The Arlington Theatre is the largest movie theater, and one of the principal performing arts venues, in Santa Barbara. In addition to regular movie screenings and artists, it is home to many events put on by the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.


The Arlington was built in 1931 on the former site of the Arlington Hotel, which was destroyed in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. The current building was erected in 1930 as a showcase movie house for Fox West Coast Theaters and the name "Fox" appeared on the spire for decades. It was restored and expanded in the mid-1970s by Metropolitan Theaters Corporation.


The Arlington Theatre was designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival styles in a period when Santa Barbara was being rebuilt in that style following a powerful earthquake in 1925 that destroyed much of the town. The exterior has a Mission Revival steeple that ends in an art deco finial. The red tiled building features a covered courtyard with fountain and a free-standing ticket booth. The interior is elaborately decorated to resemble an outdoor Santa Barbara courtyard. The ceilings of the lobbies are heavily beamed and painted. The auditorium itself seats over 2,000 people on the main floor and balcony. It is built to give theatergoers the impression that they are sitting outside in the plaza of a colonial Spanish town, each wall features houses, staircases, and balconies, not painted on but built out from the walls. Stars can be seen shining in the simulated night sky. The stage is surrounded by a reproduction of the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

One of the Arlington's signature features is a Robert Morton pipe organ from the Loew's Jersey Theatre that was installed in 1949. Hidden below the orchestra floor, the organ's console rises on a platform into view when played at a performance. The Arlington Theatre was designed by the Santa Barbara architectural firm of Edwards and Plunkett which also designed the original Santa Barbara Airport.

Photos by Fritz Olenberger