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, now officially 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.