All the world may be a stage, but no place shines quite like the beautiful and welcoming theaters in Santa Barbara. Whether they are historic or newly opened, these venues are exciting cultural centers and home to the town’s cherished performing arts organizations. In architectural style and interior design, the theaters are as rich and varied as Santa Barbara itself, providing glimpses into the city’s changing tastes and styles. During a visit to Santa Barbara, you might find these stages filled with music, drama, dance, comedy, lectures or film screening.
The Arlington Theatre
The Arlington Theatre has a rich history dating back nearly 90 years (it opened as a movie palace in 1931), but the programming is anything but antiquated. Under the starry sky ceiling, surrounded by Spanish village décor, the Arlington hosts award-winning plays, first-run films, innovative dance, offbeat comedy productions and world-class performances from across the musical spectrum. The historic theater also plays host to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, now in its 31st year, which begins in early February.
The Granada Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown, the Granada Theater is the epicenter of Santa Barbara’s performing arts community. The beautifully restored 1924 theater is home to local arts groups including the Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, Opera Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Choral Society and CAMA. The schedule also features national and international touring events, a new Broadway Series, film screenings and a variety of one-night-only performances across a spectrum of musical genres. From classical to pop culture, The Granada is the city’s premier arts entertainment venues.
From modern dance to ballet, and opera to contemporary music performances, the Lobero Theatre presents the most diverse selection of performing arts in Santa Barbara. Located in the heart of the Historic Theatre District, the totally refurbished Lobero Theatre offers historic charm coupled with the modern technology to produce high-quality performances. The theatre features some of Santa Barbara’s premier performing arts organizations including State Street Ballet, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Sings Like Hell, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Flamenco Arts Festival and more. This intimate setting creates a special and memorable evening for culture lovers.
The New Vic
The New Vic, located in Santa Barbara’s Historic Theater District, is a former church converted in 2013 to a state-of-the-art venue and the home base for the long-running Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC), who performs everything from classics to contemporary fare. There’s also a small “black box” theater where more avant-garde, experimental and new works are showcased. Area colleges and the University of California Santa Barbara offer a variety of other stages, big and small, for student productions as well as world-class touring orchestras, dance troupes, musicians and singers, authors and celebrated speakers. ETC is Santa Barbara’s sole professional theatre company. Presenting five or six plays per season, ETC has produced several American and West Coast premieres, garnering numerous awards.
THE RIVIERA THEATre
The Riviera Theatre is the new home of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, a world-class annual event attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of tributes, symposiums and more than 200 film screenings. The Riviera, located at 2044 Alameda Padre Serra, was built in 1926 and was once part of the UCSB campus. One of Santa Barbara’s premier art-house theaters, The Riviera shows first-run feature films throughout the year. The historic site also offers a number of film-related events, including Cinema Society (an exclusive membership program), the Rosebud Program for Film Students (a program for local college students), and the Wave Film Festival. The Showcase, which features innovative independent films, also lights up the screen at the Riviera.
The city’s cultural calendar is bustling throughout the year, so be sure to plan an evening of music, dance or film during your stay. Enjoy the experience of these beautifully preserved and unique theaters in Santa Barbara. They all merit a standing ovation by arts and culture aficionados.