Alhambra Theatre, Sacramento California

Date added: May 29, 2022 Categories: California Theater

The Alhambra opened its doors on September 24, 1927 with a gala program so typical of the era, called "A Night in Spain" in keeping with the Moorish-Spanish architecture of the structure. Featuring a concert on the grand organ, "talkies" (among the first to be presented on the West Coast), the Alhambra's own symphonic orchestra and such notable DeMille stars as Marie Prevost, Sally Rand, Vera Reynolds, etc. (Sally Rand returned to the Alhambra in 1972 to assist with a fund-raising drive to save the theater.) The program closed with a concert in the patio and gardens.

The Alhambra incorporated many unique features such as the newest lighting system for its time, the first Vitaphone sound synchronization device permanently installed in the state, apparatus rooms below ground beyond the theatre walls, the largest stage in the city of Sacramento, 100 feet wide by 30 feet deep with a grid iron 60 feet above the main curtain, fireproof construction, and landscaped gardens. It was given worldwide publicity by motion picture magazines, photograph syndicates and especially the Pathe Company. The organ was the largest used in theatres, a Robert Morton concert grand with the Western premiere appearance of the V'Olean attachment to duplicate the sound of stringed instruments (the organ was sold in 1968 to a church and the Organ Society of Sacramento stated that if the Alhambra is saved they will either purchase a new one or acquire the old organ). The Alhambra also incorporated a parking lot for 350 cars into its plan, one of the very earliest attempts of a theatre to accommodate the growing problems of the automobile with off-street parking. The theatre was reached from the parking lot through garden courtyards. Today there is additional parking for 2,000 cars under the freeway just a block away.

The Alhambra is noted for its marvel in artistry in building, built at a cost of $1,000,000. The 1,976 seat movie palace is based upon the original Alhambra, a royal palace in Granada, Spain. The building is an excellent example of the 1920's spirit in architecture and is a strong statement of the romanticism associated with early cinema. Today's replacement cost for the building would be over $6,000,000, plus the replacement of the art work if a person could be found to do the work.

The 108-foot garden and walkways leading to the entrance of this Moorish castle give you the feeling of leaving the realistic world and entering the land of fantasy. Thus, as you enter the foyer, you are ready for the world of theatre.

After a significant fund raising effort to save the theater, it was demolished in 1973 for a Safeway grocery store.