Saratoga Theater

14504 Big Basin Way,
Saratoga, CA 95070

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Saratoga, 1982.

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This simple 40s-era movie house became noted outside of its immediate neighborhood in its later years for showing classic films. Most people still refer to it fondly by its name during the classic film policy, “Vitaphone Saratoga”.

For a brief time, the same operator expanded the classic film policy to San Jose’s Burbank Theatre, renaming it the Vitaphone Burbank. This venture was shortlived.

The Saratoga itself closed in the mid-80s. Up until the end it preserved its period maroon and mint facade colors, turquoise tilework in the entry, and simple wedge marquee with a calligraphic style “S” in the center.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

baileydan
baileydan on August 8, 2007 at 12:46 am

As a child whose parents threw out the TV, I was a regular at the Vitaphone.

Favorite Memories (Besides the Great movies, movietones, and cartoons:

1) Pat feeding his cat after his speech (can opener with open mike)
2) Pat stopping “A Stolen Life” to inform the crowd that someone had stolen a silver soap dish from the women’s restroom. (Pat loved Bette Davis movies so I know this must have killed him)
3) Pot-luck nights (every wednesday?)

baileydan
baileydan on August 8, 2007 at 12:58 am

One more memory,

In 1979, Olivia De Havilland, who grew up in Saratoga, gave a speech before “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (Olivia’s mother lived a stones throw from the theatre on Oak Street).

GaryParks
GaryParks on November 3, 2008 at 12:25 am

The auditorium portion of the building was constructed out of a genuine Quonset structure, following a nationwide trend after World War II of using Quonsets to build inexpensive movie theatres. Very few survive today. One such example is in Boulder Creek, CA (long since closed as a theatre and now housing a pizza restaurant and other businesses) and another is the Rio in Monte Rio, CA and is still showing movies.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 10, 2009 at 5:36 am

Though the magazine gives the location as Los Gatos, I’m sure the brief item in the April 29, 1950, issue of Boxoffice is about the Saratoga Theatre in Saratoga:

“Mason Shaw, manager of the Saratoga Theatre, Los Gatos, held a first anniversary party with refreshments served at the theatre.”

It probably refers to the theater’s first anniversary, though I suppose it might have been the manager’s first anniversary.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 25, 2009 at 4:52 am

Additional information: The July 24, 1948, issue of Boxoffice said that Mason Shaw’s new 485-seat theater at Saratoga was being designed by architect A.A. Cantin.

hlallo
hlallo on May 16, 2009 at 3:50 am

I still miss the Saratoga Vitaphone and Pat & Vi Moore to this day. I have lived in Oakland and SF (watched films at the Paramount and Castro) and for the past fifteen years gone to the Stanford Theatre. But none of them in all their splendor can touch the film experience I had at the Saratoga Vitaphone in the 1970’s.

They understood the ‘art’ of showing classic films and how to pass their passion to the next generation. I still have their film schedules because Pat knew how to choose the 2 perfect films to compliment each other and interest the diverse audience. If a film was faded or cut – Pat refused to show it. (How many times have I sat through a badly cropped or faded film since then in multimillion dollar restored theaters? too many to count). He taught etiquette about how to BEHAVE in the theater (thank you!). Being a film ‘club’ and having membership cards – they were able to get films from the UCLA Film archives, the Library of Congress and from directors themselves – because he was trusted to handle and show the nitrate films. Handling that film is what he eventually died from – a lung disease that many projectionists suffered from.

I first came in early 70’s and I stayed until they lost their lease and closed down. Being in my 20’s those years – I received my education on classic films and remembered how much fun it was to see Charleton Heston, Olivia DeHavilland and others that visited. Seeing the Library of Congress copy of Lost Horizon which had never been shown anywhere else – that was a special memory. As mentioned above there was no place to see these films in theaters or on TV unless you stayed up in the middle of the night when they would show up, cropped, reformatted and missing credits.

I loved the diversity of films and genres shown – no theater like that nowdays – you have to see whatever they want to show. The Vitaphone had a list where you could request films or actors and they would try to get them. WOW!

