Last neon theater marquee in the county restored

Last neon theater marquee in the county restored
David Schulz, Star Theatre Company managing artistic director, in front of the restored neon sign. A dedication ceremony thanked donors on July 3. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — The Star Theatre Company switched on its animated neon marquee on the evening of July 3 at a dedication ceremony to celebrate the sign’s $100,000 renovation.

David Schulz, Star Theatre Company managing artistic director, said the sign really shows off its brilliance at night.

The neon sign has multicolor stars that appear to climb upward. The sign was built along with the theater in 1956, and stands 48 feet tall. It is the largest and oldest working neon theater sign in San Diego County.

“The automation at the time, with the lights turning on and off and the fin chasing, was ahead of its time,” Schulz said. “No one was really doing that.”

Over the years the sign had become weathered, no longer worked, and was repainted a different color.

The Star Theater Company bought the theater building on Coast Highway in 2000, and began fundraising to restore the sign two years ago.

Schulz said some sign companies suggested changing the sign to LED lights, but the theater board of directors was unanimous on restoring it to its original neon.

“I think the neon has a character and a history, and its kind of romantic almost, kind of harkens back to another time,” Schulz said. “The way neon works, with this gas that runs through a tube that creates color, there’s a warmth and almost an angulation to the color itself.”

Clear Signs and Designs Inc. of San Marcos completed repairs on site over the past 18 months.

Electrical components were fixed, hand-blown glass tubes were replaced and neon was refilled to restore the sign to its original glory.

The theater building was restored decades earlier in the 1990s. It received the Orchid Award for Interior Design and Historic Preservation, and was named a historic resource in 1998.

The sign and building feature futuristic Googie architecture (think “The Jetsons”).

“It’s remarkable we still have the theater and marquee,” Kristi Hawthorne, Oceanside Historical Society president, said.

The dedication ceremony for the sign was held during Oceanside’s First Friday Art Walk.


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