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Warnors Theatre in downtown Fresno is hosting a 90th Anniversary Celebration and you’re invited to take part. It’s happening Saturday, Oct. 20, from 2-4 p.m. Admission is $10.
From vaudeville to talkies
Warnors Theatre, located at the corner of Fulton and Tuolumne, has a long history. The theatre was called the Pantages Theatre when it first opened in 1928. It was built and named for Alexander Pantages, a theater mogul who had over 80 theaters throughout the United States. It was originally built to showcase vaudeville acts.
Then. just a year after opening, Warner Brothers bought the theater and changed the name. The Fresno location was only the second west coast city to have a Warner’s Theater. It showed silent films until “talkies” came out in the 1930s.
The City of Fresno eventually took over the theatre. There were plans to tear it down when Frank Caglia bought the building in 1973.
“My father bought the theater and saved it from the wrecking ball,” says Rose Caglia, Board of Director at the Warnors Theatre. “I had the joy of working there with him. I wrote the application to place the theater on the National Registry so it would never be threatened again.”
New documentary tells the theater’s story
Warnors Theatre’s long history will be celebrated at the 90th anniversary bash. A new documentary titled “Warnors: A Legacy” will premiere at the event. The film was produced by Bob Tyrcha and features interviews with local historian Bill Secrest, artist Pat Hunter, writer Janice Stevens, Fresno State Professor Ed Emanuel, and Penny Raven. Alexander Pantages’ grandson, screenwriter John Considine, is also featured.
Warnors Theatre is home to one of the nation’s last working theater organs. In the early days of film, the organ was played to accompany silent films. For more than 50 years, Richard Cencibaugh has played and maintained the organ at Warnors. The 90th Anniversary Celebration will pay tribute to Cencibaugh, and will feature Dave Moreno playing the instrument to a silent Laurel and Hardy movie.
These days, Warnors Theatre runs as a non-profit organization, hosting a wide variety of concert and theater productions. Proceeds from the 90th anniversary celebration will support ongoing renovation and future events.
“The theater will continue to offer productions that reflect the diversity of our community,” Caglia says. “We hope to do more restoration on the building. One item on my wish list is to one day have a resident theater and performing arts training program there.”
To learn more about the Warnors Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration and to find out about event sponsorship, click this link.
Photos are from Rose Caglia.