Historic San Jose theater is about to hit the auction block

Historic San Jose theater is about to hit the auction block
Photo Credit: PAC-SJ
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 10, 2021.

The historic Burbank Theater at Bascom Avenue and Parkmoor Avenue in San Jose is about to go up for auction. The vacant landmark building will have a starting bid of $200,000 when the auction begins on December 13th. Preservationists are hopeful that whoever buys the theater will not tear it down, but restore it and use it for something the community needs. “I do really get the sense this is something that a lot of people care about but there hasn’t been that opportunity to express that. It’s buildings like the Burbank that are unique,” Preservation Action Council of San Jose Executive Director Ben Leech told Mercury News.

Leech recently attended a walk-through of the building and says it is still in relatively good condition on the inside.

The Burbank Theater was constructed in 1949 and features a nostalgic neon sign with three sides that has become a monument to passers-by on Bascom Avenue. In its colorful history, the theater has shown various types of movies including adult films in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It shut down around the year 2000 because it was labeled a public nuisance. The Mercury News reports that it was most recently used as a dance studio before it went into foreclosure. In 2018, it was added to the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory.

PAC-SJ recently released a new list of historic sites in San Jose called the “Endangered 8.” The nonprofit believes the sites are threatened by development. The Burbank Theater is at the top of the Endangered 8 list.

“You couldn’t design a more neighborhood landmark than the Burbank. It has the name of the neighborhood on it. It’s one of the things that define their community,” Leech told the Mercury News. Some other buildings on the list include Diridon Station and the former San Jose City Hall.

The ideal situation for PAC-SJ would be for the Burbank Theater to be revived to its original glory as a movie theater, but the group says that they are open to anything as long as the building doesn’t get bulldozed. “Our hardline is that it shouldn’t be demolished, but let’s see what the use is and what the building can offer,” Leech told Mercury News. According to the auction website, the 14,112 square foot structure sits on almost a half-acre of land and also contains three retail locations and a few upstairs office spaces.