San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Latest News – August 2020

The San Gabriel City Council has announced they are considering options, including closure, for the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, in light of the current economic situation.
The matter will be discussed at a Special Meeting of the City Council on Tuesday 25th August 2020. The agenda for the meeting, with a link to the Staff Report outlining the three possible scenarios, can be found here.
LAHTF has released the following statement:
The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's mission is to Preserve, Protect, Restore and Sustain the historic theatres of Los Angeles County. In 2020 during the times of COVID-19, sustainability and protection are at the forefront of all theatre conversations. While understanding the predicament of a deficit of over $350,000 due to the current economic situation, an extended closure of the Mission Playhouse is not the answer, and will not ensure the continued protection nor reopening of the theatre.
Experience as recently as mid-2020 has demonstrated that closed, non-maintained or minimallymaintained theatres in Los Angeles County are susceptible to unauthorized access and break-ins, especially concerning in light of the recent fire at the San Gabriel Mission.
There are ongoing opportunities to generate income to offset the deficit such as continuing to live stream events from the Mission Playhouse. In addition, the theatre should be aggressively marketed as a filming location, highly desirable to production companies given its ample adjacent parking facilities.
We also recommend the City consider further utilization of the parking lot to host drive-in movies while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Many of the technical skills and infrastructure required to mount such events are already present within the Mission Playhouse staffing and technical resources. In addition to income from admission there could be additional revenue generated from concessions and catering, supplied by third parties such as food trucks.
Upon review of all three scenarios presented in the Staff Report, LAHTF fully supports Scenario 3 focusing on staff retention and keeping the Playhouse open in a limited capacity through December, allowing for live streaming and filming events to continue along with additional revenue streams such as the drive-in movies. This scenario is a win-win for the staff, the theatre, and the City with future evaluations to take place as the restrictions change and the public participation levels are more clear.
LAHTF does not support the extended closure of the Mission Playhouse laid out in scenarios 1 and 2. Instead, we encourage the City of San Gabriel to embrace the opportunity to use the theatre and its resources in new and different ways until such time as restrictions are lifted and large gatherings can take place again indoors. LAHTF is ready to assist and continue the conversation in any way we are able to ensure the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is sustainable, protected, and ready to reopen fully when able.
San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

About the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is a magnificent and opulent theater steeped in history, complete with tapestries presented by the King of Spain, a beautifully carved and painted ceiling, a fully operational Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, and chandeliers that replicate the lanterns used on Spanish galleons which sailed around the tip of South America en route to California in the 1800’s.

Dedicated on March 5th, 1927, this lavish facility was built by John Steven McGroarty for his famed Mission Play. The world-renowned production told the dramatic story of the founding of the California missions by the Franciscan Fathers under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra.

After the end of the 1932 season and an astounding 3,198 performances, the effects of the depression, plus an attempt to produce it on Broadway, ended the long run of the play. A re-imagined version of the play was presented in April 2013 as part of the City’s Centennial Celebrations.

In the mid 1940′s a group of San Gabriel residents formed a citizen’s committee whose goal was to see the Playhouse purchased by the City. In August 1945 the City purchased the Mission Playhouse and renamed it the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium. On September 26, 2007, the City renamed the theatre back to its original name.

The architectural style is Spanish, with Mexican and Native American influences apparent in the decor. The facade, designed to resemble McGroarty’s favorite mission, San Antonio de Padua in Monterey County, is clearly the most identifiable aspect of the building and can be seen for miles.

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