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 11 comments)

scottfavareille on June 19, 2004 at 2:58 pm

The Saratoga Burbank operated in 1977-1978.

rp2813 on September 23, 2004 at 1:29 pm

I attended quite a few screenings at the Saratoga when the Moore’s were running the show, as it were. They presented films that were rarely found on television in those days as opposed to now where the cable channels like A&E and TCM eventually run just about every notable film from the 30’s through the 60’s. Some of the more memorable films I saw for the first time at the Saratoga were “The Women” (but on that copy the fashion show sequence was black & white instead of color) and “Since You Went Away” in which the sight of Shirley Temple as a teenager was quite a novelty. I also saw all three of James Dean’s major films there, although not for the first time. I remember Mr. Moore would walk to the front of the modest auditorium before the show started and would give a little talk about what we were going to see, as well as advise all of us to exercise some courtesy towards our fellow patrons and not do things like crack our gum or crinkle food wrappers. Given the fact that Saratoga is often at or near the top of the list of towns with the most expensive real estate in the United States, it’s not surprising that this theatre was pushed over to make room for condos, but the town of Saratoga is lesser for it. We’re lucky that one town over in Los Gatos, the Camera Cinemas have rescued their downtown theatre for the time being.

swazman on July 3, 2005 at 8:01 pm

During the 70’s, I would attend the Saturday matinees here and enjoy watching screenings of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts. Always preceded by a cartoon. I remember such delicacies as grape licorice rope fondly. I also saw several classic movies there as well like North by Northwest and others.

baileydan on August 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

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 on August 7, 2007 at 4:58 pm

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 on November 2, 2008 at 4:25 pm

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 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

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 24, 2009 at 9:52 pm

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 on May 15, 2009 at 7:50 pm

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 on July 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm

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.

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