Building Description Alhambra Theatre, Sacramento California
The Alhambra Theatre was designed and built in 1927 by the architectural firm of Starks and Flanders. Mr. Leonard F. Starks had been associated with the firm of Thomas Lamb, the famous designers of movie palaces of the East during the 1920's. Through his previous experience with some 60 theaters designed and constructed, he was able to incorporate all the best features in the design of the Alhambra.
Mr. George Peltier, a banker in Sacramento, a person with much glamour of the period, headed the corporation to build The Alhambra. While on a trip to Spain, Peltier became impressed with the grandeur of The Alhambra, the grand portion of a Royal Palace in Granada. Geers upon The Alhambra in Spain, Starks designed the $1 million Spanish-Moorish extravaganza as a first class theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,976. Riding high on the wave of the romanticism of 1920's period revival architecture, The Alhambra was a movie palace of the first order, sentimentality was provided without concern for expense. The building is a monument to the spirit of 1920's romanticism with its careful attention to "Old World" detailing, recreation of "Old World" gardens in courtyards with fountains and flowers; a highly ornamented interior with tapestries, marble statuary, hand-painted murals, and a main curtain of gold velour on which is painted a scene showing Granada, Spain with The Alhambra looming up in the distance.
During the design stage several specialists were consulted. A muralist, Achilli Disi, a noted ecclesiastical and theatre muralist, was commissioned to do the main lobby paintings. An acoustical engineer from MIT was hired; audio sound was a new innovation to theatres and soon the Westinghouse Company awarded The Alhambra a plaque recognizing the theatre as the best acoustically engineered theatre on the West Coast.
The outer shell of the structure is of poured reinforced concrete with a stucco finish, designed to be fire and earthquake proof. The inner structure has 3-foot airwalls on the sides and a suspended dome ceiling built to give the best acoustics possible, which was proven by the many musical groups which performed in The Alhambra in 1972, including the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra. The Moorish-Spanish design was carried out from the 108-foot garden walkways to the entrance, foyer and lobby to the grand proscenium arch. From the proscenium arch back to the dome ceiling, Moorish hand-painted beams are featured.
It was equipped with all the appurtenances of the legitimate stage, from the grid iron and some 38 fly gallery to its curtains, control and lighting, and dressing rooms; it was one of the last of the great old classic theatre interiors. The Vitaphone, a newly developed sound synchronization device, was installed and some of the first "talking" pictures were shown in The Alhambra. Later when sound film was developed this was replaced with the best projection equipment available. The theater organ was a $50,000 Robert Morton concert grand with over 1,000 speaking pipes.