On St. Patrick’s Day – which was Pat Moore’s birthday, I think about the Vitaphone and the potlucks he had that day where he always showed a couple of Irish films and admission was free.(My favorites that I was introduced to on his birthday were THE QUIET MAN and LUCK OF THE IRISH) I think Pat and Vi would LOVE Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osbourne!

Then there’s the story of the 3 cats. He wanted a cat named George – so if I remember correctly the first stray they named George and when it was a girl they named it Georgette. Second stray was Georgina. Final stray turned out male so Pat finally got his GEORGE and he would feed him tuna at the stage. Then they would have a little boxing match. You can’t forget a cat that boxes!

The one place that comes up time and time again when I am at reunions – is that people tell me – REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU TOOK ME TO THE SARATOGA VITAPHONE? All my friends remember how that was the place where they first fell in love with classic films – JUST LIKE ME.

mree
mree on July 3, 2010 at 3:17 am

I grew up in Saratoga and was a member of the Vitaphone Family Film Club. Members included John Wayne, Irene Dunn, Olivia de Haviland, and Charleton Heston. I was present the night that Mr. Moore showed a John Wayne double feature. Mr. Wayne was in the hospital and Mr. Moore was on the phone with them. He stopped the film at one point and came out to say that Mr. Wayne had just passed away. He held a moment of silence for him.

Themot
Themot on January 31, 2016 at 5:05 am

Here is my odd connection with this theater. In the early 1960s, my parents got into a church without a building. The church had a membership, a congregation, but no where to worship. Some how, the Saratoga theater became the church. The pastor would stand in front of the screen and give that weeks sermon. Up stairs in the office and protectionist booth was Sunday school.

I remember my dad had the job of making a sign for the topic of the week’s sermon and sticking it in the middle of Saratoga Ave.

My parents were pretty straight laced normal people. How they got connected with this church, I have no idea.

Years later I would go to the Vitaphone and watch Marx Brothers movies. Which seems connected, somehow.

jobeard
jobeard on March 22, 2016 at 3:19 am

Oh how we loved the Vitaphone, Pat & Vi! Soon after moving into Cupertino in ‘73, we found a program listing for the Vitaphone on Big Basin Way. Don’t recall now our first viewing – – but we were hooked! I’d come home from work on Friday and tell the kids, “get in the car, we’re going to the movies. What are we going to see? Don’t care, get in the car!” Didn’t take but two or three doses and we were addicts, mainlining wonderful movies. Two feature films, a cartoon and newsreel, plus free coffee for me and cookies for the kids all for THREE BUCKS each. Went home many-a-night with tears in my eyes and warmth and gratitude in my heart to Pat & Vi.

Pat was a lighting technician in the silent era and as a consequence, he KNEW Hollywood from the inside. He had access to the RKO library, private collections and producers copies. One night Pat rented a Ring Master’s costume for the showing of “The Greatest Show on Earth” in full 3-strip color. Another notable film was “Gone With the Wind”; a vault copy which had been through a projector previously only three times. Some times Pat would stop the film to remind us that SOME OF US came to see a movie and not to hear your giggling! Well, that’s ok – – the film was the “Four Feathers” and the line “here comes the fuzzy wuzzies” was just too much. Very dated re the Boar Wars, but by the time credits were up, we were all pleased to have seen the film.

While our oldest son was in jr high school, his lit teacher asked “who’s your favorite actor & actress” to the class. Lot’s of responses of the then current fads, but our son’s response was “Betty Davis & Errol Flinn” and the teacher exclaimed, W H O?

TCM’s host Ben Mankiewicz some times quips, “in the late 30’s-60’s we didn’t have special effects to blow-up everything – – so we settled for just telling great stories”. Thanks to Pat & Vi, we knew what he was referring to.

What a massive loss to the community when the lease was lost.

brendastarr
brendastarr on January 16, 2017 at 6:03 pm

yes let me add some more details regarding the Vitaphone my spouse’s comments shown above (jobeard)

Yes let me add some more details regarding the Vitaphone my spouse’s comments shown above (jobeard). My wonderful hubby remembers many of these highlights but I seem to remember the admission was only $5.00 each and a smaller amount for the kids. What a fantastic bargain!

