351 Railroad Avenue,
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A pioneering entertainment center, the California Theater was built before the Oakland Grand Lake (1926), Oakland Fox (1928), San Jose Fox (1927), the SF Curran (1922), the SF Golden Gate (1922), the Lafayette Park (1941), the Berkeley Oaks (1926), the SF Castro (1922) and the SF Orpheum (1926).
At 6:45 PM, on Tuesday, May 4th, 1920, the California Theater opened its doors for the first time and hosted a gala event. The theater cost $65,000 to build, and was a landmark for Pittsburg, showing the best in Hollywood films and booking entertaining vaudeville acts. There was a constant supply of live performances available, and was a stomping ground for many performers in, among others, the Fox vaudeville circuit.
The California Theater has sat unattended and empty since the week of February 15th, 1954. Because of inattention the theater suffered extensive damage to the inside of the auditorium, including fallen plaster, lost artwork on the walls, and sagging and weakening throughout the main hall. Any vestige of being a movie house is gone; no seats, no movie screen, no projectors. The original marquee was removed in 1975.
The City of Pittsburg has dedicated funds to renovate the theater as a community-based performing arts venue. In June 2011, the city council approved fast track funding, to allow for restoration. A replica of the 1920 marquee was installed in 2010. The community hopes that the theater will bring in desired business and commerce to the area. It has dedicated itself to revitalize downtown Pittsburg, and has been successful in beautifying the downtown area.
The California Theater reopens on January 15, 2013, initially using 300 seats located in the orchestra. Work to restore the balcony seating area continues……
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