By Raad Ghantous

On Thursday May 12, 1938, The San Clemente Theater opened its doors at 6 p.m. with “excellent sound, comfortable seats and air conditioning,” running two complete shows of that year’s leading pictures.

Raad Ghantous
Raad Ghantous Historical Happenings

Specialized comfort was key in the theater’s design, accredited to Architect Clifford A. Balch, designer of 52 theaters—most in California—of which 14 are currently open. The most locally known is the Regency Lido Theater, which has been completely restored and is the flagship of the increasingly important and popular Newport Beach Film Festival.

Both the Regency Lido and the San Clemente Theater were opened in 1938. The San Clemente Theater later became known as The Miramar Theater and while in conception and under construction was also called the Hidalgo, the Spanish word associated with nobility.

Could it be that it was referenced as “The House of the Nobility”?

Even though the Miramar Theater opened its doors to entertainment in San Clemente, a decade after Ole Hanson incorporated the Spanish Village, its importance was directly gleaned from Ole’s emphasis on social and recreational life of the community.

One of Ole’s first acts, after all, was to deed to the residents of the village, without encumbrance, 3,000 feet of coastline. He later did the same with the Community Clubhouse, the nearby Beach Club, Plaza Park (Max Berg Park), the pier and the golf course.

The Miramar Theater circa 1938. Photo: Courtesy
The Miramar Theater circa 1938. Photo: Courtesy

“Hanson insisted from the beginning that this community was not to be the rendezvous just for the idle rich but a place where people might work out their destiny in the most favorable recognition of the importance of the social and recreational life of the community,” an excerpt from The Story of San Clemente—The Spanish Village by Homer Banks reads.

Today the San Clemente Theater stands steadfast, the sentinel iconic guardian of North Beach never abandoning its post and awaiting its rebirth as a vibrant venue of entertainment and recreation once again.

The future quality of life in American communities, as it is also here in San Clemente, has always rested with men of vision—people who have had a great awakening and are now aware of the mistakes made during the mad scramble to build taller and bigger simply for the sake of taller and bigger.

There are people who understand the sustainable, smart business value of authenticity over the ostentatious; people who value tasteful, elegant, timeless, reserved over vulgar or a pretentious display or design.

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comments (6)

  • tastful and elegant my foot , the double eagle painting on the building should be a tattoo on a drunken sailors chest and the multi millionaires who don’t know what to do with the building should be drawn and quartered for the blite .. driving our property values down for over two decades, , do they care ? they can’t see it from their bigger taller houses can they . Mr Proffitier! . If i had a property like that it would not sit idle nor would it need our tax dollars .
    Mr tax dollar parasite i believe in culture and heritage like the next guy that should be celebrated , not forced al capone or hitler type snob heritage ,,, I can make that building work why can’t you

  • It is an embarrassment for San Clemente that the Theater has sit idle for 20 years.

  • Either re-furb or tear it down. It is blocking the view of the Casino and our gorgeous shore.

  • It’s true the Theater and Bowling Alley are in dire need of restoration. I have been working on an answer for three years now, and I think I have a plan that the City, the Owners, the Historical Society, and everyone I have spoke with are excited, something maybe happening soon!,

    My name is Rick Van Bogart, I am the President of the newly established Miramar Theater Restoration Association. I lived in San Clemente in the 70’s, before going to work for the L A Times. In 1992 my Father bought a home in the Vilamora tract in Rancho San Clemente. I’ve always loved it here. And just had to get involved. I have a plan that is being reviewed by the City Planner today and a sketch of the Proposed Project provided by the architect.
    Hopefully we will have set of plans soon.

    I want to thank the generous sponsors that came through with flying colors without advanced notice, Selma’s Pizza, SC Antiques & Decor, San Clemente Wine Co, Beach Fire, 5 Elements, Perfect 10, Poke Roll 808, Salon Incognito, Reclamation, Sonny’s Pizza, Billy’s Meat Market. All gave gifts for the Miramar Theater Fundraiser Raffle. Thank You
    With little advanced the turnout was small but enthusiastic. Only three gifts were raffled, the rest are saved for the October Fundraiser which will be announced on Monday Sept.21.

    • The “Miramar Theater Restoration Project” Fundraiser will be Oct 17 at Cafe 207 in San Clemente at 6:30. Dinner, Dancing, Music, Raffle, Actioning a Terry Senate Surfboard with Artwork of the Theater.

    • The “Miramar Theater Restoration Project” Fundraiser will be Oct 17 at Cafe 207 in San Clemente at 6:30. Dinner, Dancing, Music, Raffle, and Auctioning a Terry Senate Surfboard with Artwork of the Theater.

comments (6)

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