A Timeline of Santa Ana’s Historic Theaters

Santa Ana’s theater history is a bit puzzling because some of these historic Santa Ana theaters were renamed or relocated or rebuilt on the sites of former ones. So here is a timeline meant to give a clearer history of the downtown theaters.

According to Cinema Treasures, the city and county’s first theater was called the Temple Theater and it was built in 1909. This is debatable because there was an opera house in Downtown Santa Ana, where Polish-born actress Helena Modjeska performed at, and she died in 1909.

So the first playhouse and stage was the Santa Ana opera house built prior to 1909.

A timeline of Santa Ana’s historical theaters is as follows:

  • The Santa Ana Opera House, on Fourth street intersecting Spurgeon or Cypress built in the late 19th century
  • The Temple Theater on 220 N. Bush opened in 1909
  • The Empire Theater on 308 N. Main. Its first listing appears in the Register on May 6, 1910 but it’s renamed the Bell Theater on June 28 of the same year.
  • The Auditorium Theatre on 307 N. Spurgeon opened in 1912 (Later named Clune’s Theater then The Yost, after an Ed or E.D. Yost)
  • The Princess Theatre on 308 N. Main opened in 1914
  • The West End Theater on 324 W. Fourth opened in 1915
  • The Lyric Theatre on 218 E. Fourth opened prior to 1923, and was renamed New Princess in 1923.
  • The New Princess Theatre on 218 E. Fourth opened in 1923
  • The West Coast Theatre on 308 N. Main opened in 1924
  • The Broadway Theatre on 416 N. Broadway opened in 1926
  • Walker’s Theatre on 220 N. Bush (behind the old city hall, demolished in the 60s) opened in 1936
  • Santa Ana High School Auditorium (now Medley Auditorium) on 520 W. Walnut street, opened in 1936. This is the largest stage in Santa Ana with a capacity near 16,000. The Los Angeles Philharmonic performed here in 1985. It was recently named after Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. Medley was a former Santa Ana High School Saint.
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