(Last updated 12/4/2023) Description of Tower Theatre, an art deco movie theater located in the Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento. NEW: See Updates below.
A Bit of History
Built in 1938, the Tower Theatre is a well-loved Sacramento landmark. Located at the corner of Broadway and Land Park Drive, Tower Theatre is an art deco treasure. The theatre specializes in showing independent, foreign and art films, an important niche market.
The Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento was still under development when the Tower Theatre was first opened by Joseph Blumenfeld as a neighborhood movie theater.
At one point, the deteriorating state of the Tower Theatre raised concerns among many in Sacramento. It seemed possible that the city could lose this iconic landmark to “redevelopment” – just as it lost the Alhambra Theatre.
The Alhambra Theatre, an ornate “movie palace”, was razed in 1973 to the dismay of many. Today, only a fountain on the edge of the Alhambra Boulevard Safeway Grocery Store parking lot remains to mark its former location.
See related blog post: Alhambra: Sacramento’s Palace of Fantasy
SacramentoRevealed.com – All Things Sacramento (from a personal perspective)
Tower Theatre Renovations
While the exterior of the Tower Theatre is original, including its signature 100-foot high art deco neon light signage, the interior has been updated over time. Built as a single screen theater, it was converted into a triplex – one large and two small theaters several decades or so ago.
Old fashioned and quaint – yes – but I do like the stadium seating – even if the stairs in the large theater are quite steep.
In recent years significant improvements have been made to the interior of Tower Theatre. In 2012, new digital projectors and screens were installed in all three theaters, and most recently new seats replaced the old uncomfortable seating in the main theater. Not only that – the new seats have cup-holders! Don’t laugh – this is a big deal.
To keep up with the competition, the Tower Theatre renovated its kitchen and concession areas, and expanded its snack bar offerings to include new food items.
See related blog post: Have You Been to the New Century Arden Movie Theater?
In addition to the usual movie concession items like hot dogs and candy – you can now also order food items such as breakfast sandwiches (served all day), cheese or pepperoni pizzas, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches and chicken tenders with dipping sauce.
The Tower Theatre is now also serving beer and wine. There is a rotating list of draft beers offered for $8. Bottles and cans of beer are $7, or you can opt for a 22 oz. bottle of craft beer which will set you back $12.
Four red and four white wines are offered in a 6 oz. or 12 oz. pour. Prices for a 6 oz. glass of white and red wine range from $6 to $10. Prices for a 12 oz. glass of white or red wine range from $11 to $19.
I believe that many Sacramento residents joined me in breathing a sigh of relief when it was reported in the Sacramento Bee that the eight descendants of Joseph Blumenfeld, the original owner, sold the property to an entity who reportedly intended to keep operating it as a theater.
The Endowment Board, founded in 1891, is a Stockton-based organization that provides funding for retired clergy from the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The sale of the Tower Theatre complex to The Endowment Board included the spaces currently occupied by the Tower Café and Sampino’s Kitchen at Joe Marty’s Bar and Grille.
Reading Cinemas, a division of Reading International Inc., currently operates the Tower Theatre. Reading Cinemas operates numerous small theaters both inside and outside the U.S.
Tower Theatre Today
Today, the Tower Theatre is (rightly so) the theater of choice for showcasing Sacramento-related films. It recently hosted the Sacramento premiere of Lady Bird, a film written and directed by Sacramento-native Greta Gerwig. See related post: Lady Bird – A Sacramento Love Letter
All Things Must Pass, a film about the rise and fall of the Sacramento-headquartered Tower Records empire, likewise premiered at the Tower Theatre. See related post: Tower Records – A Sacramento Story
Despite its former uncomfortable seats and rundown dingy condition, I have fond memories of the Tower Theatre prior to the most recent renovations. One particular memory, which in hindsight is pretty funny, comes to mind.
When my daughter was a “tween” I decided that at least once a year we would go together to see a foreign film (with subtitles). One year it was a hot triple-digit summer day, and sitting in an air-conditioned theater for a few hours sounded like a very good idea.
Das Boot (“The Boat” in German), a highly acclaimed film, was playing at the Tower Theatre. A 1981 German war film, Das Boot is set during World War II and tells the fictional story of a U-boat (aka submarine) and its crew.
The interior of the submarine was claustrophobic, with crew members taking turns sleeping in the available bunks. The life of the crew alternated between boredom and terror. I recall one scene vividly – the submarine was under attack and the crew was dripping with fear and sweat. The scene was intense, and my daughter and I felt as if we were part of the movie as we were also uncomfortably hot and sweaty. The theater air conditioner was broken.
I tell myself now that our experience added to the ambiance of the film. By the way, I highly recommend Das Boot – it is a classic.
To Sum Up
To sum up, I encourage fellow Sacramento residents to keep the Tower Theatre in mind. Do yourself a favor and check out what is playing on a regular basis. You just might find yourself becoming a frequent patron.
(12/4/2023) The Tower Theatre celebrated its 85th Anniversary this past weekend! A full house enjoyed a brief overview of the history of the theatre before the feature film – the Academy Award winning film “Cinema Paradiso” (1988). Patrons were also treated to a performance by Organist Dave Moreno, who accompanied with great gusto “Big Business”, a Laurel and Hardy short.
Comments on the Tower Theatre?
Comments on the renovations, or the new menu? Do you have any fond memories of the Tower Theatre to share?
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