Balboa Theatre

854 4th Avenue,
San Diego, CA 92101

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Showing 1 - 25 of 49 comments

robboehm on April 11, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Photo of early marquee uploaded.

LomaUsher on March 1, 2014 at 9:44 pm

The WONDERFUL, MAGNIFICENT Balboa! Back in the ‘70’s I remember going to see a double bill there with my dad, of “Blue Max” and “Dirty Dingus McGee.” And just before it closed, I went to see “Purple Rain” there just to have the chance to go into the theatre. I remember looking up at the balcony, which was closed to the public, and seeing these enormous, tall, standing sound baffles, which looked like Easter Island statues looming silently over the auditorium. I could never have guessed that twenty years later I would be standing on that stage singing the role of Valens in Georg Frederick Handel’s oratorio/opera “Theodora” with the Bach Collegium San Diego under the baton of Richard Egar. The Balboa Theatre is one of the finest concert halls on the west coast, and a GREAT SAVE for the people of San Diego. Thanks primarily to Jan Manos, who forced the recalcitrant City’s hand. Well done, Jan, and thank you.

rivest266 on April 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm

March 28th, 1924 grand opening ad is in the photo section.

SPK on February 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

The Balboa Theatre has lost another hero.

Leo Schario passed away at the age of 92 last week. He was a wonderful friend and mentor and one of our earliest “Save Our Balboa” crusaders. His theatre knowledge and experience was unsurpassed and he was an instrumental player in our efforts to save the Balboa Theatre from being gutted. In the beginning, it was a very small band of activists that persevered in our efforts to save the Balboa Theatre from destruction. It started with an army of powerful detractors and ended with an army of supporters. Few are aware of what a tremendous struggle it was. Thank you Leo for caring and always being generous with your time, your knowledge, your experience and most of all your friendship. Sincere condolences to your long time friend and partner Hugh Chandler.

Steve Karo

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on February 14, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Channel 4 San Diego SD Insider video on the restoration.

HowardBHaas on October 29, 2009 at 8:47 am

Closed from 1985, the Balboa Theatre, a movie palace built in 1924 in
downtown San Diego, reopened in January 2008 after a $26.5 million dollar
restoration. See the difference in the “before” photo (from
November/December Preservation magazine of the National Trust for Historic
and the photo “after” restoration by Evergreene Architectural Arts of the original paint scheme:
View link

Since reopening, the Balboa has welcomed more than 131, 000 patrons, servingagain as a economic engine and cultural oasis of downtown.

kencmcintyre on July 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

Here is a January 1974 newspaper ad:

monika on May 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm

LM, it is so nice to see older pictures when the theatre wasn’t encompassed by Horton Plaza.

Here is a photo of the Balboa I took earlier this month:
View link

Medulus on July 31, 2008 at 2:42 pm

I went to the Balboa Theater for the first time last Saturday night. They were showing a colorized (yes, you read that right) version of Plan Nine From Outer Space on the big screen with members of the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 live on the stage commenting on the movie. It was a hoot with some of the people from Comicon showing up in costume as part of the audience.

The interior of the theater is gorgeous, not overdone or ostenacious. It probably looks much like it originally did. They oddest features are the faux waterfall scenes set into alcoves on each side of the stage. The lobby area is minimalist to say the least, but the 1300 plus seat interior is worth a look see. Of course, since it is a live venue now, you won’t get in for the cost of a movie ticket. You’ll have to pay a minimum of $25 to see anything there — even Plan Nine from Outer Space (colorized no less).

kencmcintyre on April 2, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Here is the Balboa 55 years later:

kencmcintyre on April 2, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Here is a photo taken shortly before the opening in 1924. On the right, you can see a few of the letters for the eventual marquee:

JayAllenSanford on March 31, 2008 at 5:39 pm

The San Diego Reader has compiled all its articles about former Balboa operators Walnut Properties onto one webpage, along with around 100 graphics and photos that never appeared in ANY of the published versions. Also included is a Pussycat Theatre mini-history, updates on various Walnut-related lawsuits, etc, as well as a bunch of vintage Balboa newspaper ads.

