Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Rise and Fall of the California Theatre

Today's post shows a very sad before and after view of the once grand California Theatre. Located on 4th Avenue in downtown San Diego, the first image shows how it looked circa June 14, 1963. Today, it is a boarded up dilapidated mess.

The movie showing in 1963 was "PT-109," starring Cliff Robertson. Here's a vintage 1960's shot of a diorama from the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park that recreated a scene from the movie on the California Theatre's marquee:

Robertson also starred in the 1960's classic TV series "Batman" as the villainous cowboy Shame; his real life wife Dina Merrill portrayed Calamity Jan.

I had the pleasure of meeting Robertson back in 2002 at an event at the San Diego Historical Museum honoring San Diego in film. Robertson was born in the nearby community of La Jolla.

According to this Facebook page, it appears that there have been efforts to restore the theatre; so far though, there doesn't seem to be much visual success.

The building does still retain some of its vintage details:

At what point does a building actually need to be recreated vs. restored, and at that point, should the effort be expended? There is also a very cool faded vintage advertising mural on the side of the building:

I think I hear Joni Mitchell: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone…"

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Patrick Devlin said...

Oh boy, Dave, the Californian! I remember it well as the theater in which I finally got to see Grand Prix. It was on its second or third release and I only got to see it because my brother Tom didn't tell my Mother what we were going to go see. Grand Prix was rated as an A-III film (adult) by the Catholic Legion of Decency and I was not allowed to see it.

A few months ago I watched it again and the editing and sound design is still pretty terrific; the story and characters, not so much.

I understand the feeling of "how much money can possibly justify a complete refurbishment". They were all great movie houses Downtown but the cost to re-elevate them to their former glory: Yikes!

Dave DeCaro said...

I have a feeling that virtual re-creations will probably become the wave of the future for those buildings that are too cost prohibitive to refurbish.

Fifthrider said...

Shh, Club 33's Imagineering team will hear you.