On November 1, 1928, El Campanil Theatre opened its doors to the City of Antioch and the Diablo Valley. At the time it was referred to in news reports as “the most pretentious building in Contra Costa County.” Built, owned and operated by Ferdinand Stamm and Ralph Beede, El Campanil (the tower of bells) is Spanish in both name and architecture. As with many theatres of the era, El Campanil originally offered an audience chamber of approximately 1,100 seats, as well as a limited stage and “back of the house” areas to support vaudeville entertainment. Folklore abounds to this day about the famous celebrities who performed there, and who left their autographs on the dressing room walls. El Campanil was also a single screen cinema, with what was “state-of-the-art” projection capabilities in 1928.
Located in the heart of downtown Antioch, along the waterfront and in what is now known as the Rivertown Business District, El Campanil was owned and operated by the Stamm family for 75 Years, or until 2003.
In 2001, a small group of local citizens, including representatives of the Rivertown Business District Association, approached the City of Antioch with their desire to find a way to acquire and restore El Campanil, and to convert its use to one supportive of the Rivertown Renaissance plan. The Rivertown Business District Association took the lead in securing funding from Calpine for the development of a comprehensive business plan for the El Campanil Theatre. The business plan outlined the best strategies for moving the project forward and VenueTech Management Group, LLC, was retained to develop the plan.
In July 2002, the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation was incorporated as a charitable, non-profit 501©3 organization.
In early 2003, Calpine Corporation and the City of Antioch entered into an agreement whereby the Foundation received a grant to acquire the Theatre.
In July, 2003 the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation purchased the Theatre and began the process of converting the building to a community performing arts venue.
On July 4, 2004 the first phase of the rehabilitation was complete and the doors once again opened to the public. El Campanil Theatre presents a wide variety of entertainment opportunities including Classic Films, Live Theatre, Concerts, Symphony, Ballet, Comedy and is host to numerous local dance and community based organizations.