It was built by José María Dávila in 1953 as part of PresidentMiguel Alemán's program of urban renewal. Dávila commissioned muralistDiego Rivera to paint La historia del teatro, a visual history of the theatre in Mexico on the building's façade. The Marxist artist placed the character of Cantinflas in the center of the mural in the form of a Robin Hood figure, distributing the wealth of the rich to the poor.
The theater's inaugural performance was Cantinflas' elaborate return to the stage after considerable success in films. The work, Yo, Colón, placed Cantinflas in the role of the Paseo de la Reforma statue of Christopher Columbus, who came to life and made candid "discoveries" about contemporary Mexican society.