THE HISTORIC BAL THEATRE
The BAL Theatre is a significant historical, art and entertainment asset to the community, it was built in 1945 as a modern Art Deco, 800 seat, community based, movie palace and performing arts theatre in San Leandro, California. San Leandro Curtain Call Performing Arts operates and maintains the Historic BAL Theatre and hosts, promotes, and produces a multitude of world class, culturally diverse, programming, entertainment, education, motion pictures and other experience based arts.
ORIGINS THE HISTORY
Billed as “the Bay Area’s most modern theater,” the local press described the new BAL Theatre as “dazzling” and “lavish” when it opened on July 1, 1946. The theatre included a replica of the sidewalk at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, complete with hand and footprints of Hollywood stars. With radio personality Dean Maddox as Master of Ceremonies, Dick Jurgens and his Big Band, movie star Virginia Wiedler christened the theatre’s box office with a bottle of champagne as airplanes dropped streamers and confetti on the crowd below. The opening evening’s feature was a double bill of The Bandit of Sherwood Forest and Getting Gertie’s Garter and hosted entertainment.
Construction of the theatre was completed in about six months at a cost of $250,000. World War II had ended less than a year before the theatre opened and the area was undergoing a rapid growth which continued into the 1950s.
Even with the right demographics for a successful theatre, the BAL’s owners had a difficult time competing with competition in Oakland and San Francisco. In 1962, Renny LaMarre filed an antitrust lawsuit against the United California Theater Company, who supplied their product to their own theatres before supplying films to the BAL. LaMarre won the case and received an $800,000 settlement and once again began showing first run films at the BAL.
The theatre has continuously operated for 70 years.
VINCENT G. RANEY – ARCHITECT/BUILDER – HISTORIC BAL THEATRE
Vincent Raney, who specialized in commercial projects, designed many roadside works, including over 600 service stations and dozens of movie theaters and shopping centers. Raney designed more than 40 movie theatres, including traditional urban neighborhood theatres, drive-ins, and shopping center theatres. Most were built between the 1940s and the 1970s, including the Art Deco style BAL Theatre in San Leandro (1946); the Kuhio Theater in Honolulu (1946); the El Rey Theater in Vallejo (1949); the 49er Drive-In Theatre in Del Paso Heights, California (1950); the Burlingame Drive-In in Burlingame (1965); the Capitol 6 Drive-In in San Jose (1971); and the Scottsdale 6 Drive-In in Scottsdale, Arizona (1977). Nearly all of his theaters have either been closed or demolished. Later in his career the theaters for Syufy Enterprises were the mainstay of Raney’s practice, which he maintained through the mid-1990s. He closed his office soon after Ray Syufy’s death in 1995. Vincent Raney died in 2002 at the age of 96 and is considered a legendary Art Deco architect.
ABOUT ART DECO
Art Deco is the popular name for the design movement that flourished from the 1920s through the early 1940s. The style encompasses architecture, fashion, industrial design, fine and decorative art. While the origins of Art Deco were primarily European, its impact spread all over the globe, finding an enthusiastic home in America. Designers pulled from many ethnic influences including Mayan, Asian, Latin, and Egyptian – particularly after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1923.
Designers adapted Art Deco to new materials like aluminum, bakelite, fiberglass, and neon to create a streamlined 20th Century look. The style suggests speed, power, and opulence, and includes geometric patterns, streamlined shapes, and heroic human forms. Art Deco expresses a fundamental belief in progress, human improvement, futurism, and the beneficial relationship between man and machine.
Art Deco is a marvelously modern, glamorous, not-so-remote part of American History and well worth preserving.
SAN LEANDRO CURTAIN CALL PERFORMING ARTS INC
Currently, San Leandro Curtain Call Performing Arts, a 501c3, has the long term operating lease on the theatre and is responsible for both the operations, maintenance and any restoration or improvement efforts. The mission of San Leandro Curtain Call Performing Arts is to promote and produce exceptional programs in Theatre, Music, Comedy, Concerts, Dance, Training and performance experiences for youth and adults and making it accessible to everyone who desires to participate or attend performances by keeping both ticket prices low and class/workshop training, and other services affordable.