Lensic Performing Arts Center

211 W. San Francisco Street,
Santa Fe, NM 87501

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hondo on November 26, 2017 at 5:41 am

Somewhere I read or was told that the letters L-e-n-s-i-c are the first letter of the names of the original owner’s children. Spectacular place.

DavidZornig on November 25, 2017 at 8:14 am

Morbid photo of the Lensic in 1968 added.

sconn on October 19, 2016 at 7:34 am

I miss when it was a movie theater. Saw Gary Oldman in “Immortal Beloved” there, Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You” multiple times, great times

(Evangelo’s, the bar where Jeff Bridges performed in Crazy Heart (and in the forthcoming Granite Mountain) is just across the street to the right of the photo).

rivest266 on September 18, 2016 at 8:36 am

June 24th, 1931 grand opening ad in the photo section.

misterboo@gmail.com on August 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm

This was the place where I saw Star Wars in ‘77. It was my small town equivalent of the Village Theater in Westwood.

brianm9943 on May 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I first came across the Lensic when I moved to area in 1993. I took in a movie (To Wong Fu with Love – Julie Numar?) just so I could take a look inside. There were rumors about closing it at the time. I haven’t been back to see the renovations, but I’m glad they removated it rather than close it.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on April 28, 2008 at 2:53 pm

1987 photos of the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe here, here and here.

bruceanthony on August 3, 2007 at 10:37 am

The Lensic needs to restore the vertical it looks to blah without it. brucec

wtmarch on August 3, 2007 at 2:58 am

Nice work! Your old buddy from Toronto Canada, now living in Manila, Willy M. –

faberfranz on October 8, 2005 at 5:13 pm

ziggy: “I visited this theatre on November 6 to see the screening of ‘Gone With the Wind’…”

Hey, so did I! Um, wait. I don’t think it was November. Maybe you saw a re-run. I saw that movie at the Lensic on its first run. (Admission for kids 10 cents? or was that later?)

ziggy: “…The atmospheric auditorium has had all vestiges of tile roofs and plants removed, and the atmospheric dome has been replaced by a flat ceiling from which are suspended various light bridges, catwalks, and ducts…”

Hmmm… I recall the ceiling as very mysterious. Mostly dark but with (I think it was at the Lensic, if not some later theater in Albany) something reddish glowing in the corner(s)…as if a giant apple. [Maybe it was later, because I sort of associated it with that poisoned apple in Snow White.)

Will Dunklin: “I just spent a lovely vacation week in Santa Fe and was very fortunate to be able to see Buster Keaton’s silent comedy ‘Steamboat Bill’ presented with a live 6-piece orchestra at the Lensic…”

Now I’m confused. I saw a movie about a steamboat at the Lensic, but it was a talkie: I recall a repeated refrain, guy on the bridge saying “steamboat ‘round the bend!” (Was it Wallace Beery? couple of kids beside him?)

teecee on September 14, 2005 at 3:19 am

1999 photo, note the curved side and the different marquee:

Richr on August 22, 2005 at 3:01 pm

I went to the College of Santa Fe in the mid 1960’s. We always had an ‘inside’ joke about the Lensic. The name of the theater was spelled out on the walls inside… “LEN” on the left and “SIC” on the right (as noted above). We called it the (Look quickly left and say) Len (look quickly right and say) Sic. College kids. I remember seeing Mary Poppins there with my friends and enjoying it.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 6, 2005 at 8:02 am


Thanks for your posting. Again, let me reiterate that the Lensic is a great place and I’m VERY glad to have been able to visit (my home is East Tennessee). You mention that you’re on staff there. So please tell me why if there is a house main, if there is cove lighting why weren’t these they used for “Steamboat Bill”? Certainly that was one occassion when they would have been absolutely appropriate to be highlighted.

Above, you mention “The ceiling had already been painted flat black (it is now dark blue) and the cloud projector and tapestry long gone – same with tile vestiges or plants.” When you say tapestry what do you mean? Boller Brothers theatres were often semi-atmospheric – a tent over the auditorium with the sky visible only at the edges. Is that how the Lensic was built? Were there stars? Why weren’t they restored? Surely the flat, grided ceiling I saw wasn’t original – be it blue or black.

Please tell us more about the renovation, how decisions were made and when it all happened. This site is to disseminate oral history to a wider audience. Please, this is your chance to fill out the story.


