The Balboa Theatre
868 4th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 – Directions through Google Maps
Built in 1924, the historic Balboa Theatre was an elegant vaudeville and movie palace in the heart of downtown San Diego. At the time, it was a state-of-the-art building that included six storefronts along Fourth Avenue, with 34 offices on the floors above. After a 1934 remodeling, the theatre was reopened as El Teatro Balboa, featuring contemporary films from Mexico City and presenting Latin stars to San Diego’s increasingly diverse audience. During World War II, the theatre’s office space was used by the US Navy. This office space was reconfigured by the U.S. Navy into bachelor quarters for sailors waiting to ship out. After the war, the remodeled spaces became single-occupancy housing.
In 1959, the Russo family of San Diego acquired the building and saved it from potential demolition. They operated it as a action movie house until the City of San Diego purchased it in 1986. Ten years later, the Balboa Theatre Foundation nominated the Theatre to the National Register of Historic Places to save both the interior and exterior of this community asset.
The Balboa Theatre was closed for over twenty years. After numerous proposals to privately renovate or re-purpose the Theatre, the City’s Redevelopment Agency made the commitment in 2002 to retain the Theatre as a public asset and fully fund its $26.5 million restoration and rehabilitation. Integral to that commitment was that the Theatre would be reopened as a community performing arts center to be managed by San Diego Theatres.
The City of San Diego’s Redevelopment Agency has invested over $26 million into the Balboa Theatre’s renovation and restoration. This has included extensive seismic retro-fit to meet current requirements, replacement of all infrastructure systems including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and life safety, ADA accommodations, state-of-the-industry theatrical lighting, audio, rigging and production requirements, and audience accommodations including new seating. The project restored the historic finishes and appearance of the Balboa Theatre while incorporating current audience and production expectations to ensure its use for generations to come.
The historic Balboa Theatre reopened in January 2008 with much acclaim from audiences and performers. Additionally, it has received numerous special awards and recognitions on a local, state, and national professional organizations.