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Granada Theatre Celebrates 90 Years Since First Opening Its Doors in Santa Barbara

The Roaring '20s — heyday of flappers and bootleggers, women get the vote and America becomes the strongest economy in the world. And on April 9, 1924, a dazzling new venue opens in beautiful downtown Santa Barbara — the Granada Theatre.

This April 9, the Granada Theatre will celebrate its historic 90th anniversary since first opening its doors, and pay tribute to the era in which it all began — the 1920s. In honor of this milestone, the Granada Theatre is reflecting on its evolution as a performing arts center and gratefully recognizing the support of the community, which has made its growing success possible.

To set the stage for the 90th anniversary festivities, the theater approached local artist and longtime Granada Theatre patron and friend Mara Abboud to collaborate on the 90th anniversary artwork that will grace posters, invitations and signature anniversary materials; 500 limited edition posters will be available for sale at the Granada with all proceeds benefiting the theater.

“My mind was spinning with ideas from the onset as I have always been in love with the 1920s era,” Abboud said. “My next challenge was how to combine the glamour of that period with the Granada's image. After spending time carefully looking through the theater’s original opening night program book from 1924 — in all its faded beauty — I immediately knew what I was going to do. I took inspiration from the program cover and its coat of arms to envision my design, and from that moment on, everything fell into place.”

To engage the entire community in this milestone anniversary, the Granada Theatre’s 90th Anniversary Committee, chaired by Nina Phillips, has taken the 1920s theme one step further, by inspiring local business retailers to get in the spirit.

Beginning last Wednesday and for the two weeks leading up to April 9, participating stores are designing 1920s-themed storefront window displays for the public to enjoy. Displays will include a showcase of vintage dresses and costumes generously on loan from Renaissance Boutique, UCSB, SBCC and Westmont Theater  Departments. They will be on display two weeks prior to the 90th anniversary in the store windows of local retail stores such as Bella Rosa Galleries, Bryant & Sons, Ltd., Chicken Little, Diani, Granada Books, Nordstrom, Metropolitan Showroom and Boutique, Renaissance Fine Consignment, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sullivan Goss, Swarovski and Wendy Foster.

90th Anniversary Performance!

The highlight of the 90th anniversary festivities is the greatly anticipated performance by The Midtown Men on Wednesday, April 9 at the Granada Theatre. They took Broadway by storm in one of the biggest hits of all-time! Now, The Midtown Men are bringing their magic to Santa Barbara, singing their favorite "Sixties Hits" from The Beatles, The Rascals, Motown, The Four Seasons and more, back to life!

Midtown Men
The Midtown Men will perform their favorite "Sixties Hits" on April 9 at the Granada Theatre.

This sensational production reunites four stars from the original cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys. Tony Award winner Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Tony Award nominee J. Robert Spencer, star in this one-of-a-kind concert experience celebrating the music that defined the '60s.

These talented entertainers shared the Broadway stage for more than 1,000 performances in the mega-hit Jersey Boys. Don't miss this electrifying and soulful new production with its top-shelf choreography, incredible vocal performances and legendary onstage chemistry. Sponsored by Montecito Bank & Trust.

Tickets range in price from $33 to $83, and are available through the Granada Theatre’s box office. Please click here to purchase online, or call the box office at 805.899.2222. For all sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kristi Newton, director of development, by phone at 805.451.2932 or via email at [email protected].

Unveiling of The Towbes Center for the Performing Arts

Also at this 90th anniversary milestone, the Granada Theatre and the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts will honor and recognize their “Brilliant Stars” — an incredibly devoted and visionary group of founding and current supporters who have given generously to the theater over the years, including Michael and Anne Towbes, who recently made a $5 million irrevocable planned gift to the Alhambra Society dedicated to providing for the future growth of the SBCPA’s endowment.

This generous planned gift is in addition to their prior outright gifts to date, totaling more than $15 million.

