Varsity Theatre

616 2nd Street,
Davis, CA 95616

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Related Websites

Varsity Theatre - Davis (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Signature Theatres

Architects: William Bernard David, Gale Santocono

Functions: Movies (First Run), Movies (Independent)

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 530.758.5264

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News About This Theater

Varsity Theatre

This was the second Varsity Theatre to operate in Davis. It opened June 9, 1950 with John Payne in “The Eagle and the Hawk”. It was designed by architect William B. David, with Art Deco style murals on the splay walls of the auditorium designed by San Francisco based designer Gale Santocono. It operated as an 850-seat single screen movie house until 1975. From 1975 to 1990 movies shown on twin screens.

In 1992, it was de-twinned and from October 10, 1992 to present, it has been run by the City of Davis as a community theatre presenting live entertainment and occasional movies. In 2015 its program consists of 1st run movies and independent movies. By 2022 it was operating as a twin screen theatre again.

Contributed by Bob Bowen

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

kencmcintyre on February 18, 2009 at 2:23 am

There was a story in Boxoffice magazine, June 1946, about the Varsity Theater being sold by the Luft family to Davis Theaters, Inc. The article mentioned that the Varsity had been operating for about 25 years at that time, which would put the opening around 1921. Since the listed Varsity opened in 1950, I’m wondering if there were two Varsitys or alternatively if the 1950 opening was not a new theater but some kind of remodel.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 7, 2009 at 12:44 am

There were indeed two Varsity Theatres in Davis. The August 5, 1950, issue of Boxoffice carries this brief item: “The old Varsity Theatre building will be razed in Davis to make way for a new store.”

alabhaois on May 18, 2010 at 5:30 am

Does anyone know who created the original murals? As a kid, I used to stare at them every time I went to a movie (I was always a bit early) and they utterly fascinated me.

AlanSmithee on September 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

Sometime last year they added a 2nd screen, but this time it’s behind the current one in an area that used to be a backstage area when they did live shows. I haven’t been in since this was done so I don’t know what’s changed- the screen they put in the main auditorium upon re-opening was MUCH too small though, and they’ve been pretty lackadaisical presentation-wise. Several movies I’ve seen there were platter-scratched- how dumb do you have to be to do that when you’re only running ONE screen?

GeorgeStrum on June 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm

On June 28, 2012 The Theatre Historical Society will be visiting the Varsity. Phone 630-782-1800 for more information.

Prof David Ducay
Prof David Ducay on October 16, 2013 at 3:15 am

I recall double dating with my girlfriend back in 1987 at the Varsity theatre. Remembering that it was a really small theatre with stadium type seats if I recall correctly. A screwball comedy film that we watched called “Ishstar” with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. The film was not one of their best, it was the first time and last time I ever saw a movie at this theatre.

Mikeyisirish on January 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm

A few January 2014 photos can be seen here, here and here.

Jeff Hall
Jeff Hall on May 2, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Anyone have a photo of the first theater in Davis?

Trolleyguy on November 27, 2022 at 5:54 pm

The website lists 2 auditoria for screening films. Should be 2 screens.

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