Phoenix Theater

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Theater Location: 201 Washington Street, Petaluma, CA 94952


Opening Date: December 4, 1905

Theater Status: Open

Cast Affiliations


The Phoenix Theater first opened in 1905 as the Hill Opera House, a small town opera house. In the early 1920s, it was nearly destroyed by a fire forcing the theater to be shut down. By 1925, it had been restored and opened as a movie theater. The building was purchased by California Movie Theater around 1935 and renamed California Theater.

On August 5, 1957, another fire took the roof of the building. The building was restored and renamed the Showcase Theater by the Tocchini family and soon after the first live concert was put on at the theater by Petaluma native Jeff Dorenfeld. The Tocchinis employed a boy named Tom Gaffey, who managed to be rehired by Ken Frankel after Frankel bought the theater in 1982. Gaffey was then named theater manager and he renamed the theater after the mythological phoenix because the building seemed to ‘rise from the ashes’.

The Theater gained unwanted attention after a late-night performance by the band Popsicle Love Sponge performed a questionable act with the body of what was believed to be a dead chicken. The late night shows ended, but the movies continued for a short time.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused moderate damage to the theaters interior resulting in a long-awaited renovations.

In the late 1990s, its landlord announced plans to sell the Phoenix Theater for demolition and reconstruction as an office building, despite public opposition. The sale was in escrow when four employees from Cerent Corporation, who were all musicians and two of whom were former Phoenix Theater frequenters, intervened and took over the escrow. With other leading local citizens, they established the non-profit Petaluma Phoenix Center, Inc., to not only own The Phoenix Theater, but preserve and expand the services the Phoenix provides to its community.

External Links

The Phoenix Theater [1]
Cinema Treasures [2]