Capitola Theater

120 Monterey Avenue,
Capitola, CA 95010

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The auditorium of the Capitola Theater was constructed with a laminated wood arched roof. It opened August 6, 1948 and was under the same family ownership/operation until its closure as a full-time movie house in the mid-1990’s. The Capitola Theater was a much-loved double-feature bargain theatre serving all of Santa Cruz County. If you didn’t want to pay top price at the other theatres in the county, you could usually wait several months and your film would play the "Cap."

At times threatened with demolition, the theater was rescued by a group of local opera artists, who built a stage in front of the screen and presented opera there with success, as well as screening movies to fill in spaces in their schedule. It was closed in 2006, and was demolished in May 2010.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 21 comments)

GaryParks on May 2, 2009 at 1:13 am

As this is one of the most beloved, and most-visited theaters of my late childhood and young adulthood, I will give, for the record, the movies I saw here.
Prior to when I began keeping careful record of movies I’ve seen theatrically (1982), I can’t recall anywhere near all of them, though I do know the first visit was for a double feature, circa 1975, of “That’s Entertainment,” and “Travels with My Aunt.” The latter was the first time I ever saw nudity onscreen (a stripper in a club) albeit a rear view. I also know we saw “The Great Santini,” and “Serial” in about 1980 or ‘81—not necessarily paired. More childhood education: The latter had a humorous orgy scene, this time with frontal nudity.
By no means will I even consider blurring the eyes of fellow Cinematreasures members/readers by listing all movies seen at every theater on this site that I’ve attended (I would never have time), but as the “Cap” was my family’s most-frequented theater, and it got almost all the movies after the local UA houses were done with them, I think a complete list is in order of what I saw, in fond remembrance:
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” with “The Jazz Singer” (yes, with Neil Diamond)
“The French Leutenant’s Woman” with “Atlantic City"
"Absence of Malice” with “Seems Like Old Times"
"First Monday of October” with “Reds"
"Deathtrap” with “Victor/Victoria"
"Modern Problems” with “Tron"
"Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” with “Tex"
"Trail of the Pink Panther” with “Time Bandits"
"Missing” with “Evil Under the Sun"
"Max Dugan Returns” with “The Black Stallion Returns"
"The Verdict” with “Without A Trace"
"King of Comedy” with “Max Dugan Returns” (again!)
“The Survivors” with “Tootsie"
"Local Hero” with “Chariots of Fire"
"The Grey Fox” with “Mr. Mom"
"A Christmas Story” with “Romantic Comedy"
"Cross Creek” (We didn’t stay for the second feature. I do know that it was something we were afraid might offend the sensibilities of guests we were entertaining from then-Communist China as part of an exchange program with UC Santa Cruz!)
“Yentl” with “Best Friends"
"Silkwood” (Not sure why I—alone this time—didn’t stay for the second feature)
“Tender Mercies” with “Racing With the Moon"
"The Natural” with “Unfaithfully Yours"
"Broadway Danny Rose” with “The Dresser"
"The Karate Kid” with “Hanky Panky"
"Protocol” (Didn’t stay for second feature—perhaps I or my then-girlfriend weren’t interested)
“Falling in Love” with “King David"
"A Passage to India” (Didn’t see second feature)
“Vertigo” with “The River"
"The Man Who Knew Too Much” with “The Trouble With Harry"
"The Return of the Soldier” (Didn’t see second feature)
“Amadeus” (Didn’t see second feature)
“Clue” with “Young Sherlock Holmes"
"The Trip to Bountiful” with “White Nights"
At this point I was now living fulltime outside Santa Cruz County, so my visits became fewer*****
"Soul Man” with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash"
"Crocodile Dundee”(Didn’t see second feature)
“Baby Boom” (Didn’t see second feature)
“Crossing Delancey” with “Clara’s Heart"
"Pink Cadillac” with “Scens From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills"
—didn’t go at all—
"Quigley Down Under” with “On the Air"
"For the Boys” with “Barton Fink"
The Capitola closed within a couple of years.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 4, 2009 at 9:13 pm

The Capitola Theatre was built for Arthur Mayer of San Francisco and Joseph Jacobs of Burlingame. Although construction of the Capitola began in late 1947, materials shortages delayed its completion, and it didn’t open until the summer of 1948. The start of construction was announced in the December 6, 1947, issue of Boxoffice Magazine, and the opening in the August 7, 1948, issue. The September 3, 1973, issue of Boxoffice said that the Capitola had celebrated its 25th anniversary on August 6.

DavidZornig on October 25, 2009 at 6:17 am

I guess it’s doomed when the Mayor doesn’t consider it historic.
Then they cite the property forcing abatement due to health concerns. It’s just a route to get the owner/ developer to tear it down all the quicker.
Wonder how many of those “threatened” Eucalyptus trees will come down to build the hotel?

If the developer included plans for a small stage within the hotel, it might quell any backlash.
Though no one even commented to the newspaper’s article forum.
The link to the current status & story is on the CT Home page BTW.

DavidZornig on October 25, 2009 at 6:22 am

BTW II: A Mr. Haven’s wrote an excellent comment yesterday that posted to that current story on the home page.
Maybe CT admins can transfer it directly to this Capitola page.

Element1604 on May 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

This theatre is being demolished today.
Most of the equipment is now in the dump.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 25, 2010 at 7:38 pm

If one had the chance they should have gotten in somehow and saved some parts of that Theatre,I know i did it when they came in to wreck my favorite two theatres. Got quite a bit out of the booth and managers office.It wasn’t all going in the trash if i could help it.

GaryParks on July 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

The Capitola’s well worn parking lot is still there, but a freshly-laid L-shaped pad of blacktop marks the footprint where the auditorium and lobby once were. The front lawn has been scraped away as well. The old cement block wall that once separated the theatre from the Lido restaurant (and Mac’s Patio bar before that) still stands.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm

A card in the L.A. library’s California Index cites a 1948/1949 theatre catalog naming the architect of the Capitola Theatre as Harold Onstead. I’ve been unable to find anything else about him on the Internet.

jake4ken on August 3, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Our family ran the Theater with Audrey Jacobs taking the job for a year and ran it for 50 years when she retired. It was a family enterprise and started with the running of both the Soquel and Capitola Theaters. The original builiding was an old quansit hut purchased from military surplus according to my father, Merton Jacobs the nephew of Joseph and Racine Jacobs.

Audrey used to say that the theater was her baby and after all she was the first woman to run a movie theater in the state of California.

Patsy on January 10, 2015 at 8:58 pm

So sad that this seaside town has lost their theatre.

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