California Theatre Vertical Sign & Marquee

California Theatre marquee (2) California Theatre marquee (3)
California Theatre front California Theatre marquee (4)
California Theatre front

History of the theatre's vertical signs:

When the theatre opened in 1927 it had the California vertical sign that was transferred from an earlier California Theatre (former DeLuxe, then T&D, and subsequently renamed Mission 'til its demise circa 1953). This was one of a series of identical, or nearly identical, California verticals topped by poppies wrought in twinkling lightbulbs that West Coast Theatres put on a number of their properties. Only one original survives today, on the California in Dunsmuir. This was the model for the replica on our California today.

1947 (circa), a second vertical sign, also reading California, was put on, in the same spot as the first. This was an all neon unit, about as tall as the first sign. It had a big “plume” or “wave” of neon feather-like patterns at the top.

1957, the metal and backlit glass FOX vertical was put on the other side of the facade arch. The three boxes with the letters were backed with concentrated banks of light bulbs which twinkled randomly, making the background behind the silhouetted letters scintillate. This vertical was removed in 1988.

A note on the marquees:
The original, which the present one replicates very closely, was on the theatre from 1927 to 1937, when a neon trapezoid was installed. This stayed on until 1957, when its frame was reused in place for a new marquee fascia with chaser bulbs and twin neon Fox names at each end. This was refurbished by the RDA in 1988, when the vertical was removed, and the marquee remained in operating condition until it was removed during the renovation.

Thanks to Gary Parks (author of Theatres of San Jose, 2009) for these historical notes.

Copyright © 2009 Bob Shomler.
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