California Theatre

345 S. 1st Street,
San Jose, CA 95131

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Showing 1 - 25 of 39 comments

DavidZornig on August 27, 2015 at 10:16 pm

1933 photo added courtesy of the Who Knows East – Old Photographs Facebook page. “Doctor Bull” starring Will Rogers.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Photos of the restored California Theatre can be seen on this page at the web site of ELS Architecture and Urban Design, the firm that handled the renovation project. The project included an entirely new stage tower and two new buildings to augment the theater’s production space and public areas. The web page has a plan of the ground floor showing the changes.

ELS also designed restoration projects for the Portland Theatre in Portland, Oregon, now Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall; The Fox Oakland Theatre; the restoration of the Grand Theatre at Tracy, California, as part of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts; and the recent renovation of the former AMC Kabuki multiplex in San Francisco for Sundance Cinemas.

terrywade on September 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Someone from the Fox California needs to do some tree trimming out side as the great big vertical neon California sign is blocked by tree limbs and blocked from one side of the street.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on August 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

From the 1940s a photo of the California Theatre in San Jose.

kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

The California as it appeared in 1997:
View link

spectrum on February 2, 2009 at 7:12 pm

The THSA has a large photo gallery of photos of theatres from their 2008 Conclave in the San Francisco region, at

Here are links to their photos of the California Theatre:

View link – Interior – lobby
View link – Lobby
View link – Lobby
View link – Auditorium seat
View link – Auditorium Detail
View link – Main Lobby
View link – Main Lobby
View link – Lobby window
View link – Main Lobby
View link – Auditorium Ceiling
View link – Proscenium
View link – Auditorium sidewalls
View link – Upper proscenium – sunburst
View link – Proscenium
View link – exterior
View link – vertical sign , marquee

kencmcintyre on November 22, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Here is part of an LA Times story, dated 2/11/30:

SAN JOSE (Feb. 10)-Two bandits entered the California Theater here shortly before 1 o'clock today, held up the assistant business manager, Harold Flora, and escaped with the week-end’s receipts totaling several thousand dollars. It is believed that they concealed themselves overnight in the theater.

With Flora at the time of the hold-up was Helen Barr, cashier, and Charlotte McDonald, usher. All were commanded to lie face down on the floor. After taking the money the men continued to the rear exits, passing several ushers who thought they were electricians.

philbertgray on October 21, 2007 at 12:19 pm

The California Theatre will be showing classic films in December 2007. More info can be found at the Stanford Theatre site – Click on the California Theatre link. The only film listed so far is “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas eve. The link says a full schedule will be posted later.

Can hardly wait to see a movie in this grand old theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 30, 2006 at 6:50 am

Interesting links:

California Theatre Notes and Architectural Fact Sheet, with photos, and a link to LOTS more photos at the bottom of the page.

ELS Architecture, the site of the firm that did the restoration. Click on “Portfolio” then “Entertainment/Arts” then “California Theatre.” Requires flash.

GaryParks on October 22, 2005 at 2:33 pm

The photo displayed via the comment immediately above shows the vertical sign dating from 1957,as well as the marquee installed then as well. The vertical was removed in 1988 by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, who also paid for the restoration of the 1957 marquee, which was used to promote Downtown events (and occasional limited-use events in the theatre itself such as tours and lobby receptions) until its removal during the theatre’s restoration beginning in 2001. In the photo, the vertical is stained with soot from the 1970s fire which destroyed the Mission Hotel next door.

kencmcintyre on October 21, 2005 at 8:14 pm

From the UC Davis Collection:

View link

gcurrie on September 29, 2005 at 3:22 pm

How do I reserve the Theatre for an event

STELLARB on March 4, 2005 at 3:55 pm

There’s a Harold Lloyd double feature showing tonite only @ 7:00

KarenK on January 4, 2005 at 4:35 am

How do I find out about the schedule for upcoming movie nights?

GaryParks on December 24, 2004 at 7:34 pm

The pleasure was mutual, Douglas of Fresno! Since you and others have commented on the “Casablanca” screening, I’ll just share a minute observation which particularly delighted me, and that was how the gold leafing of the organ grilles and surrounding ornamentation sparkled subtly in the glow from the movie screen—a sight not seen in this theatre regularly for decades.

