Decades ago, in the 1920’s, Encinitas was little more than the dusty halfway point between Tijuana and Los Angeles. Two blocks from the La Paloma lies Moonlight Beach, its name acquired from the late-night landings of rumrunners who defied Prohibition to hustle their wares off to parts unknown via the railway link in Encinitas.
With a change of ownership and the ripple effect caused by the closing of the adjacent La Paloma Coffee House (originally a bank), the La Paloma again closed briefly in December, 1978, with the showing of “Lawrence of Arabia.” During the few months that followed, traditional seats were installed and bathrooms were remodeled.
Built in 1928, La Paloma’s decor has been called “a cross between Spanish missionary and Hollywood art deco.”.
On February 11, 1928, La Paloma Theatre (471 S. Coast Hwy 101), opened to the public.
Built by Aubrey Ernest Austin, the theater was initially called the Austin Building. Aubrey Austin was a Santa Monica banker and owner/ contractor of an asphalt paving company. Opening night featured a showing of the first “talking” motion picture in the San Dieguito area, entitled “The Cohen’s And Kelly’s in Paris.” The gala event was attended by Hollywood starlet and soon to be Academy Award winner Mary Pickford. It has been rumored that she rode her bicycle all the way to the theater from Fairbanks Ranch for the event.
La Paloma (The Dove) was one of the first theatres to show “Talkies.” Talking pictures premiered in 1927 with the Warner Bros. film, “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson. Making the transition from silent pictures to “talkies” didn’t happen overnight, so La Paloma was also equipped with a beautiful pipe organ, a standard piece of theatre equipment during the Silent era. Films in the early days of motion pictures were usually preceded by a vaudeville stage act, and La Paloma was no different.
“One way or another, whether we resell the lease or operate it ourselves, the theater will certainly open again, although I have no idea when,” said Alan Grossberg, who took back the lease he and partner Mark Weisinger had sold to Alan Gates in February, 1988.
In early 1978, the La Paloma was purchased by Ed Seykota, an eccentric North County millionaire. Seykota further upgraded the theater by adding Dolby sound equipment and permanent stage lighting. For another seven years, the theater continued to do well with more concerts, more classic film screenings, and frequent showings of surf movies.
In February, 1985, Seykota sold the property to Del Mar developers David Winkler and Ivan Gayler, who in turn signed a 15-year operating lease with Grossberg and Weisinger.
Over the years many performers have graced the stage of La Paloma including musical artists as diverse as Loreena McKennitt, Nickel Creek, Ralph Stanley, Jerry Garcia, Eddie Vedder, Jay Leno and Timothy Leary.
Today, the La Paloma Theatre is a vibrant part of the Encinitas art scene and hosts many community and City functions throughout the year, as well as daily programs such as concerts, stage productions and movies.