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Press Releases > June 14, 2001
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Lorenzo Theater Foundation

Lorenzo Theater Opens Doors On Something Worth Saving

Tours To Help Save Historic Arts Building

The Daily Review
Thursday June 14, 2001
By Wendy Phillips -- Staff

Bob Brown was at the opening night of the Lorenzo Theatre in April, 1947. The movie was "Dark Mirror" with Olivia de Havilland, and Brown was a young WWII vet struggling to make ends meet. On Wednesday Brown was at the theater again, touring with Lorenzo Theater Foundation board members Larry Leal and Nancy Shelvy. "It looked bigger to me back then, somehow," Brown said, eyeing the cavernous ceilings.

Brown is one of the first people to step inside the Lorenzo Theatre since it closed its doors in 1982. The rest of public is invited to take a paid tour of the theater this Saturday at the Lorenzo Theater Foundation's Village Fair. The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the old Mervyn's parking lot. Proceeds from the tours will go to the foundation, which hopes to buy the theater and restore it as a center for the performing arts.

The theatre is owned by Fremont veterinarian and businessman Dharam Salwan, who has given the foundation a three-month lease and has said he is willing to discuss the possibility of a longer lease. As Brown examined the site of the old snack bar, he recalled his excitement the day the theater first opened. "We didn't have a television back then, and the next closest place for movies was San Leandro. That was a long way to go back then," he said. Brown said he and his wife couldn't afford the price of a baby sitter and two tickets at 25 cents each, so they took turns going to the movies by themselves. And he always sat through the newsreel and the double feature. "The first movie was always bad, and the second one was good," he said. Larry Leal, who founded the Lorenzo Theater Foundation in 1998, has his own memories of the theater. He remembers getting banned from the balcony as a kid for throwing popcorn. Now, Leal is on a mission to save his childhood stomping ground. He wants people in San Lorenzo to know they have something worth saving, and he thinks a tour will convince them.

Leal and the rest of the foundation have been hard at work since they got the lease earlier this month. Volunteers scrubbed the terra-cotta tiles out front, and Leal said he was pleased to discover that the colors match the decor inside. But Leal is especially excited about the Lorenzo's two art-deco murals, painted by Dutch artist Anthony Heinsbergen. There are only about 200 murals left, Leal said, and the Lorenzo's are unique. When lit with a black light, the fluorescent paint has a psychedelic, other-worldly glow, and the pumas and palm trees take on a 3-D quality. The foundation has a couple of black lights on loan from Cal State Hayward and the San Francisco Ballet for the tour. "The murals are the reason I wanted to save this theatre," Leal said. "When people see them, they'll understand."

Tours of the theater are $5 for adults and children over 12. Tickets can be purchased on the day of the fair at the theater box office. The fair is free, and features game booths, food and performances by the musical group, the Blues Society Caravan of All Stars.


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