Closed for years and near demolition by neglect, San Jose's historic California Theatre
reopened in September 2004. Its restoration by the city of San Jose
with major support from the Packard Humanities Institute
was designed both for live stage performances and for motion pictures.
It is the home of
Opera San Jose and
Symphony Silicon Valley
and a venue for film screenings in San Jose's annual
Cinequest Film Festival.
“The renovated California offers a luxurious taste of old-fashioned design ... it's a dark, warmly upholstered palace in the old style, full of patterned carpeting and plaster ornamentation. To walk into [its historic entrance lobby] is to be plunged into a bygone world of plush opulence.” Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle - September 21, 2004
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Jump down to The Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organs photo section
|In the historic First Street lobby and theatre foyers:|
|Orchestra seating||Grand Tier and Mezzanine||Views from the mezzanine|
|View The Stage From Various Seats and a detailed seating chart||Opera, symphony, and film screening|
|Historic Plaster Grillwork||Juliet Balconies|
|Chandeliers||Orchestra acoustic shell
and Stage Setup
|Views from the stage
stage lighting imbedded in dropped ceiling beams
|First Street Side:|
Entry and box office
|Above: Entry ceiling
Right: East Conference
Room overlooks courtyard
|New construction - Market Street Side:|
on third floor
Room and foyer
|Musicians' Room||Dressing Rooms|
|Market Street Lobby and the
original 1927 stagehouse rigging
|The Irene Dalis portrait
in the Market Street Lobby
|Market Street Marquee|
|Traps under stage||Backstage fly lines||In the auditorium ceiling||California Vertical Sign
and First Street Marquee
Opera San Jose
|Hoist raised orchestra
pit floor to stage level
|In the projection booth:|
Follow spot and movie projection equipment
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|Organ console elevated to stage
level for pre-movie concert
|Auditorium Organ Console Page||First Street Lobby Organ Page|
The four manual 1925 Wurlitzer console was restored in the California Theatre.
Originally installed with the 28-rank organ in Chicago's Uptown Theatre,
it now plays the 21-rank California Theatre organ
(1521 pipes plus symphonic percussion and four 32-foot diaphones).
Most of the theatre organ itself (pipes, wind chests)
is from the Palace Theatre in Dallas, Texas.
A second organ is in the First Street lobby with 10 pipe ranks and a two manual Wurlitzer console. This organ made its public debut September 20, 2008 as guests arrived for Opera San Jose's 25th Anniversary Gala. Symphony Silicon Valley and Opera San Jose regularly offer informal lobby organ concerts preceding their season performances.
Organ Stop Lists: Theatre organ Lobby organ
Pipe chambers page
Copyright © 2017 Bob Shomler. Please see the Copyright Page.
|Index of pages with multiple California Theatre photos|
The California was the Fox California for some of its time. Here is a 1987 photo of the shuttered theatre with the Fox name on the marquee, and some historical notes on the vertical and marquee signs from Gary Parks.
This California Theatre was the third theatre in San Jose to carry the California name. From 1879 to 1892 a “first class 958-seat California theatre” occupied a building that extended from First Street through to what is now close to 85 South Second Street (between Santa Clara and San Fernando Streets). Then in 1912 Turner & Dahnken's Theatre de Luxe (later called the T&D) opened at 236 South First Street. It was renamed in 1924, becoming San Jose's second California Theatre until 1927 when its name and vertical sign were transferred to the present California. Thanks to Clyde Arbuckle's History of San Jose (1985).
California Theatre operation and schedules: These web pages contain photos with some building architecture and restoration information. This is not an official site for the California Theatre. I am not involved with the California Theatre itself; I assist the opera, symphony and others who perform there, and have set up these personal-site pages to share theatre photos with many who have requested.
The theatre, 345 South First Street in San Jose, is owned by the city of San Jose and managed by Team San Jose, a non-profit established to operate San Jose's city-owned performance venues. The First Street entrance is closed except for performances and events. The stage door and loading dock are on Market Street. The building is open to visitors only by special arrangement or by attending an event there. Box office sales are handled by each organization that uses the theatre; the theatre's box office windows are usually not open except during events at the theatre. A partial list of scheduled events may be found on the Team San Jose California Theatre Venue page.
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