The Balboa Theatre opened to great acclaim in March 1924. Designed by architect William Wheeler and constructed by the Wurster Construction Company for $800,000, it opened as a vaudeville and cinema theatre. Renovated in 2008 after a 20-year closure, the $26.5 million restoration was funded by the City of San Diego's Redevelopment Agency. This historic landmark features a unique tiled dome and ornate plaster fretwork above the seating area. It serves as a community performing arts gem for the region.
- Opening night performers included nationally recognized vaudeville acts Fanchon & Marco and the Sunkist Beauties. The film “Lilies of the Field” was screened and their stars Conway Tearle and Corinee Griffith also made a personal appearance. The 20 piece Balboa Concert Orchestra under the direction of Bob Gaderer provided a 30-minute concert.
- It served as a site for live entertainment until it was remodeled and reopened in 1934 as "Teatro Balboa," featuring contemporary films from Mexico City and presenting Latin stars to San Diego’s increasingly diverse population.
- During World War II, the Fourth Avenue office wing of the Balboa was utilized to house sailors prior to shipping out of San Diego.
- In 1959, the Russo family acquired the historic building saving it from potential demolition and then operated it as an action movie house until 1985 when it was acquired and closed by the City’s Redevelopment Agency.
- On August 4, 1972, the Balboa Theatre was listed on a City of San Diego Historic Site (#77 on the Registry).
- In 1996, it was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior.
- After numerous attempts for private development, the Agency committed in 2002 to retain the Balboa Theatre as a community asset and invest the funds required for its renovation and restoration.
- In January 2008, the 1,335 seat Balboa Theatre reopened after a $26.5 million restoration.
The photos in the slideshow below are courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society. The Historic Balboa Theatre, along with San Diego Civic Theatre is managed by San Diego Theatres, a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to enriching the region through exceptional performing arts and education experiences.