Mexico Theatre

1194 E. Santa Clara Street,
San Jose, CA 95116

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Robert L. Lippert Theatres Inc.

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Mayfair Theatre, Esquire Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Mexico Theatre

The Mayfair Theatre opened in 1949 and catered to the moviegoing needs of East Side San Jose, as well as students of nearby San Jose State University. It features a cylindrical Streamline Moderne style tower with neon rings and backlit glass block, in addition to a more typical wedge-shaped neon marquee.

The name was changed to Esquire Theatre in 1962 when the theatre was taken over by Robert L. Lippert Theatres Inc.. Another change of hands, circa 1980, came with a change of policy–Spanish language films, and a change of name–Mexico Theatre, after local exhibitor Jose Borges had to abandon his previous Mexico Theatre (the former Liberty) downtown due to redevelopment.

In the mid-1990’s, a policy of Asian films was tried, but the house is now closed and "decorated" with spray painted names and gang "tags."

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

CaptVonKrapp on July 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Hey! The “Mexican Movies!” I worked a block up Santa Clara Street in the late 80’s-early 90’s and, although I never saw a movie there, my supervisor was a regular-the funny thing was that he was a middle-aged English Canadian who didn’t speak a word of Spanish! Still, every Friday night, after staying late to close the books for the week, he would call his wife and tell her that he would be home late that night and then he would head down the street for the latest shoot-em-up or (mild) T & A comedy at the “Mexican Movies,” as he called them. On Mondays, I would hear all about the latest feature, as well as his misadventures as the only Gringo in the place! Thanks, Cinema Treasures-I’ve just discovered this site and it’s brought back loads of great memories!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 14, 2009 at 9:38 pm

The May 14, 1949, issue of Boxoffice included the Mayfair on its list of new theater projects recently opened or under construction. Scheduled opening of the Mayfair was May 15. The house had 800 seats and was to be operated under a 20 year lease by Paul Catalano and Arthur Yarimie.

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on July 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Woz, who started Apple Computers says in his book that he bought the Mayfair Theater in San Jose for his wife to have. It would have been around 1983 or so. I don’t think it’s this place, but does anyne have any idea which Mayfair in San Jose it might be?

TLSLOEWS on July 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I bet it looked nice back in its day.

GaryParks on October 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

Last year I was let into the Mexico by the owner, who told me that he was planning on opening it as some sort of restaurant/club. It looked as if someone else had started the work of conversion sometime back, and this new man was picking up where the others had left off. There was nothing decorative whatsoever inside the theatre anymore. The flat ceiling and smooth walls had longsince been painted blue, and the floor terraced for tables, with railings on the edges of the terraces. The screen opening was empty.
At the time of my visit, some work appeared to be underway on the roof. This appears today to either still be slowly ongoing, or to have been aborted. Meanwhile, the marquee and sign continue to fade and peel, revealing portions of the original painted stars and other patterns which were once echoed in neon. The box office has been converted into a sort of glassed-in roadside shrine to Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, complete with a wooden (?) effigy and garlands and hanging Christmas (!) balls.
During a very recent research foray at the Special Collections Department at San Jose State, a fellow researcher and I came across a newly accessioned black and white night photo of the theatre when brand new as the Mayfair. The neon was much more intricate than the plethora of available 1980s photos show. The name Mayfair—predictibly—ran vertically in the same spots on the tower where the plastic-fronted “Mexico” signs have been for so many years.

brittany on July 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Hi Chuck1231 my name is Brittany i would like to talk more to you about your theater and was wondering if it was for lease or if we can talk more about email address is
thank you.

FonsVette on August 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

My husband and I love this San Jose landmark. Does anyone know who the owner is? Anyone have inside(current or past) pictures?

Jaimetomas on October 15, 2011 at 9:35 am

Hey guys I am in dire need of the owner’s name of the Mexico..I want to re-open after historical remodel back to a theater for the Hispanic Community. HELP, I cannot locate proper address on search records. Here is my email if anyone can help or post – URGENT

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on October 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Found this post by a user call MacAdvisor on Woz’s website:

Woz drove me to the theater after the meeting finished. It didn’t last all that long and I don’t remember what Woz, Jobs, and others were meeting about, if I ever knew. Tracking Woz down was a big part of my job. He would disappear for days, often leaving me with unsigned paychecks, film booking orders, and all sorts of things. He didn’t mean to, he would just get interested in something and sorta forget about the theater. We weren’t a big part of his life, just this little side thing, so when I needed something signed, I would work on getting to him for signatue and worry about getting back later. Getting back was never the problem tracking down Woz was.

Woz was then a simply wonderful man, but an occasionally frustrating boss (from what I hear, he still wonderful today, I just don’t know him). I wish we’d remained friends or even in contact, but this was all before Apple even went public and I viewed the Apple II I used at the theater as a terrific, but wildly expensive, typewriter. I didn’t even think to ask about one for my home and I am not sure what I would have done with it if I asked.

Jobs was legendary for his driving, but I liked the fact he went fast and got us there without delay. Back then, I’d been known to drive on sidewalks in my little 850 Syder to avoid stopping, so Jobs seemed a kindred spirit. We weren’t all that different in age, but he was clearly much wealthier than I was and nice enough to give me a ride out to my missing boss. I never saw him yell at anyone, nor be in the least bit impolite. He came with Woz to the theater a couple of times, but I left them alone to enjoy the picture.

The theater, for those that are interested, was called the Mayfair and Woz discusses it in his book. It became the Mexico after he gave it up and is located at 1194 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95116. I understand it is closed now and all of the lovely restoration work Woz paid for to the neon has been destroyed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 20, 2022 at 10:44 pm

An item in the September 2, 1962 issue of Boxoffice said that Robert Lippert had bought the Mayfair Theatre in San Jose in partnership with Charles Maestri & Associates. The partners planned to remodel the house and rename it the Esquire Theatre. Maestri became more active in the operation of the Lippert circuit in later years as Robert Lippert shifted more of his attention to his role as a movie producer.

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