When The State Theatre first opened its doors on December 25th, 1934, some residents wondered why it had been built so far out of town, as most of Modesto’s movie houses were located along what was then Modesto’s 10th Street central business district.
Designed by nationally known Art Deco theatre architect S. Charles Lee and built by Modesto’s Harry Brown in a little more than four months at a cost of $100,000, The State was promoted as “A Christmas Present to Modesto.” Featuring more than 800 seats and “cooled by refrigeration,” the new “Moderne” style theatre premiered with continuous screenings of FLIRTATION WALK starring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Pat O’Brien, and the West Point Cadel Corps, with added attraction “LA CUCARACHA…, a Breathtaking Romantic Melody of Old Mexico”. First day admission was 35 cents for adults (dropping to 25 cents thereafter) or 40 cents for the balcony, where smoking was allowed. Children got in for a dime.
For the next several decades, The State Theatre was the flagship for first run films in Modesto. The proliferation or multiscreen megaplexes contributed to the theatre’s eventual sale in the late 1970s becoming “Cine Mexico,” showing Spanish language films until it closed its doors a decade later. In 1994, The State had its rebirth 60 years after it originally opened when it was purchased by the nonprofit Downtown Arts Project. Following extensive renovations, the theatre became a catalyst for downtown revitalization and center or art, independent and classic films, live entertainment, lectures, business meetings and fundraisers.
A new nonprofit, The State Theatre Inc., purchased the theatre in 2005, embarking on a continuing program of renovations and upgrades, including digital projection and Dolby sound, exterior and interior lighting, new marquee, restoration of the original murals, and enlarged concession area.