Obispo Theatre

993 Monterey Street,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Far West Theatres Inc., Fox West Coast Theatres

Previous Names: El Monterey Theatre

Nearby Theaters

December 1975 photo courtesy of Mark Karlak.

The El Monterey Theatre was opened December 24, 1911. It was located downtown about a block behind and over from the Fremont Theatre which was built in 1940. By 1927 it was operated by the L. Lou Bard chain Far West Theatres Inc. After a remodel in 1928 it was was renamed Obispo Theatre. It was not as impressive as the Art Deco style Fremont Theatre on the outside but I suspect the interior was still original when the theatre was destroyed by fire in late-1975 or early-1976. The place looked like it had never been altered.

I was a student at Cal Poly during this period but never made it inside the Obispo Theatre before it burned.

Contributed by Ralph P

Recent comments (view all 29 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Flickr user aroid presents a 1958 bird’s eye view of downtown San Luis Obispo in which three of the city’s theatres can be picked out:

On the far right is the Elmo Theatre on Morro Street at Marsh. It’s facade is well lit by afternoon sunlight, as is the upper part of its vivid red stage house.

Left of center can be seen the distinctive arc of the blade sign on the Fremont Theatre, at 1025 Monterey Street.

The large white building just right of center is the Anderson Hotel at Monterey and Morro. The Obispo Theatre’s facade, with a bit of light reflecting from its blade and marquee, can be seen just short of midway along Monterey Street from the hotel to the Fremont.

tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 10:27 pm

OK, so the Obispo, nee El Monterey, was on the same Monterey Street as the Fremont, closer to the center of town. The Elmo was out of the center by a bit, is that to the southeast?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 10:53 pm

Yes, the Elmo was two blocks southeast (the streets in downtown SLO being oriented more to the ordinal than the cardinal points of the compass) of Monterey Street on Morro Street. The Obispo and the Fremont were about a block apart, both on the south side of Monterey.

tomdelay on November 9, 2007 at 11:00 pm

BTW way Joe, did you ever live in Monterey and work as a projectionist? Just curious.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 9, 2007 at 11:16 pm

No, I’ve never been a projectionist, and I’ve never had a chance to visit Monterey. I’ve always intended to spend some time in that part of the state, but so far I’ve only passed through on highway 101 and had no time to stop.

tomdelay on November 10, 2007 at 12:34 am

Just wondering. I knew a Joe Vogel in Monterey. he moved to Modesto some years ago.

bonnach on September 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Actually the Elmo would be southeast of the Fremont and Obispo. Today there is a bank on that site.

Anyway, there is an article about the demise of the Obispo here: Obispo Fire

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

Here is a photo of the Obispo Theatre.

It’s been established that the Obispo was originally the El Monterey Theatre, and became the Obispo in 1928, following a $20,000 remodeling of the interior. The facade remained largely unchanged. Janet Penn Franks' book “San Luis Obispo: A History in Architecture” says that the El Monterey Theatre opened on December 24, 1911.

DavidZornig on July 29, 2016 at 12:16 am

December 1975 photo added courtesy of Mark Karlak.

nixols on July 27, 2020 at 1:39 am

The signage was manufactured by YESCO and they have a great early photo of it (possibly opening day) here:

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