AKA: California Theater, San Jose, CA; Fox California Theatre, San Jose, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Elbasani, Logan and Severin, (ELS), Design Group (firm); Weeks and Day, Architects (firm); William Peyton Day (structural engineer); Barry Elbasani (architect); Donn Hubert Logan (architect); Michael Louis Severin (architect); Charles Peter Weeks (architect)

Dates: constructed 1926-1927

345 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113-2804

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Building History

Opening in 1927, this movie palace continued to show movies until 1973. Unlike so many other movie palaces, the California in San Jose did not suffer excessively from neglect or vandalism; as a result, it remains one of the best-preserved 1920s atmospheric theatres in the U.S.

Building Notes

When opened, this theatre accommodated 1,848 patrons. Theatre historian David Naylor, in his American Picture Palaces The Architecture of Fantasy, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981, p. 218), noted that Grauman's Eqyptian Theatre had 2,150 seats.

In 1945, the California Bakery operated on one side of the theatre.


When it was renovated for the Opera San Jose, it was re-sized to seat 1,146. It reopened for use in 07/2001-09/17/2004. The project was funded by The San Jose Redevelopment Agency and the Packard Humanities Institute. The latter promised to pay for one-third of the renovation cost, at the beginning estimated at $21 million (it later came to about $25 million). The City of San Jose was required to find $50 million in remaining funds to finish the project. As renovated the building contained 85,000 square feet within the historic renovation and new construction of adjoining two- and three-story buildings and 4,000 square feet in the courtyard and second floor terrace. The three-story office building connects the theatre with Market Street. Additionally, new rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, offices and a side stage to unload trucks were added. The two-story wing, built on the site of a vacant lot, faced First Street and contained an entry courtyard, conference room, and restrooms.

PCAD id: 11031