AKA: Pantages Theater, Downtown, San Diego, CA; RKO Orpheum Theatre, Downtown, San Diego, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Priteca, B. Marcus, Architect (firm); Barnet Marcus Priteca (architect)

Dates: constructed 1923-1924, demolished 1964

5th Avenue and B Street
San Diego, CA 92101

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Priteca designed a number of vaudeville/movie theatres for Alexander Pantages (who got his start in Seattle, WA), including large outlets in Seattle, Tacoma, WA, Fresno, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and San Francisco, CA. Movie historian David Naylor has noted that the Pantages, San Diego, had a capacity of 2,000 when it opened on 03/10/1924. (See David Naylor, American Picture Palaces, [New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981], p. 217.) When the recently-formed Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) Pictures, Incorporated, movie production and exhibition company took it over in 1929, it redesigned the auditorium to seat 1,400. The name was changed to the "Orpheum" at this time.

The San Diego Pantages occupied a prominent corner in a large, 6-story, office block. An elaborate curving canopy/marquee--emblazoned in lights with the motto "Pantages America's Finest"-- covered the corner main entry to the theatre. The block's exterior was done in brick and featured Spanish Colonial Revival ornamentation on the outside, seen most vividly in its scalloped gabled parapets.

The RKO theatre chain remodeled this theatre in 1929, turning it into a movie palace rather than a vaudeville venue. RKO formed just after the introduction of talkies and aggressively installed new sound amplification equipment in its theatres. When it took over the theatre, RKO hung a bold sign from walls of the building announcing the name of the film playing and its cast as well as the clear message: "All Talkie."

Demolished; in 1964, the Pantages was torn down to build a skyscraper.

PCAD id: 1561