The Theater building was constructed in 1945-46 and operated by Alfred and Clara Bowman as a first-run movie house until 1991 when its operations ceased due to competitive pressure from multi-screen venues. The Theater has been dark ever since, despite several attempts by civic-minded groups to raise the funds necessary for restoration.
In 1995, the Theater was acquired by the Novato Theater Restoration Company for $400,000, with 100% of the purchase price being financed by Bowman. In 2004, with insufficient progress being made toward raising the funds for renovation, and the Bowman loan in arrears, the Theater was sold to the City of Novato. The deed conveying title to the property imposed an ‘Exclusive Event Listing’, intended to perpetuate the use of the property as a theater.
Then, beginning in 2010, under the direction of Bernice Baeza, the guiding force behind the Lark Theater renovation in Larkspur, the Novato Theater was incorporated, and granted charitable designation from the I.R.S. The current fundraising campaign was begun and substantial progress has been made. This allowed the Theater to be acquired from the City of Novato on February 2, 2012, for $50,000.00.
Since Bernice’s untimely death in mid-2012, management has been in the hands of a Board of Directors and a core volunteer group of mostly Novato citizens who are dedicated to seeing the Project brought to completion. We will build on the real progress that has already been made and expect to see renovation begin this year.
From the Novato Historical Museum Archives …
April 25, 1945 … The reconstruction of the North Side of Grant Avenue by Machin Avenue was a feat that should long be remembered by Novato with full credit to its owner A.W. Bowman. His business ability and ingenuity to overcome wartime shortages and restore to Novato its mercantile institution was a challenge that must be recorded in records under the “Bowman Mark” of achievements.
In April 1946, Mr. Bowman rewarded the contract to rebuild the building to Litchfield Construction Company of San Rafael through Engineers H.M O’Neil Company of Oakland, at a cost of $35,000 plus. The frontage line along Grant Avenue included construction of Novato’s first Theater using 45 feet with a depth of 120 feet and seating capacity between 400-600 with final seating to be determined. The store building was built of similar construction as the Theater having a frontage of 54.6 feet with a depth of 85 feet.
The adjoining Patterson building was remodeled by Mr. Bowman for a Supermarket and leased to Harry Hale, a livestock dealer. Before remodeling, it was the temporary location of Pini Hardware Company and Mary’s Beauty Shop. The leases were signed upon completion of the building. At the extreme Western end of the building next to the Theater site, the Borden Company opened on June 29th, a modern equipped fountain under the management of Mrs. Ella Perrett of Larkspur. Adjoining it, Cliff Cook opened an appliance shop featuring radio sales.
On Monday, October 8, 1946, Harry Hale and Don Waite opened their combination grocery-meat and vegetable market. Personnel was Karl McKillin, Marie Salmina, Mary Silva, Richard Brown and Francis Manzoni. The co-owners also operated a market in Corte Madera. The grocery department sold in 1950 to George Warden and Victor Regalia of San Rafael.