Gaslighter Theatre

400 E. Campbell Avenue,
Campbell, CA 95008

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Additional Info

Architects: Frank Delos Wolfe

Functions: Restaurant

Styles: Neo-Classical

Previous Names: Campbell Theatre, Orchard City Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Mid `50's as the Campbell courtesy of Mike Carroll.

The front portion of this theatre was originally a bank, built around the turn of the last century. The cream terra cotta facade with twin Doric columns was left untouched when, some years later, the rear of the building was extended and it became a movie theatre for what was then the little agricultural community of Campbell, near San Jose. The Orchard City Theatre was opened on September 18, 1920.

By the late-1960’s, the nearby Plaza Twin Cinemas and UA Pruneyard Cinemas provided a lot of competition. The Campbell Theatre became the Gaslighter Theatre, presenting old time melodrama and small-town style vaudeville. This has been its policy ever since. Audiences hiss the villain and cheer the hero, sing along with old songs, and are even allowed to throw popcorn!

The interior still had its balcony and has long been decorated to look like a 19th Century Old West Opera House, with the lobby done up as a saloon. Obvious relics from the house’s days as a movie theater included Moderne etched glass doors, and a small neon marquee and vertical sign.

It was reported in March 2009, that the Gaslighter Theater had been closed for several years, and the interior space had been gutted to be remodeled as a restaurant.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

kencmcintyre on November 30, 2007 at 9:25 am

Here is a November 2001 article. Orchard City Theater should be an aka:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 31, 2011 at 4:32 am

For what it’s worth, the March, 1920, issue of The Architect & Engineer had this item, which might or might not have something to do with the origins of the Gaslighter Theatre’s building:[quote]“Bank to Erect Building

“Messrs. Wolfe and Higgins, Auzerais building, San Jose, are preparing plans for a bank building, stores and moving picture theatre, to be built at Campbell, near San Jose, for the Growers National Bank. Forty thousand dollars will be expended on the improvements.”[/quote]Perhaps only the part of the project that housed the bank was completed, or perhaps the original plans were discarded altogether and a different architect designed the building that was actually built. It’s a mystery someone from the area might be able to unravel.

GaryParks on September 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

As originally designed and opened in 1920, the Growers National Bank space was the tallest part of the development, in the center, with identical storefront wings on either side. The bank portion would eventually become the Campbell Theatre, but the ORCHARD CITY THEATRE was located, in 1920, in the left-hand wing of the complex, two doors down from the bank. Accompaniment to the silent movies was at first done with piano, either live or rolls, but in 1924, a Wurlitzer organ was installed. Today, the storefront wings survive, along with the bank/Campbell/Gaslighter Theatre portion. The left wing which once housed the Orchard City Theatre still sports its original white glazed brick facade, but the right wing wears a coat of smooth stucco, applied long ago. the one photo I have of the Orchard City (from the Jack Tillmany Collection) shows no marquee, just an indented ticket lobby, with poster cases and an octagonal box office.

sgaydon on January 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

There are a couple of books that describe the origins and history of the building. One is “Images of America: Campbell,” a photo-history compiled by the Campbell Historical Museum & Ainsley House, and the other is “Campbell: the Orchard City,” by Jeanette Watson, published in conjunction with the Campbell Museum Foundation. Both are available at the Campbell Historical Museum at 51 N. Central, and at the Carriage House of the historic Ainsley House at 300 Grant Street (on Orchard City Green.)

DavidZornig on April 25, 2017 at 6:29 am

Mid `50’s photo as the Campbell added courtesy of Mike Carroll.

DavidZornig on October 6, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Official website & Facebook page below for LVL UP At the Gaslighter, the current arcade & bistro in the space.

DavidZornig on October 6, 2019 at 6:11 pm

Multiple images added.

dblinn61 on April 21, 2023 at 11:26 am

Campbell’s first movie theater was the IOOF Hall, and in September of 1920, next to the Growers' Bank, the Campbell Theater opened. On Friday, May 12, 1939, the Growers Bank Building had its Grand Opening as the Campbell Theatre, run by A. Blanco, who already had movie houses in Mt. View and Santa Cruz. The feature being shown Opening Night was Darryl F. Zanuck’s “Jesse James” starring Tyrone Powerand Henry Fonda. The opening was front page news on May 11, and a full page ad was taken out later in the paper with all the local Campbell Businesses congratulating Mr. Blanco and wishing the theater success.——-en–20–1–txt-txIN——–

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 21, 2023 at 5:03 pm

unfortunately, dblinn61’s link doesn’t work. Through independent search I discovered that the May 11, 1939 Los Gatos Times won’t be available to the public on UCR’s web site until 2024. It’s available now on, but I don’t have a subscription to that site.

I just noticed that GaryParks' comment of September 5, 2014 confirms that the Building the Campbell Theatre was in was indeed the bank project designed in 1920 by Wolfe & Higgins. Principal Frank Delos Wolfe had been in partnership with his son Carl J. Wolf since 1912, and William E. Higgins joined the firm in 1918. Wolfe & Wolfe designed the Liberty Theatre in San Jose in 1913-14. So far I haven’t discovered any other theaters designed by the firm.

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