United Artists Theatre

263 S. First Street,
San Jose, CA 95113

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This theater was originally designed in a Spanish Gothic hybrid style in a collaboration of local architects Binder & Curtis with San Francisco architects Weeks & Day.

The tall narrow facade with spindly columns and tracery would find even better interpretation several years later in Weeks & Day’s California (Fox), just down the street.

The theatre was first known as the Hippodrome Theatre, then the American Theatre, but it spent many years (in an Art Deco reincarnation) as the State Theatre, and finally the UA Theatre, with a towering neon vertical sign much like that of several other UA houses, most notably that in Berkeley.

The theater was entered through a long narrow lobby structure, with the auditorium occupying a large plot of ground in the center of the block. The UA was demolished as part of downtown redevelopment, and though the Binder & Curtis-designed Montgomery Hotel adjacent is undergoing restoration, the site of the UA Theatre has sat empty for over twenty years.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

William
William on November 13, 2003 at 8:09 pm

The United Artists was located at 263 S. 1st Street. The Theatre seated 1682 people.

RonnieT
RonnieT on October 10, 2005 at 10:09 pm

Just remember it being a nice theatre with ‘UA’ Marquee. Saw ‘The Longest Day’ there, in the early ‘60s. Sad to see/hear so many of these great 'houses’ gone with the wind. lol. ‘Progress’‘n 'Time marches on’, I guess. They jus' don’t make’m like they used to!

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 11, 2005 at 11:03 am

There was another United Artists theater in San Francisco, also called the Imperial. I didn’t see a listing under either name:

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 25, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Ken: The Imperial/UA is still operating as the Market Street Cinema.

robertgippy
robertgippy on June 15, 2007 at 12:18 am

The United Artists was a beautiful theatre. I attended it in 1974 for a spanish film festival. This festival, in connection with the Plaza Theatre in Oakland, and the Oakley Theatre in Oakley California, was quite successful. The vertical was spectacular with U.A. flashing in red and blue neon. The interior was gothic, but what i remember most was the ceiling with a beautiful light fixture, shaped like a red diamond recessed. The Fox just down the street was closed. It continued to show spanish movies for awhile, however I don’t remember when it closed. Gone but not forgotten!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 26, 2009 at 2:26 am

This theater opened as the Hippodrome. The new theater was the subject of a brief article, with four photographs, in the October, 1919, issue of The Architect and Engineer, available to read or download at Google Books. The article begins on page 83.

The American Theatre in San Jose was mentioned in the August 17, 1929, issue of Movie Age. The earliest mention of the State Theatre in San Jose that I’ve found is in the July 23, 1938, issue of Boxoffice, in an item headlined “Good Business Follows Renovation at San Jose.” The item mentions that the house had previously been called the American, but doesn’t mention the earlier Hippodrome name.

The earliest mention I’ve found of the United Artists in San Jose is from the November 24, 1951, issue of Boxoffice, which names a number of movie stars scheduled to appear at a benefit premier to be held at what the item calls “..the new United Artists Theatre….”

A bit more detail of the early history of the house was revealed in an article in the February 3, 1945, issue of Boxoffice. This article said that the theater was built in 1918, and originally operated by the San Jose Hippodrome Company. Before 1925 it was acquired by the Liberty Amusement Company, which changed the name to American Theatre. It was then leased to National Theatres in 1925, the lease was sold to Redwood Theatres in 1933, then taken over by St. Claire Theatres in 1934. That must have been the company that did the 1938 renovation and renaming. Finally, in early 1945 the theater was sold to a group of San Francisco investors operating as San Jose State Theatre, Inc. (the subject of the Boxoffice article.)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 31, 2011 at 7:01 am

I should note that the article I cited in my previous comment is in the December, 1919, issue of The Architect & Engineer, not the October issue. Here’s a direct link. Scroll up one page for a photo of the facade. Four interior photos are farther down, following the article text.

nonsportsnut
nonsportsnut on September 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I’m trying to confirm a Ted Healy (The founder of the Three Stooges) appearance (possibly under his birth name of Ernest, or Lee, Nash) in a show titled “Just a Laugh” on July 7, 1920. Please email me at Thanks, Frank Reighter

jon62
jon62 on March 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

I used to change the marquee on this theater. I got $7.00 each time I did it. That was big money back then but then I had to get up this big ladder. I don’t know how I did it but I did. It was fun. That was back when I was 18.

thecaptainb
thecaptainb on November 4, 2013 at 1:57 am

Wow jon62, I remember back then that was a huge Marquee. Maybe it was you I saw up there from time to time and said I hope he knows what he is doing. lol

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