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Golden State Theatre (photo credit Flickr user BWChicago)

Golden State Theatre

Monterey, California, USA

First Opened: 6th August 1926 (97 years ago)

Atmospheric Style: Spanish Castle

Architects: Reid Brothers

Former Name: State Theatre

Website: www.goldenstatetheatre.com Link opens in new window

Address: 417 Alvarado St, Monterey, CA 93940 Link opens in new window


The 1,600-seat Golden State Theatre was built by the Golden West Theatre Corporation at a reported cost of $500,000. At its opening it was said to be “the finest motion picture theater between San Francisco and Los Angeles”.

The opening night entertainment played to a packed house of 1,700, and began with a solo performance by the resident organist, Mode Mortenson, followed by vaudeville acts and then a couple of silent films: Up in Mabel’s Room (1926) Link opens in new window and a comedy called The Uppercut (1922) Link opens in new window. Afterwards, the stars of the films appeared onstage to the cheers of the audience. Finally, at 11pm, there was a “Midnight Frolic” attended by at least 1,000 patrons.

The theatre was designed by architectural firm the Reid Brothers in an Atmospheric style with a Spanish castle theme. The medieval Castilian castle walls of the auditorium give way to a sky ceiling above, with the fresco of a tent canopy suggesting shading from the sun. The open-air courtyard environment was originally equipped with lighting to simulate sunrises and sunsets. Among the features included in the original design are wrought iron chandeliers, tapestries, gold ornamentation, and heraldic shields.

The theatre was originally equipped with a 2-manual, 8-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ (opus 1334) to provide live musical accompaniment for silent films. A hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit was used to raise the organ console to stage level for solo performances.

In 1935 the name was changed to the State Theatre, and the theatre continued to present a mix of films and vaudeville for many years. Around 1953/54 the pipe organ was removed and the auditorium’s detailed ornamentation was painted over in a single color.

In 1967 the theatre was sold to United Artists, then in 1976 the balcony was divided into two small auditoria in an attempt to keep the theatre financially viable.

In 1990, the State Theatre Preservation Group was formed as a non-profit corporation to acquire and restore the building. A replacement 2-manual, 13-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ (opus 1887) was installed beginning in 1992.

In 2005 a new owner took over the theatre and the small balcony theatres were removed – returning the auditorium to its original configuration – although seating was reduced to 1,300.

During the 2010s the theatre changed ownership several times, and in 2014 owners Lori and Eric Lochtefeld transformed the theatre into a performing arts center for cinema and live performances. In 2021 the theatre was sold for $4.5 million to Igor Gavric, manager of The Catalyst nightclub in Santa Cruz.

As of 2023 the Golden State Theatre is a vibrant and busy theatre, still living up to its mantra of being the best “theater between San Francisco and Los Angeles”.

Further Reading


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