As a key part of the 90th Anniversary festivities, the Granada Theatre will honor the Towbeses with the unveiling of a new permanent naming inside the theater, The Towbes Center for the Performing Arts, reflecting all of the interior spaces within the eight-story Granada Theatre building owned and operated by the SBCPA.

Anne and Michael Towbes have worked tirelessly with many others to build a growing base of community support, which has made it possible for the Granada Theatre to evolve into a world-class performing arts venue that enhances the quality of life in the Santa Barbara region by showcasing the very best in the performing arts for the widest possible audience.

Improved Community Access at the Granada Theatre

Launching at this 90th anniversary performance is the Community Access Ticketing Program, a new program offered through The Jurkowitz Center for Community Engagement, for community members who are not currently attending Granada Theatre performances due to financial constraints. Beginning with the Midtown Men performance on April 9, 100 community access tickets are being provided to deserving community members through local partnering nonprofits.

The Community Access Ticketing Program reflects The Granada Theater's commitment to ensuring the entire community is actively engaged with, and inspired by, the theater and live performing arts. The Program will provide sustained access to more than 100 live performances presented each year through partnerships with local community centers and institutions serving students, caregivers, veterans, senior citizens and others in need of assistance.

This program has been established by generous support of the Carsey Family Foundation, the Samuel B. & Margaret C. Mosher Foundation, and the Walter J. & Holly O. Thomson Foundation.

The Granada Theatre Then ...

Opening night, April 9, 1924 … Theatregoers entered through the Granada Theatre’s grand lobby and were impressed by the wide staircases, lovely Spanish fixtures and Moorish arches. The Wurlitzer organ and enormous chandelier drew much attention, as did the elegant upstairs lounges. While the audience was charmed by the love seats in the loge section of the balcony, the performers were delighted to inhabit the relative luxury of fourteen dressing rooms on five levels. First-night attendees were rewarded with a lavish 76-page program with congratulations from many luminaries, including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and Cecil DeMille.

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 like Gone with the Wind and Guys and Dolls, the Granada Theatre 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.

After the turn of the millennium, and after a multiyear restoration project, the Granada Theatre reopened in March 2008, under the auspices of the Santa Barbara Center for Performing Arts, as a fully modernized state-of-the-art facility in the historic downtown structure. The Granada Theatre’s restoration was a labor of love that would not have been possible without the widespread support of the community and many volunteers who gave generously of their time, talent and treasure.

The Granada Theatre Today ...

Under the direction of its Board of Directors and Chrisman Executive Director Dr. Craig Springer, an arts administrator with more than 30 years of experience, the Granada Theatre annually hosts more than 120 performances and community events and is a proud contributor to the vitality of Santa Barbara.

“This theater was built by the community, for the community,” Dr. Springer said. “As a grateful thank you, the staff and the Board of Directors are dedicated to making the Granada Theatre a treasured community asset where all Santa Barbara residents are welcome, and of which all Santa Barbara residents feel proud.”

The Granada Theatre is home to eight resident companies — CAMA, the Music Academy of the West, Opera Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, the Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, the Theater League, and UCSB Arts & Lectures. As a part of these partnerships, the Granada Theatre extends generous levels of financial support to its resident companies, enabling them to provide the high level of production quality that the shared audiences have come to expect.

Additionally, as part of its growing community engagement efforts, The Granada Theatre hosts family-oriented performances and underwrites facility fees for educational programming held at the theater. In addition to extending generous discounts off of facility rental rates to local non-profit organizations such as San Marcos High School’s annual student-led fundraiser, Kids Helping Kids, the Granada Theatre is also proud to routinely host private and public community events, including school proms, weddings and memorials. These events and many more reinforce the Granada Theatre’s value as a special gathering place for the community’s time-honored celebrations and traditions.

The Granada Theatre will continue celebrating this historic 90th anniversary all year long, and has plans for additional activities for the community to look forward to, including film screenings, open houses and tours over the next several months. Follow the Granada Theatre on Facebook or click here for details coming soon.

— Jennifer Zacharias is a publicist representing the Granada Theatre.

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