The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, a designated city landmark facility that has hosted Academy Awards shows and such music acts as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, marked its 50th anniversary Sunday, June 15th.
A short presentation was made at the June 10th Santa Monica City Council meeting and a community celebration is planned in August to honor the Civic Auditorium’s anniversary.
Located at 1855 Main St., the Civic Auditorium was funded by a citizen-led bond act in 1956. The facility was designed by renowned architect Welton Becket, the man behind the design of other Los Angeles icons such as the Capitol Records Building, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Cineramadome.
When the Civic Auditorium opened in 1958, the facility featured technology that was ahead of its time, city officials note. A hydraulic floor made the facility suitable for a wide variety of uses, allowing for it to be quickly converted from a 3,000 seat theatre into a 27,000-square foot exhibition space.
Popular performances at the Civic helped put Santa Monica on the cultural map, city officials said. The Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra played the inaugural concert in 1958, and for the next 50 years, the Civic hosted a wide range of concerts, award shows, sporting events, film festivals, musicals and theatrical performances, banquets, exhibits and trade shows.
Several Academy Awards shows were held at the Civic in the 1960s, including the historic 1964 event when Sidney Poitier accepted the first Oscar ever given to an African American.
Many top musical acts have also performed at the Civic, including the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Clash, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Prince.
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium has also provided the stage for community events including the school district’s Stairway to the Stars and the Santa Monica Symphony. College fairs, the annual Thanksgiving Dinner staffed by volunteers, and other community-based events round out the facility’s annual schedule.
Exhibits and trade shows have also been held there, starting with the Parade of Progress show in 1958, as well as the Gem & Jewelry Show, the AltBuild Expo and ArtsLA.
The Civic Auditorium is an important element in both the city’s Civic Center Specific Plan and its long range cultural master plan, Creative Capital, city officials said.