The California

There are little neighborhood theaters and there are grand ones. San Jose’s California Theater always belonged in the latter category. It opened on April 16th, 1927 and at 1,122-seats, it has always been the largest and most luxurious theater in town. vintage_sign_california_sm1

Today the theater is surrounded  by tall buildings that dwarf it, like this large glass and chrome ‘Luxury Tower’ that forms the backdrop to it.


The theater closed in 1973, but it was purchased by the Redevelopment Agency in 1985 with the intention of preserving it. The $75 million restoration included recreating the original marquee, which predated the theater and belonged to an earlier California Theatre (formerly known as DeLuxe).


The recreated sign was faithful to the original and is topped by poppies. These signature poppies in twinkling lightbulbs features on the signs of many cinemas run by West Coast Theatres. Only one original sign remains, at the theater in Dunsmuir, California.vintage_sign_california_sm4


The restored California Theater is home to Opera San Jose and Symphony Silicon Valley.

Love theaters and their beautiful old signage? Here are links to all the San Jose theaters I’ve sketched:

If there’s a San Jose gem I’ve missed, let me know

345 S 1st St

1 Comment The California

  1. Nancy waldron April 1, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Your use of watercolor makes these sketches pop. Love that you are documenting these old buildings.


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