2005 at 12:03 pm

In the F.D.Y. listing of sound theatre dated Sept. 1st., 1929 listed two theatres for San Luis Obispo. Both theatre were equipped with Western Electric sound systems. In the list it’s listed as the El Monterey Theatre and the Obispo Theatre. But in the Wesco listing it’s called the Elmo.

tomdelay on October 6, 2005 at 6:53 am


Now that is interesting. The 1928 “reconstruction” date ties in with when the larger organ would have been installed in the older Elmo as well as when the former Elmo Wurlitzer was rebuilt and moved to the new Obispo Theatre.

Many, many years ago, I was communicating via letter with a long time theatre and organ enthusiast, Bob Longfield, who had moved from Sacramento to Moro Bay to retire. He told me of a local theatre called the El Monterey, which I understood was in Moro Bay. I mentioned the Elmo in SLO and we both came up with the idea that perhaps Elmo was shortened from El Monterey. Regardless as to whether there was a theatre in Moro Bay named the El Monterey, it sounds like the Elmo SLO name WAS shortened from El Monterey. Good information.

Now if someone can tell us what happened to the Elmo and when? From what I have seen, buzzing about downtown SLO, the Fremont Theatre is the only historic theatre left downtown—and it was built well after either the Elmo or the Obispo.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 6, 2005 at 2:15 am

From Southwest Builder and Contractor, issue of 10/27/1928:[quote]“San Luis Obispo— Mrs. W.B. Martin has secured a permit for reconstruction the El Monterey Theater. The cost will be $20,000.”[quote]

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 5, 2005 at 1:23 pm

Morro Street and Marsh Street is all I have in F.D.Y. which locates it at around 1100 – 1200 Morro Street or 800 – 900 Marsh Street. No idea whether it was odd or even numbers though.

tomdelay on October 5, 2005 at 1:12 pm


Is there any indication as to the address of the Elmo?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 5, 2005 at 12:56 pm

The Elmo Theatre is listed in Film Daily Yearbook’s in the 1940’s as being operated under Direct Supervision of Fox West Coast Theaters Corp. A seating capacity is given as 932.