The Lensic Theater was designed by well-known movie-theater and vaudeville-house architects, the Boller Brothers of Kansas City. They have designed more than on hundred theaters in the West and Mid-West. In particular, the Lensic Theater, which seats 821 people, was done in the Spanish Renaissance style by Nathan Salmon and E. John Greer. It opened on June 24, 1931.
From the 1930s to the 1960s the Lensic was a centerpiece in the Santa Fe cinema and vaudeville scene. Famous individuals such as Rita Hayworth, Roy Rogers, Judy Garland, and even Ronald Reagan made appearances at the theater.
The Lensic gets its name from the initials of Greer's six grandchildren.
Many theaters in the U.S. deteriorated from decades of use, and the Lensic was not immune to this. By the late 1990s it was managed by United Artists film company, but the small stage size and outdated equipment meant that it wasn't used often. In 1998 and 1999 a non-profit group raised money for its restoration. By December 2000 the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized the Lensic as an official project of Save America's Treasures. Restoration was completed in April 2001.
The main goal of the renovation was to make sure the Lensic was a premier performance venue once again. They removed the rear wall to increase the depth of the stage house and completed the building with advanced lighting and sound systems. While the equipment was modernized, the architectural and ornamental details were restored to maintain its unique appearance.
Today the Lensic is the major performance venue in Santa Fe and is used by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Santa Fe Short Story Festival, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Performance Santa Fe (which sponsors a variety of music, dance, and theater events). In addition, it functions as the location for ballet and lectures, for touring companies, and is still the venue for the screening of classic films on an occasional basis.
Cover image "The Lensic" by teofilo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.