LeSinge on July 6, 2005 at 5:20 am

Some clarification:
The LEN SIC letters were in place at the time that the restoration began – and at that point a weird neon green color.
There is cove lighting.
The ceiling had already been painted flat black (it is now dark blue) and the cloud projector and tapestry long gone – same with tile vestiges or plants.
There is a house drape but it would have been up for the film. The black draperies are standard and necessary for a performing arts center – which the Lensic now is with about 250 shows a year.
It is a funky space, but there was some consideration at the time of restoration to not transform the theater beyond recognition. A lot of folks around here hold the place near and dear for that first movie, first date memories etc. And Santa Feans are very suspicious of the change that outside money can bring. Just look at the El Paseo Theater, errrr I mean Banana Republic up the street and the Paris Theater, oops parking garage across the way.
Obviously I work for the theater. Glad to see your comments. This is a great website.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on June 13, 2005 at 9:19 am

Ziggy, On my visit the triple arches on the sides were back draped in black. I don’t think there was any cove lighting. That’s marginally better than the silly letters on each side, but still contributed to the overall un-inspired effect.
Best wishes,

Ziggy on June 2, 2005 at 9:51 am

Hello Will Dunkin. Your comments on the Lensic have reminded me of how unhappy I was with the renovation/desecration that’s been done there. One thing I remember is that under the balcony, along the sidewalls, there is a small arcade on each side of the auditorium. Obviously they were originally decorated to appear as if one were looking through the arcade to to “outside”. After the renovation, the arcades were painted beige (as per your comment)and in each archway was a giant painted letter so that it spelled out the name of the theatre. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are only 3 arches on each side, so that on one side of the theatre is “L – E – N”, and on the other side is “S – I – C”. The effect was so ridiculous that I have to laugh even now!

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on June 2, 2005 at 9:42 am

Following up on my previous comment. The link to the Lensic’s own site indicates that the interior decorator for the renovation was Conrad Schmit Studios. Is it just me, are do other’s find their work wanting? I’ve seen several of their halls and always come away thinking their favorite color is beige, their work concise but bland, their taste conservative to the point of banality. Or am I expecting too much?

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on May 31, 2005 at 2:36 pm

I just spent a lovely vacation week in Santa Fe and was very fortunate to be able to see Buster Keaton’s silent comedy “Steamboat Bill” presented with a live 6-piece orchestra at the Lensic. I can’t agree with Ziggy enough. The Lensic is standing, it’s clean, it’s loved, but the magnificient plasterwork now looks like a temporary stage set inside a black box. It looks like the architect and client had no idea how to renovate a movie palace. Curtains are black, light fixtures are all modern and surface mounted, all the cove lighting is gone, the atmospheric sky is gone (black flat ceiling with stage lights hung on a grid), the interior painting looks amaturish (did they get a do-it-yourself kit from Home Depot), what curtains there are are all black, there is no house main, the screen was in full view the whole time. (They did have a go-bo on the screen to give it a little interest). The organ seems to be gone.

I had to laugh at the curtain speech inwhich the MC complimented the theatre’s magnificent acoustics. Then the orchestra came in and they all had microphones pointed into their instruments: even the TUBA and SAXOPHONE!

Lest we forget though, this is the only movie palace in Santa Fe and it is still a wonderful venue. The projection quality was spot-on, the seats comfortable, the entire theatre was clean and open. A side alley has been enclosed and serves as ancillary lobby space with new spacious restrooms.

One day, we can hope for a more sympathetic renovation. But in the mean time, it was a great show and Santa Fe still has a jewel of a theatre. It is very much worth a visit.

Ziggy on November 9, 2004 at 1:00 pm

I visited this theatre on November 6 to see the screening of “Gone With the Wind”, and was, frankly, disappointed at the more than usually insensitive renovation. The architects responsible have managed to renovate about 90% of the original romance out of the Lensic. The lobby is fairly original, but of course the lighting levels are (as usual)too high. The atmospheric auditorium has had all vestiges of tile roofs and plants removed, and the atmospheric dome has been replaced by a flat ceiling from which are suspended various light bridges, catwalks, and ducts. I realize that architects usually have to bend to their client’s wishes, but couldn’t some sensitive and well informed architect instruct the client on better ways to increase lighting levels than sticking light bridges up where they are so ugly and obtrusive? The good news is that the Lensic is standing, and maybe someday, someone who appreciated buildings like this can perform a renovation which will return the glamour and romance that have been lost.

Ziggy on October 22, 2004 at 8:44 am

The architects at the theatre’s web site are identified as the Boller Brothers, and not Craig Hoopes and Associates. Regarding Nick Seibel’s comment re: Santa Fe, he’s right. I’m a recent transplant to New Mexico and went to Santa Fe as a tourist. The locals all warned me what a superficial place it was and MAN, ARE THEY RIGHT!! It’s rare to come across a place so full of itself, and yet so shallow!

Nicky on October 9, 2001 at 11:40 am

Although I am really looking forward to seeing the Lensic renovated, I will miss seeing a movie in the old place… It’s kind of frightening when the last piece of the “real world” in a place is a movie theater, but this was certainly the case with the Santa Fe Plaza area!