View link

Medulus on February 21, 2008 at 11:22 pm

The restored Fox Theater (formerly Balboa Theater) organ had its debut last Friday and Saturday night when it was played during intermission of a presentation of the silent version of “Robin Hood”. It is staying at the Fox (now Copley Symphony Hall).

kencmcintyre on January 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Good. I’m looking forward to seeing the inside.

SPK on December 13, 2007 at 9:38 pm

The theatre hasn’t opened yet. I probably won’t be attending any of the events. My job is done. Here is the latest:

The first free public previews of the theatre will be on Jan. 11, 12, and 13th. These will be “ticketed” events, but the tickets will be free. The exact method of distributing the tickets is still being discussed. The stage performances on those days are still being finalized.

The Gala on January 31st will also be a ticketed event with ticket prices possibly in the vicinity of $250. Tickets are not yet available. The intent is that the proceeds from the event (the amount over and above the cost of the event) will be put in an endowment fund with the San Diego Foundation. The endowment will be used to provide grants to local non-profit users of the Balboa to assist them with the rental fee of the theatre.

Happy Holidays to all.

SPK on December 4, 2007 at 4:55 pm


It is my understanding that there were organ pipes in those rooms. I always thought that the wooden chutes brought air to them but perhaps they just distributed the sound from them to the upstairs lobby. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. I think you were the one that showed me the remains of the original blueprints that someone decided to just rip off the wall.

Here is a link to a great Union/Tribune article:
View link

SPK on December 1, 2007 at 11:41 am

I stand corrected. Yes, the facades for the organ echo chambers are still there. The air chutes are gone, therefore no organ pipes, and the one on the right side is merely a passage from the booth to the manager’s office. My mistake.

For the person who wanted to volunteer at the Balboa, a good way might be to join the:

Balboa Theatre Foundation.
PO Box 371461
San Diego, CA 92137
(619) 233-1333

William on November 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I had the same problems you just described too. Some nice shots.

vokoban on November 29, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Here is a link to a video news story about the restoration. I don’t know if it is just my computer, but the video is very choppy and the sound is messed up but there are some good shots of the interior.

muckandmyer on November 17, 2007 at 8:10 pm

Does anyone know who I would contact to volunteer at the Balboa? I recently relocated back to San Diego after being away for a couple of years.
Please email me @

SPK on October 30, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Hi Dan,

I doubt if there will be any projection equipment in the booth (don’t know, for sure); mostly digital equipment, follow spots, etc. for live performance. Other than that, the booth is fully restored, even the toilet. The managers office will be directly across from it on the 4th St. side with a door and walk directly to the booth. The organ echo chambers are gone.

SPK on October 15, 2007 at 1:29 pm

To DanW, Thanks for the kind comments.

The organ being installed into the Balboa Theatre is not the original one. That one remains at Symphony Hall (Fox). The one being installed at the Balboa is a rare Wonder Morton Organ, one of only five and comes from Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Jamaica, Queens, New York. The Balboa Theatre Foundation has purchased it, is restoring it and installing it into the Balboa Theatre. They still desperately need donations to complete the project so if you are so inclined please make a tax deductable donation to the Balboa Theatre Foundation’s organ fund.

I had a tour of the theatre on Friday and it is really going to be outstanding thanks to the sympathetic shepharding of architects, engineers and overseen by the Centre City Development Corporation.

Steve Karo

vokoban on September 26, 2007 at 7:47 am

Here’s a photo I took last weekend of the Balboa with its new paint job. I wonder if some type of marquee will be replaced.

View link

enrique425 on August 5, 2007 at 6:36 pm

I went on a tour of the Balboa about five months ago, the restoration had been going on for only a couple of months so there was dust everywhere. Thus ruining my photos, all you can see is dust. There are two which are ok, one of an upstairs lobby and one detail.
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