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The Spreckels Theatre was opened in August 1912, designed by architect Harrison Albright in elegant Art Nouveau/Neo-Classical style, in the heart of downtown San Diego. It was managed by Dodge & Hayward in its early years for live stage shows and vaudeville acts.
Its proscenium arch was huge, and clearly inspired by Louis Sullivan. The auditorium contained a balcony and six sets of opera boxes. A vast stage could hold the largest productions of the day, including its first show, "Ben Hur", which used live horses during the chariot race scene. Originally, there were 1,915 seats, to honor the year of the Pan-Pacific Exposition, held in San Diego. Since then, it has been reduced to 1,464. Above the proscenium is a spectacular mural of Apollo in his chariot surrounded by the muses.
The lobby walls are covered in Carrera marble and sculptures of maidens, and the floor is done in mosaic style. Murals cover the areas above the lobby doorways, depicting scenes from the city’s history.
In 1922, the Spreckels Theatre switched from Broadway shows to movies, and continued to be a first-run house into the 1970’s, when it was renovated, and returned to live performances.
This stunning theater continues to present everything from touring Broadway productions, to rock concerts to dance and is one of the finest venues in San Diego remaining from the golden age of cinema.
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