Looking for a sequel: The fate of San Jose’s abandoned movie theaters

Here’s a brief update on the history + fates of three long-abandoned San Jose movie theaters.

The Burbank movie theater exterior, under a sunny San Jose sky

Will this long abandoned theater have a second act?

Photo by Ian E. Abbott

Table of Contents

Longtime San Joseans may remember the hey days of Burbank Theater, Cine Mexico, and Century Theater’s domes — but for years, these buildings have sat empty.

Let’s explore the past, present, and futures of these dilapidated movie theaters.

Burbank Theater

  • Closure date: 2000
  • Plans for redevelopment: No

Built in 1949, this theater was your go-to neighborhood cinema. The declining theater industry in the 1970s reduced the Burbank to a shadow of its former self. Before closing indefinitely, its only showings were adult films.
In spring 2023, San Jose City Council approved the annexation of the theater. The Preservation Action Council launched a petition to designate the theater as a city historical landmark, and sees its future as a creative community space.

Exterior of Mexico Theater.

This theater has sat empty for decades.

Photo by SJtoday staff

Cine Mexico

  • Closure date: 2004
  • Plans for redevelopment: No

Opened as the Mayfair in 1949, then the Esquire in 1962, Mexico Theater officially adopted its name in 1980. Did you know that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak owned it for a bit?

Details + updates regarding this theater are sparse. In 2014, members of the community launched a petition to redevelop the theater into a live music venue + community space. However, it seems that in 2015, plans were cut short after unnamed previous owners sold the property to another party. Since then, no updates have been announced.

The backside of the Century 21 Dome Theater on Winchester Blvd. in San Jose.

The Century 21 Dome played the original showings of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and more.

Century Theaters domes

  • Closure date: 2014
  • Plans for redevelopment: Yes

With Century 21 built in 1964, and Century 22 + 23 coming shortly thereafter, these theaters were the first of the Century Theater domes to be built in the western US. It is designated a historic city landmark.
In 2022, developers suggested a mixed-use development inside, with accommodations for a restaurant or performing arts center. In March 2023, the most recent plans proposed a 500-residence project. So far, no updates have been announced.