Obispo Theatre

993 Monterey Street,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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The Obispo Theatre was located downtown about a block behind and over from the Fremont Theatre. If I remember correctly, it was built in 1928. It was not as impressive as the Art Deco style Fremont Theatre on the outside but I suspect the interior was still original when the theatre was destroyed by fire in late-1975 or early-1976. The place looked like it had never been altered.

I was a student at Cal Poly during this period but never made it inside the Obispo Theatre before it burned. I hope others can contribute more information on this forgotten theatre.

Contributed by Ralph P

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

tomdelay
tomdelay on August 12, 2006 at 9:00 am

What a beuatiful facade! That photo is sickening. I have to wonder if the architect for that theatre was A. W. Cornelius. He designed very similar facades for the T & D theatres in Salinas, Richmond, and the California Theatre in Pittsburg, CA. The Cal in P'burg is being restored.

With an exterior like that, I can only imagine what the interior must have been like. A good friend of mine, the late Ron Musselman who put many theatre interiors into his artwork, said the theatre was beuatiful on the inside. He said the organ screens were properly lit, and the building seemed well cared for in every way.
He did ask it the organ was still there and was told much of what I previously posted above.

clem
clem on August 12, 2006 at 9:35 am

It’s easier to assert that a photo exists than it is to clear the junk off the scanner, dust off the picture, scan it, oops! dust off the scanner glass too … Anyway I have a scan; you can send me mail if you want a copy –

I remember seeing just three movies at the Obipso: The War Game, Dr. Strangelove, and The Godfather. The Obispo had a rectangle of indirect neon lighting on the ceiling – perhaps green lighting against a blue or purple ceiling. The spirals in the Fox Fremont’s ceiling were rather ostentatious by contrast.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Flickr user aroid presents a 1958 bird’s eye view of downtown San Luis Obispo in which three of the city’s theatres can be picked out:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/selago/860154876/

On the far right is the Elmo Theatre on Morro Street at Marsh. It’s facade is well lit by afternoon sunlight, as is the upper part of its vivid red stage house.

Left of center can be seen the distinctive arc of the blade sign on the Fremont Theatre, at 1025 Monterey Street.

The large white building just right of center is the Anderson Hotel at Monterey and Morro. The Obispo Theatre’s facade, with a bit of light reflecting from its blade and marquee, can be seen just short of midway along Monterey Street from the hotel to the Fremont.

tomdelay
tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 5:27 pm

OK, so the Obispo, nee El Monterey, was on the same Monterey Street as the Fremont, closer to the center of town. The Elmo was out of the center by a bit, is that to the southeast?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Yes, the Elmo was two blocks southeast (the streets in downtown SLO being oriented more to the ordinal than the cardinal points of the compass) of Monterey Street on Morro Street. The Obispo and the Fremont were about a block apart, both on the south side of Monterey.

tomdelay
tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 6:00 pm

BTW way Joe, did you ever live in Monterey and work as a projectionist? Just curious.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 6:16 pm

No, I’ve never been a projectionist, and I’ve never had a chance to visit Monterey. I’ve always intended to spend some time in that part of the state, but so far I’ve only passed through on highway 101 and had no time to stop.

tomdelay
tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Just wondering. I knew a Joe Vogel in Monterey. he moved to Modesto some years ago.

bonnach
bonnach on September 14, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Actually the Elmo would be southeast of the Fremont and Obispo. Today there is a bank on that site.

Anyway, there is an article about the demise of the Obispo here: Obispo Fire

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2011 at 3:29 am

Here is a photo of the Obispo Theatre.

It’s been established that the Obispo was originally the El Monterey Theatre, and became the Obispo in 1928, following a $20,000 remodeling of the interior. The facade remained largely unchanged. Janet Penn Franks' book “San Luis Obispo: A History in Architecture” says that the El Monterey Theatre opened on December 24, 1911.

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