When I was a kid I loved going to the Saturday matinees in an Inglewood suburb in the mid 50’s. Since I was basically a latch key kid with both my folks working long hours I had always adored the older films that would show from time to time on Channel 5, 9 and 11 in Los Angeles…they turned me into movie buff at a young age! And I was safe and entertained. Besides reading I became a movie fan as young as 7-years old, At 10 I remember going to the 1956 premiere The Ten Commandments at the downtown LA Pantages theatre complete with movie program and absolute breathless excitement.

In the mid 70’s and early 80’s my husband and I moved to the high tech world of Cupertino in Northern California. I was overjoyed when we discovered this marvelous little film club as our two kids jr high and one in elementary needed a real education of film , history and exposure to clean entertainment .

The first time we came I’ll never forget we were blown away that TWO major films on the same night: The Adventures of Robin Hood Earl Flynn/Basil Rathbone and Easter Parade with Fred Astaire/ Judy Garland plus old fashioned movietone newsreels, cartoon and shorts went with the double feature! Free cookies and coffee and reasonable priced treats at the concession stand. From then on as my husband (JOBeard) quips we didn’t care what was playing we were there every Friday night. We often discussed the films with our children to answer their questions about the history or themes each film displayed…all of us loved the Vitaphone. Later my third child our youngest son was enjoying these films too and was so impressed he read many Dumas' stories including The Three Muskateers after seeing them at the Vitaphone . He even began fencing lessons in school!

Pat often quizzed us on movie trivia during intermission Since I was already a movie buff the Moore’s often treated me to the grand prize of a free sundae many times. One answer regarding music and the same composer Alfred Newman I won three weeks in a row! I am sure these prizes added to my girth by at least ten pounds!

One week The Greatest Show On Earth played with Pat Moore displaying his beauticul red and gold circus uniform in costume. He had so much fun and so did we…There was nothing like it in the country!

Just before John Wayne grave illness, I offered to design a movie tribute booklet to Mr. Wayne chock full of his film titles, art and stills with room for lots of signatures by the club members. Sadly he passed away just before we could give it to him but I understood Mr. Moore did present it to the Wayne family posthumously which I am sure the Wayne family appreciated.

Some times there were a few times of unexpected humor that Pat sometimes thought we were ridiculing the film…but I do not think he appreciated that the humor was usually unintended.

For example Pat once showed The Uninvited (1944)with Ray Milland/Ruth Hussey which had a tense close up shot of a scottie terroer dog “Bobby” barking on the full screen. What Pat did not see is just then a couple of Pat’s cats sauntered across the bottom of the stage with their proud tails in silloutte to the screen… When the huge dog barked on screen they must have jumped 10 feet —it was hilarious the whole audience roared.

Yes sometime we did laugh with an old fashioned line or two but it was never to ridicule it was just funny in retrospect…Hearing the name of the “FuzzyWuzzies” in the classic Four Feathers adventure film. I remember one scene of an unremembered old film had the actor saying something like ..“let us go to a secret place so far away, no one knows about”…only to discover the scene blended into a fade in of a common shot of “the lone Cypress” in Monterrey which was a little too close for fellow Silicon Valley viewers to consider so remote! Sometimes we laughed to see how things had changed and what was different over the years…not ever to ridicule but just part of the great enjoyment. Sometimes we laugh for many different reasons but the entertainment was always enriching, wonderful and priceless!

I’ll never forget once my lazy 11 year old balked and complained about her school homework where she needed to learn historic ancient Greek names in history…stubbornly she moaned…“I mean really Mom …who cares who Socrates was…” I insisted she learn them as I told her you never know when that name will come up in conversation…and won’t you feel stupid you didn’t even know who he was, just because you were too lazy to learn!“ Believe it or not, that very night was our Saratoga Vitaphone night and she sunk into her theater chair in acute embarrasment when I roared in laughter when part of the dialogue casually mentioned "Socrates” in the film dialogue! Boy that was rich…(parents 10/children 0) Thank you dear Pat and Vi for contributing to our childrens' love of films, education and enriching film history despite themselves!!! You are always in our memory and you are loved, appreciated and remembered! with love and gratitude—-Eilene Beard

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