The Vogue Theater, 226 3rd Avenue
  • The Vogue Theater, 226 3rd Avenue
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After more than 60 years in business, the Vogue Theater in Chula Vista closed its doors in July 2006 — and people have been waiting for it to reopen ever since.

The single-screen theater opened in 1945. Several generations of Chula Vistans had their first dates there. Bill Upham owned the theater for the past 30 years before it closed. In July 2006 he told the Star News that business was down because the Vogue was a sub-run theater, which meant he got the films four to eight weeks after other theaters. Upham also contributed the decline in business to “people staying home watching DVDs.”

In 2014, writer Vincent Farnsworth authored a story that raised the hopes of many. The article recounted how the City of Chula Vista had issued a permit to renovate the Vogue. According to the article, the architectural group called Amorphica Design Research were scheduled to start construction on February 13, 2014.

One Amorphica architect, Aaron Gutierrez, told Farnsworth the group intended “to bring back its original core use, the good old movie theater.” But the dream was bigger than that. The new theater would not only be for movies, but also a multicultural and educational venue with performance artists, choral ensembles, jazz and blues concerts, contemporary musicians…well, just about anything a city could want.

It appears the dream will be deferred again. The theater is up for sale for $1,283,400. In response to a Reader query, Charles Adolphe, a principal with Lee & Associates and the agent representing the theater, wrote:

“The owners [Valente Márquez and Angélica Padilla], a local Chula Vista couple have a big vision to renovate this wonderful property, and bring it back to its glorious condition…to be a multi-functional venue for the community and the greater San Diego area. We have been speaking with theater owners and groups, craft beer companies, restaurants, and anyone else who might have the vision, the passion and the financial resources (and time) to bring this iconic Chula Vista landmark back to life.

“We have a couple prospective who wants to bring it back to a classic theater with vintage films plus gourmet food, and possibly other community-related events. Then we have a craft beer company out in the wings who has said they are very interested.” 

When the Reader asked if the Amorphica Group was working on any of the renovations, Adolphe responded,

“The owners have other business endeavors which are preventing them from giving their full attention to renovation of The Vogue. They are continuing to do so, but feel a new owner who can focus 100% on that would be better. The City of Chula Vista has protected The Vogue by making it a Candidate for Historical Designation, thereby preventing a new owner from demolishing the building. The owners have asked me to put it on the market for sale at a very reasonable price of $180 per SF, and will deliver the property with a new roof, new floor slab, stairs and sewer line.”

According to Janice Kluth, from the Chula Vista Development Services Department, “The building owners are interested in seeking historical designation for the façade. They made an informational presentation to the Historical Resources Board about a year ago, seeking feedback on the proposed rehabilitation to the original look and style. The City had a historical resource study done several years ago, and that study identified the building as a historical resource. Until it is actually designated historic, financial incentive would be limited.”

The interior, however, does not fall under the protected status. The real-estate flier refers to the building as a “shell.”

Kluth said, “A building permit (Commercial Tenant Improvement) was issued in March 2014. A new designer was hired and the construction process was started to rehabilitate the interior.”

When the Reader queried if the original red plush seats had been sold off, Kluth responded, “The owners told me that the interior fixtures (seating) had been removed before they purchased the property.”

Third Avenue is on the incline. The second phase of streetscape is almost finished and several new restaurants and an alehouse have opened — and are filled with patrons. Construction sounds reverberate from inside the theater. Kluth says, “The [Vogue] property has an inspection scheduled for next Thursday [December 10] on the foundation.”

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shirleyberan Dec. 6, 2015 @ 4:18 p.m.

Another nice one Susan. Hits home where the heart is.


eastlaker Dec. 7, 2015 @ 8:21 a.m.

I did a google image search to try and find older pictures of the façade, and the best I could do was find some that show a front with small gold/beige square tiles which go maybe up to 8 feet, and then a two-tone wide vertical stripe at the level of the marquee and above. Now it looks like everything has been spray painted beige.

But--if we are discussing design, does anyone know what it originally looked like? Because that upper level of the two alternating panels/stripes looks like some kind of revamp from the 1950's. It would be great to see what the original design was.


SalULloyd Dec. 8, 2015 @ 11:49 a.m.

Eastlaker, I've seen one from the 40's, showing a movie with Joan Blondell. I don't know where they got it from.


joepublic Dec. 7, 2015 @ 10:39 a.m.

eastlaker - You're right, looking at old photos (on-line) you see that the façade has undergone some changes. I wonder if the original version will be restored. Also, it would've been nice if the city had protected the interior's historic integrity as well. This UT article about the Ken cinema's survival  says there are only two single-screen theaters left in San Diego County.[]  Could Landmark Theaters be enticed?  It might take a switch to digital to make it work.


VigilantinCV Dec. 7, 2015 @ 5:09 p.m.

Across Third Avenue from the Vogue is one of the historical pedestals put up by the Heritage Museum, and it is an old photo of the Vogue. Playing that day was "The Gang's All Here," starring Alice Faye, a film made in 1943. The Vogue was built in 1945, and this was not the very first film they had, but it is one of the first. They did not get first-one films in those days, either. But you can see what the Vogue looked like when it first opened in 1945.


Visduh Dec. 8, 2015 @ 9:33 a.m.

The fact that an owner has been paying taxes on an empty building for nine years now is remarkable. Yet that is what has happened with many of those old single-screen movie houses. In the 70's and 80's many of them were converted from playing main-stream movies into featuring X-rated fare, but that also seems to have gone by the wayside. Some cities have stepped up to acquire and refurbish such theaters, and then use them for live productions. Vista did that about twenty years ago with its iconic Avo Theater, and it has been more-or-less successful since then.

There just isn't that much demand for old theater buildings, even in bustling and affluent areas. Remember what happened to the Loma Theater.


eastlaker Dec. 8, 2015 @ 5:14 p.m.

One of the things that is happening to older theaters that still have stages is that they are becoming performance areas for current bands--with the seats taken out. This is what was done with the North Park Theater, which is now the Observatory, and was done to the old Opera House in Napa. Is it possible that is being considered for the Vogue?


shirleyberan Dec. 8, 2015 @ 6:12 p.m.

The theater in Normal Heights has been a long time fabric store. Seems a waist of good space. A regular homeless guy used to sleep under the canopy at the front door.


Susan Luzzaro Dec. 8, 2015 @ 7:59 p.m.

Chief Layabout, I've never been fond of candy -- except for Abba Zabbas, maybe it was the sustenance at the center of the sugar.

But nowadays--a stage with live music which converted to a screen with movies that often don't make it down to the South Bay--that would be sustenance.


eastlaker Dec. 8, 2015 @ 9:38 p.m.

So lets hope they put seats back in!


anniej Dec. 10, 2015 @ noon

Ms. Luzzaro: Great story - just sat here and took a trip down memory lane, all by my lonesome. YES, THOSE WERE THE DAYS!!!!!!!, and the Vogue played a big part.


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