Balboa Theatres 100 Anniversary Celebration Logo

Celebrating 100 Years

Balboa Theatre Timeline

  • 1922 Robert E. Hicks announces plans for $800,000 theater.
  • 1924 Theater opens March 28 with Fanchon & Marco vaudeville act, "A Musical Melange," and silent film feature, "Lilies of the Field."
  • 1925 Hicks sells property to West Coast Theatres for $750,000, including his Cabrillo theater on the south side of Horton Plaza.
  • 1929 Balboa's Robert Morton organ moves to Fox Theatre (now Copley Symphony Hall).
  • 1930 Fox West Coast Theatres announces shift to all-Spanish film showings at "Teatro Balboa." The Dec. 5 shift lasts only through January 1931, when English-language films return.
  • 1935 Ruth Erb, nationally known cooking expert, holds three-day cooking classes, sponsored by the Union-Tribune.
  • 1943 Balboa begins overnight film schedule to accommodate late-night shift workers.
  • 1950 Singing Cowboy" Rex Allen premieres "The Arizona Cowboy."
  • 1960 Russo family buys theater for $100,000 to forestall its replacement with a parking lot.
  • 1977 Architect Jon Jerde's revised Horton Plaza retail center plans retain Balboa but suggest it might be converted to cabaret-style operation.
  • 1984 San Diego Art Center proposal calls for gutting the interior to make way for a museum and several floors of retail.
  • 1985 City acquires theater through condemnation to facilitate Art Center plans with $1.8 million contested purchase from Russo family. Musician Steve Karo and actor Al Sklar found "Save Our Balboa" and Jan Manos, HIcks' granddaughter, takes a key role.
  • 1986 Balboa's last advertised movie is "April Fool's Day," April 3.
  • 1989 Balboa Theatre Foundation holds Balboa Theatre Festival Days, as San Diego Art Center plans fade.
  • 1998 Green Room Theater Company presents "Closer Than Ever" musical revue.
  • 2002 City Council approves restoration plan to return Balboa to live-theater use.
  • 2005 Construction begins with seismic abatement, interior renovations and exterior restoration work under an expanded $26.5 million budget.
  • 2008 Theater reopens Jan. 10 at Mayor Jerry Sanders' State of the City address.
  • 2009 Wonder Morton organ debuts Sept. 27.
  • 2011 San Diego Convention Corp. turns over management to newly created nonprofit, San Diego Theatres.
  • 2016 Balboa Theatre Foundation becomes San Diego Theatre Organ Society to maintain the organ and promote organ concerts.
  • 2022 The American Theater Organ Society holds its annual convention in San Diego with a focus on the Balboa.
  • 2023-24 Final investments in Balboa upgrades and repairs made from $6 million capital reserve fund.
  • 2024 Balboa celebrates its centennial on March 28.