The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was developed in the late 1950s in response to community demand for a public cultural space that would accommodate a wide range of uses. The building, (now a designated City of Santa Monica landmark), was designed by noted architect Welton Becket - the mind behind other LA icons like the Capitol Records building, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Cineramadome. When it opened in June 1958, the Civic Auditorium was a facility ahead of its time. Innovative technology maximized flexible use of the space, including a hydraulic floor that allowed for the building to be quickly converted from a 3,000 seat performance venue to an open 2,700 sq ft exhibit space.
Outstanding performances and events at the Civic helped put Santa Monica on the cultural map. It hosted high-end award shows like the Academy Awards (1961-1968), as well as concerts, sporting events, film festivals, musicals, and other events of all shapes and sizes. In its heyday, top acts and legends rocked the Civic Auditorium, including David Bowie, Elton John, the Clash, Bob Dylan, and Prince - just to name a few. The Civic Auditorium also set the stage for community events like the Santa Monica Symphony, college fairs, and an annual Thanksgiving Day dinner staffed by volunteers.
Regular operation of the Civic Auditorium is now on hold, following the loss of redevelopment funds needed to rehabilitate the facility. During this interim period, the Civic Auditorium is available for limited event and film rental while a community-led planning process to envision the future of the facility takes place.
For a view of historic photos of the Civic Auditorium, check out the Santa Monica Public Library’s Imagine Santa Monica website.