Del Oro Theatre – Grass Valley, California - Atlas Obscura

Del Oro Theatre

A fine mixture of the old and the new topped with an art deco neon spire. 


Built in the early 1940s by United Artists, the Del Oro has been a Grass Valley, California icon for generations.

Construction on Del Oro Theatre started in 1941 with its Grand Opening Premiere on May 29, 1942. Built as a single-screen movie house and adorned with classic Art Deco/Moderne style architecture, the Del Oro represents an unforgettable slice in time, and despite renovation, signs of that faraway time are still very present, as well as the ghost stories and underground passageways that accompany such pockets in history. Renovated into a triplex in the 1970s, two additional theaters were added, giving the Del Oro a total of 845 seats. During construction, much of the beautiful art deco design and intricate mural work was either covered up or removed but in the original theater, one ceiling mural remains, along with a giant, disc-shaped light fixture that used to change color with the seasons. Out the side door is a fire escape, rumored to be the location of a tragic end of a woman who either fell or was pushed to the concrete below. Employees, even the most skeptical ones, insist that out of several legends of untimely deaths and subsequent hauntings in the theater, this is the one that spooks them the most.

Walking along the modern walls with fresh paint, you’ll almost miss the phone booth embedded into the wall with the original Pacific Bell glass, and as you walk into the bathroom, it’s like stepping into tiled sitting room from the 1940s. A peek in the projection room (another site with a decent ghost story about a projectionist who perished inside during a freak fire) reveals it neatly littered with old, obsolete bulbs and equipment. 

Fans of Art Deco architecture will be able to spot the period peeking through the seams, but there is no missing the illuminated 70-foot tower that gives patrons a sense of going back in time to the Golden Days of the picture show. The Del Oro spire acts as a beacon, and is the center point of this small town that is a marriage of the old and the new.


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December 16, 2013

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