VIDEO REPORT:State Theater’s beacon of change goes up

78-year-old movie house targeted as performing arts center
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s Mike Virgil turned his gaze upward, to the top of the State Theater on Tuesday, and saw a vision from his past – something he never expected to see again. Sign company workers had used a crane in the morning to lift a three-ton, art deco “blade” sign spelling out “STATE” onto the top of the 78-year-old Lincoln Way movie house in Auburn – restoring in a replicated version what had been taken down in the early 1970s. Virgil was one of the many who stopped to watch the new sign go up, snap photos and, in some instances, reminisce about the past. The building and Virgil, who spent his childhood watching quite a few movies in the 1940s at the theater, go way back. “I was born and raised here and never could quite understand why they took it down,” he said. Virgil said the green and yellow trim looked close to the original he remembers. “I love it,” he said, adding that he was going to check the new photos against pictures of the old sign he has at home. While electrical testing will take place throughout the week and more signage is due to be put up, the silhouette of the State Theater has now returned to the way it was from the 1930s and for many decades thereafter. The sign was erected by building owner the Auburn Placer Performing Arts group, a non-profit that will hold a street party July 11 to officially light the neon. Lighting up the sign also will signal a new fund-raising drive for the theater’s eventual redevelopment as a performing arts center. Dan Luper, owner of the Big O tire store across Lincoln Way, said that the performing arts center has the promise of putting the community on the map as a destination for artists and audiences. “And the sign signals that everyone will know where the theater is at – it’s going to be the beacon,” he said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at