Arguably “the crown jewel of Pacific Avenue” in downtown Santa Cruz, California, the Del Mar Theatre stands as the oldest theater in the city of Santa Cruz. Originally built as a vaudeville theater in 1936, the Del Mar is best known for its vibrant exterior lights, independent movies and Art Deco architectural design, both inside and out.
The architectural style of the theater is Zig-Zag Moderne (a style within Art Deco that used highly geometric shapes as ornamentation) and was built by architect J. Lloyd Conrich. The façade, divided into three sections bordered by grooved piers, is focused on its tall sign and project marquee decorated with neon stars and seashells. Beneath the zig-zag, bas-relief border bare-breasted maidens can be seen. The interior of the Del Mar was designed by noted theater decorator William Chevalis.
The Del Mar opened its doors as a cinema palace on August 14, 1936, with the world premiere showing of Warner Brothers China Clipper, starring Pat O’Brien. Imagine this: “Six usherettes, all blondes, in attractive red uniforms, and three ushers in white sports coats showed the guests to their seats,” reported the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Despite the overwhelming splendor of the newly built theater’s success, the nearby New Santa Cruz Theater dropped the “new” from its title in hopes that it would bring in more customers. Furthermore, another theater, called the Unique, closed down altogether.
Read the whole blog post here to learn how the Del Mar was saved from being sectioned off and made into shops and offices in the 1990s.
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This piece is part of the Downtown Historic-Art walking tour made possible by Don Lauritson with the support of the Santa Cruz Historic Preservation Commission. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond at MobileRanger.com.
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