Seeing The General at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Today I’m headed to a classic film screening so I’ve got Old Hollywood on the brain. In thinking back to previous screenings I attended I recall the last one was at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. It was such a memorable experience I thought I’d share it with you.

Mission Playhouse

The Mission Playhouse was built in 1927 to house the Mission Play – an elaborate production portraying the history of the California missions. It was a famous piece that began in 1912 and continued through 1932 when financial difficulties stopped production. After this the playhouse was used as a movie theatre for a little over a decade. In 1945 it was purchased by the city of San Garbriel and returned to it’s original purpose as a venue for live productions. It has remained that way ever since.  I love this story because it’s one of a few examples of a beautiful theatre continuing in operation through the decades. No sad tale of disrepair here.



I’d long been eager to visit and finally had the chance when I received tickets to see Buster Keaton’s The General. I hadn’t seen this comedic masterpiece on the big screen yet so I eagerly grabbed my mom (and fellow Buster enthusiast) and we headed to San Gabriel.


I was blown away at the beauty of the venue. A stunning example of Mission Revival style it’s in incredible condition. And those tapestries you see above? Gifted by the King of Spain!


The ceiling in particular was incredible. Filled with color and detail I couldn’t stop looking up.


Another treasure of the playhouse is their fully restored 1927 Wurlitzer Organ. The famed instrument was in fine form on our visit as it was used to accompany the film. Played by  Mark Herman, the American Theatre Organ Society’s Organist of the Year (2012), it was a lively accompaniment.


As for The General, what can I say? It’s a comedic masterpiece. To see it on the big screen was a true delight. To have it accompanied by a master organist was simply fantastic.

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