Liberty Theatre

67 S. Market Street,
San Jose, CA

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Liberty, San Jose

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Some have said the Liberty was San Jose’s first purpose-built major movie theater, others maintain it was the earlier Theatre DeLuxe, built about two years before the Liberty. (I am of the opinion that the Liberty should get the honor, since although both theaters had stages as well as screens, the Liberty was lower, longer, and narrower—less suited for stage fare.)

The Liberty opened in 1914. For a time in the mid 20th Century, it was the National, a foreign film venue, later it showed Spanish language films under the name Mexico, operated by local exhibitor Jose Borges.

Prior to the theater’s Fall 1982 demolition, the "Mexico" name plate was removed from a 1940s vertical sign on the facade, revealing the name "Liberty" one last time. Also during demolition, a sturdy wooden organ console lift platform was discovered, buried in the covered-over orchestra pit.

Although the original proscenium and organ grilles had long ago been removed to accomodate a wide screen, the auditorium ceiling of ornamental pressed tin survived until the end, with much of it and surrounding cornices and coves being salvaged and reused in Teske’s Germania Restaurant on North First St., where they can be seen today. Much of the brick shell of the theatre was recycled for ornamental brickwork in various area houses.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

tomdelay
tomdelay on December 7, 2002 at 4:41 pm

The Liberty Theatre had a large Robert-Morton pipe organ which must have had a memorable impact in this 1100 seat theatre. The organ was built in late 1921 and installed in 1922. The organ contained 3 manuals and 20 ranks of pipes distributed in three pipe chambers. There was a grand piano in the orchestra pit that also played from the organ console. Both the piano and organ console were on hydraulic lifts. When the Liberty was demolished in 1983, the old organ lift was uncovered, still in place.

The Robert Morton organ was purchased in 1941 by Grace Baptist Church in San Jose where it remains. The church totally rebuilt the organ in 1984 after much damage by earlier organ enthusiasts and “professional” organ service people.

As it did in the Liberty, the organ still has a remarkable impact in the church. It is the only original theatre organ to San Jose still in the city.

William
William on November 13, 2003 at 12:36 pm

The Liberty Theatre was located at 67 S. Market Street.

Elisabet
Elisabet on August 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I loved this place! We used to go with my grandfather to see all the cinema classics of Mexico’s Golden Age – Cantinflas, Pedro Infante, Maria Felix, Mil Mascaras, El Santo. It was thrilling! We’d pack a steamy bag of burritos and pile into my Papa’s Rambler. We’d sit in thread-bare theatre seats and eat stale popcorn. The restrooms always smelt of stale urine and they had those pink perfumatic despensers. I’d always beg my mom to let me spray some :) The lady who worked the ticket booth took ballet with my sister and I at San Jose Ballet School. She wore wrestlers lace up shoes instead of ballet slippers. She sported a huge bee-hive and thick eyeliner. Beautiful and mysterious…ah, memories!

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