Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center

The Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, located in the historic State Theatre, enhances the quality of life and cultural awareness of our community by providing performing arts, film, and educational experiences.

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Address: 985 Lincoln Way
Auburn, CA 95603
County or Parish: Placer County
Executive Director: Janis Wikoff
Contact Email:
Primary Phone: 530-885-0156
On December 26, 1930, the Auburn State Theatre opened its doors for the first time. At the grand opening, attendees marveled at the beautiful interior, furnishings, and sound projection. The art deco movie palace had 1,325 and seats and would become the cultural center of the City of Auburn for many years, serving as the location of vaudeville shows, school band concerts, parades, hundreds of movie showings, and a multitude of memories for citizens of the Auburn area. Due to the rural nature of the area, it was the region's primary entertainment destination for young and old for decades. Until the 1960s, the theater operated as a single screen movie theater with a balcony. The building was extensively remodeled in 1972 after having been closed for five years. The front part of the auditorium was divided into two theaters, and the rear of the auditorium was converted to a mall of commercial rental spaces. Until 2006, the theater ran as a cabaret-style movie house.

In 2004, Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, Inc. (APPAC) purchased the historic building. APPAC, operating as the Auburn State Theatre, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed by a group of arts-minded citizens in 2001 with the purpose of maintaining and operating a performing arts center for the community of Auburn and the surrounding area. The Auburn State Theatre began a building renovation which included an original art deco replication of the marquee, tower, and façade in 2008 through a partnership among the Auburn State Theatre, City of Auburn, Auburn Rotary, and generous donations by community leaders. The theater reopened as a 130 seat multi-use venue in the spring of 2009. The impetus was to demonstrate a need for the vitality, inspiration, joy and reflection that only a theater can bring. Enhanced by its setting in the Sierra foothills, the Auburn State Theatre is becoming a bustling center for film, live music, entertainment, and civic events. As of January 1, 2018 nearly 65,000 patrons have attended events at this venue since its expansion to 340 seats in 2014, from a 100 mile radius There is strong evidence that the Auburn State Theatre serves as an arts hub for Placer County. Producing live music and events under the title of On Stage at the State and a film series titled Cinema at the State has led to collaboration with various local groups and thus a real need for the venue by outside organizations. These include Protect American River Canyon, Placer Community Theatre, The Auburn Symphony, Take Note Troupe, AAUW, League of Women Voters, Placer Land Trust, Foothill Farmers' Market, Placer County Youth Commission, and Native Ground Films.
This year the Auburn State Theatre has been operating the expanded theater for three and one-half years. Growth in operations and programming results in a need for more fundraising. In 2018-19 the Auburn State Theatre has raised the bar on selection of attractions and headline entertainers that have higher costs and financial guarantees to performers. The Auburn State Theatre is balancing the higher costs with number of seats in the theater (350), and audience tolerance in ticket pricing. This earned income (ticket sales) covers the contractual costs of presenting, but not always the house overhead expenses. Some of the gap is covered by aggregated earned income, but fundraising is more demanding as the operations grows. Marketing costs increase to insure ticket sales.With growth in clientele and larger shows, there is a need for expansion of the technical equipment to support the shows and reduce the amount of equipment rented. Rented equipment is often inferior to what we should own. The Auburn State Theatre raised nearly $30,000 last year through community donations and is in the process of addressing the need. More funding is required to build operational capacity and staffing.
Our top needs:
  1. Funding: Unrestricted - Unrestricted operational funding is one of the greatest needs for an organization like the historic Auburn State Theatre. Each year the Auburn State Theatre presents entertainment and programs in the areas of Cinema at the State and On Stage at the State. The State Theater Acting Company and community non-profit and commercial entities rent the Auburn State Theatre for their productions. This combination of programming brings well rounded entertainment with a diverse audience stream. Because the Auburn State Theatre attracts over 20,000 patrons per year, there is a larger demand for maintenance, cleaning and repairs due to this high volume of usage.
  2. Other - Please Describe - This need concerns one of the largest ongoing demands on the non-profit organization managing and maintaining the Auburn State Theater. It regards maintenance and improvements of the theater space, including the stage, wings and green room. It is called Keep the Audience Cool and the Entertainers/Musicians Comfortable; this project is ongoing. The theater stays cool in the summer, but is not warm enough in the winter; especially on stage. An HVAC unit has been installed. Further enhancements to the physical plant are required in the upcoming year.
  3. Technology - Enhance the Experience! This program provides funding for acoustical treatment and theatrical equipment for sound, lighting, projection and staging. This area of expansion is always a need for a growing theater that is striving to become more diverse and have the equipment that audiences and entertainers expect. In 2018 the Auburn State Theatre raised funding for this expansion through the annual Cocktails and Cinema event. Some needed technology items have been purchased. The Auburn State Theatre is still in need of a new digital projector with 8,000 lumens, which is standard for many film festivals.
  4. In-Kind Donations - The Auburn State Theatre appreciates in-kind donations for ongoing upkeep and enhancement of its historic building. These donations include items such as high-quality music stands, theatrical lighting, computers, office supplies, guitar stands, clip lights for musicians using music stands, and many other pieces of equipment.
  5. Volunteers - The Auburn State Theatre enjoys and appreciates the talents of volunteers in "front of house" positions such as ushers and ticket takers. With the expansion of its concession counter, a larger number of volunteers is needed making popcorn and serving refreshments in the buoyant atmosphere created by local craft beers and wines, organic popcorn, freshly baked cookies and old fashioned movie treats. During the week, volunteer teams hit the streets to put up posters and assist with the all-important task of getting the "word out" about the great entertainment at the Auburn State Theatre.
The success of Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center is due to the ongoing contribution of donors, volunteers, and partner arts organizations who share the vision and heartfelt knowledge that arts build community. The historic nature of the Auburn State Theatre brings charm and integrity as well as a walkway of memories for the community at large. The theater is managed by arts minded professionals and is fiscally responsible. The theater is a centerpiece and attracts visitors to the foothill town center and is a vibrant pillar in the eye of local residents. As 2016 is unfolding, the theater is being rented regularly by community organizations, educational organizations, schools that do not have auditoriums and presenters who which to inform the public at large. This aspect of the theater usage is developing rapidly. Looking toward the fall of 2018 the focus of the Auburn State Theatre as a presenter is to continue bringing more headline entertainment and to expand the reach of the theater's audience. In order to do this the Auburn State Theatre needs funds for good marking and publicity and unrestricted funds for programming. Collaboration is one key to the success of the organization and we need this as the venue calendar fills quickly and easily with partners' shows, the annual film series, civic and community presentations and a wide variety of concerts. The next steps of expansion are practical and necessary for artists growth, financial strength and continual partnership development. With a strong audience base and honest leadership, the Auburn State Theatre is certain of its future. The Auburn State Theatre stands tall in economic development, historic legacy and performing arts as a well woven fabric, bringing quality of life in the Auburn and Placer County region.
-- Janis Wikoff, Executive Director