The Granada Theatre opened on April 9th, 1924. Santa Barbara 's first and only eight-story building was designed by A.B. Rosenthal and constructed by Charles Urton. Urton had never attempted a steel high-rise before, so he sent away for a series of "how-to" books to assist him in completing the project. After the earthquake of 1925 did almost no damage to the new structure, Urton proudly hung a banner from the top floor of the building proclaiming: "Built by Charles M. Urton, Builder."
In addition to offering premieres and sneak previews of historic films such as Gone With the Wind and Guys and Dolls, The Granada has played host to the 20th century's greatest artists and entertainers: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, Sir John Gielgud, Ethel Barrymore, Al Jolson, Will Rogers, Helen Hayes, Jon Vickers and Martha Graham have all graced the stage with their presence. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, American Ballet Theatre, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic are but a few of the world-class companies to appear. The Granada is where art and history converge, a grand theatrical tradition that adds immeasurably to the spirit of our city.
Originally formed as a non-profit organization in 1983, Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts (SBCPA) reinvigorated in 1997 with the vision of creating a world class performing arts center to serve Santa Barbara and the region. The SBCPA spearheaded a remarkable plan for the restoration of The Granada Theatre. With the help of the New York firm Sachs Morgan — theatre consultants for The Pantages in Los Angeles, The Orpheum in San Francisco and ten Broadway theaters — an amazing vision became a monumental feat when the historic entertainment palace re-opened March 2008.
To support this exciting plan, the non-profit created or acquired an additional 13,000 sq. ft. of adjacent space to ensure audience comfort and fulfill the needs of both performers and audience alike. The plan included the following comprehensive list of upgrades and enhancements:
• Excellent, comfortable seating and reconfigured sightlines for 1,550 patrons
• Restored loge and balcony sections with eight charming side boxes
• Numerous refinements to the excellent Granada acoustics
• Custom-designed orchestra shell
• Elegantly restored and improved lighting throughout
• New state-of-the-art box office and support suite
• Significantly expanded orchestra pit and backstage areas
• First-class, computer-controlled stage equipment and sound systems
• 50 new make-up stations in 11 new dressing rooms
• Beautifully restored and upgraded public spaces and amenities
• Extensive "new" Spanish decorative elements throughout
To preserve The Granada Theatre's historic charm, period fixtures and other decorative elements were added throughout the theatre, lobby and lounges, bringing renewed beauty and splendor to the space. For example, the original chandelier, stored in a closed-off balcony for years, has been restored to its place of honor, along with a vibrant mural above the proscenium arch, the original Granada Alhambra drop curtain, and decorative "niches" adorning the theatre walls.
In keeping with the first-class restoration that brought to the theater updated audience amenities, as well as state of the art live performance production support facilities, in 2012 the SBCPA installed in The Granada Theatre an all-digital, 4K HD resolution, DCI-compliant rear-projection system, an accompanying 40’ screen and dedicated film-sound technology.
The Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts, with the support of many generous individuals and businesses, has ensured that future generations will inherit a beautiful Santa Barbara landmark — a theatre combining the charm of the past with the cutting edge technological features patrons expect.
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