The large neon sign first lit up May 29, 1942, for the star-studded premiere of the movie This Above All. The Fremont Theater has become a staple in the San Luis Obispo community, hosting hundreds of events every year spanning from concerts, movie screenings, comedy shows, to even burlesque shows since its opening 77 years ago.
The venue has been hit, however, by modern competition over the years. According to an article on kcet.org, Bruce Sanborn, the owner of the theater back in 2012, said that “the people who go to the movies now, I don’t know if they appreciate [old theaters] enough to go to ones without all the bells and whistles.”
Current business freshman, Amy Lan, frequently attends the concerts hosted at the theater and doesn’t need “all the bells and whistles.” Lan says she prefers the Fremont Theater to traditional concert venues. Being from Los Angeles, she says she’s used to large venues where she is far away and has to watch the show from a screen whereas at the Fremont Theater she likes that she actually gets to see who she paid for and the impression of theater.
“I really like the vibe there because when everyone has the same music taste. They’re all drawn together. They are all similar to me in a way and it’s really fun being around those people,” said Lan. “So some of it [the vibe] is not good. It’s really hot, you’re really stuffed with people, and everyone pushes to the front but you get to see the artist. You’re so close to them, it’s so cool.”
It is the Fremont’s dedication to concerts that has kept it relevant throughout the changing times and as the trends and tastes of the general public have fluctuated. The theater was even the site of the reunion concerts for the rock band Yes, a group that hadn’t performed together in 15 years. The local landmark caters to what clients want, which has proven to be concerts. They have been able to do this all while maintaining the structural and historical integrity of the building, despite its primary draw no longer being films.
In a survey sent out to Cal Poly students, 80% said that concerts are the main reason they populate the theater, while only 10% prefer the theater’s film screenings. Out of the current 23 upcoming events listed on the theater’s website for spring quarter, two are for movies while 20 are for music events. Concerts have simply just become a more unique form of entertainment.
“I’ve considered movies but I just didn’t have the time for it. Concerts I just make the time for because they’re different, you know? They’re really fun,” said Lan.
It looks as if the bright sign will continue to stay lit due to this dedication to concerts from both the students and the theater itself. Some of the shows the Fremont Theater has planned for the upcoming months are Aaron Watson, Party Favor, and The Frights.
Images screen-shotted from the Fremont Theater’s website.