STELLARB on December 21, 2004 at 12:16 am

I was there for the 7:30 showing this past saturday. What a great evening it was…I had only ever been inside this palace once befor, to see “Scrooge” in 1972.Even back then it was a very impressive house,despite it’s decline…I love the new vertical marquee too…so much classier than the old FOX marquee that hung outside for decades.I also had the pleasure of meeting Gary Parks. I’ll look forward to the next movie night at the California!

bruceanthony on December 20, 2004 at 2:12 am

I saw the 300PM showing of Casablanca at the California today what a superb presentation. I had a hard time finding a seat in the balcony it was so full. The sound of the wonderful Wurlitzer organ proceeded the Newsreel Of President Roosevelt visiting the troops in North Africa,followed by a Warner Bros Bugs Bunny cartoon,followed by a wonderful print of Casablanca. It was a thrill to see this in a restored movie palace and the curtains opened and closed for the presentation. The lobby area is magnificient and the auditorium is beautiful. I love the new vertical marquee. Thanks again to Mr Packard and his foundation.brucec

deleted user
[Deleted] on December 19, 2004 at 7:29 pm

saw the showing of “casablanca” at the theatre last night. super great … the renovation will remind you very much of the stanford, right on down to the mohair seats.

i could rant on and on, but really, you should just go.

deleted user
[Deleted] on December 14, 2004 at 1:11 am

i just received a postcard in the mail (addressed to my ex-wife, no less) advertising movies here and googled to see if there was any earlier showings than what the postcard was pimping.

the copy says that “casa blanca” is showing saturday – thursday, dec 18-23, every evening at 19:30 … matinee sunday only at 15:00 … all seats $5 “for this special celebration” … doors at 19:00 so you can listen to the organ.

650-324-3700 (presumably the stanford theatre foundation)

dig it or don’t.

4pugsley on September 26, 2004 at 4:53 pm

Does anyone know how to get a schedule of events going on at the Fox/California San Jose for November? Thank you!

rp2813 on September 24, 2004 at 12:17 pm

When I toured the California a week ago for its grand re-opening, I had one “burning” question remaining that none of the docents were able to answer. Perhaps Mr. Parks will know.
What became of the original “fireproof asbstos curtain” with its majestic depiction of what I believe was one of the volcanic peaks outside of Mexico City? This curtain was in the down position when I toured the old Fox when the restoration contract was up for bids, and it brought back memories of the entire process involved when the lights went down and the movie was about to start, the above mentioned curtain rising, leaving the more sheer curtains still covering the screen as the first images appeared on it, and then those curtains parting in the middle to allow the viewing to begin. I realize that asbestos is a problematic material and that the original curtain could have presented health concerns, but I would think that with all of the money that was spent to get everything done right on this project, that a process to either make the original curtain safe or transfer the image to a new curtain would have figured in to the restoration plans. But nobody I asked last week even knew about this curtain at all. Can anyone out there advise on what became of it? This beautiful work of art was a major player in the overall visual treat that this auditorium provided and it’s very sad to think that it’s gone forever.

rp2813 on September 17, 2004 at 1:04 pm

As of today, Sept 17, you can update your site to status this theatre as “open” again. Opera San Jose’s opening night is sold out. They will be throwing the doors open at 4PM today for docent-led tours for the general public and I intend to go. I spent many hours there as a kid watching Disney fare and Beatles movies, having been sent by Mom with bus fare and admission but never quite enough to buy one of those big Charms suckers they always had prominently displayed on top of the (now removed) snack bar by the entrance. A couple of articles that appeared last week in the Metro and Mercury have stated that films will be shown here too, both old and new, but no schedule has been given yet. This morning on a TV report about opening night it was also stated that performers of the Tony Bennett genre have expressed interest in this venue. The clear bulbs of the marquee and blade sign are flickering wildly with the various sequential routines, adding a lively atmosphere to this stretch of South First not seen since the old boxy 1957 F-O-X signage was working. Finally the City of San Jose has gotten one project right. But not without David Packard keeping them on track. Without him and his financial influence, this project surely would have been seriously compromised and full of
disappointments. I look forward to coming to this theatre for all types of entertaiment in the future. As a San Jose native, I have yet to set foot in the HP Arena, but you can bet I’ll be inside the California for a performance the first chance I get.

bruceanthony on September 14, 2004 at 1:39 am

I can’t wait to see a classic film in the California.I wish more restored movie palaces would show film during there down time as a live stage theatre. I can’t wait to see the new vertical marquee spelling out California. Im sure glad Mr Packard is a fan of film and the wonderful theatres that showed them. Everyone should experience seeing a classic film at Mr Packard’s Stanford theatre.brucec

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on September 10, 2004 at 11:11 am

And one more article from the Mercury News…