Spreckels Theatre

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Spreckels Theatre Building
Spreckels Theatre in July 2006
LocationSan Diego, California
ArchitectHarrison Albright
Architectural styleChicago-style
NRHP reference No.75000467[1]
SDHL No.76
Significant dates
Added to NRHP1975
Designated SDHLAugust 4, 1972[2]

Spreckels Theatre is a performing arts center located in San Diego, California. It was touted as "the first modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi".[3] It was designed for philanthropist John D. Spreckels, and was meant to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. Built in 1912, it was originally created to host live theater performances, but was converted to allow motion pictures in 1931. The theater has been closed since being sold to real estate in 2021. There are currently plans to renovate the building.[1]


Architect Harrison Albright designed the Spreckels Theater for the city's premier philanthropist, sugar heir John D. Spreckels. The building, which opened on August 23, 1912, was constructed to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. As with many west coast buildings from this era, it is constructed of reinforced concrete and concrete panels with architectural terra cotta manufactured by Gladding, McBean. The six-story building has a marquee over the main entrance. The theater is a 1,915-seat auditorium with an ornate Baroque interior. The auditorium is open with no pillars or columns to obstruct sightlines. The number of seats was chosen to correspond with the Panama-California Exposition year (1915). The stage is 82 feet x 58 feet, and was one of the largest stages ever constructed.


The theater originally presented live theatrical productions. Notable performers at the Spreckels included Enrico Caruso, John Barrymore, Al Jolson, Will Rogers, and Abbott and Costello.[4]

In 1931, it was converted into a first-run motion picture house by its then-owner Louis B. Metzger.

In 1976, owner/operator Jacquelyn Littlefield (Metzger's daughter) restored it to a live theater format, bringing touring Broadway shows to San Diego in cooperation with the Nederlander Organization.[5]

When fire destroyed San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in 1978, the Spreckels hosted the Globe's 1978-79 season.[6]

Between July 2015 and July 2019, TBS has rented the theater for a week for Conan O'Brien to host his self-titled talk show from the theater to correspond with that year's San Diego Comic Con.[7] There are four tapings that occur, which each episode airing the following evening. Casts from several big name television shows have appeared such as Breaking Bad, Top Gun: Maverick, Veronica Mars, and It Chapter Two.


Spreckels sign at night (2013)

San Diego's Spreckels Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is currently closed indefinitely.

Past Performers[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 15, 2006.
  2. ^ "Historical Landmarks Designated by the San Diego Historical Resources Board" (PDF). City of San Diego.
  3. ^ San Diego Historical Society
  4. ^ San Diego Union Tribune, Sep. 30, 1992
  5. ^ Spreckels Theater website
  6. ^ "Old Globe Theatre". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  7. ^ "See Conan O'Brien take the Fury Road to San Diego Comic-Con". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-07-09. Retrieved 2021-04-05.