The Story Behind Pasadena’s Civic Auditorium

The Civic Auditorium’s legacy lives on, until hosting of big award and musical shows, cultural performances, and ceremonies resumes.
Photo by Jamie Pham, Visit Pasadena

The Pasadena Civic Auditorium emerged from the Great Depression of the 1930s to become an iconic venue for many entertainment events. It has stood as a symbol of quality and beauty for the City of Pasadena ever since, attracting millions of visitors and several generations to a wide variety of events.

Inspired by Mediterranean Revival architecture, the Auditorium was built in 1932 and boasts a 2,997-seat theater on the main floor, and a classic Gold Room for special receptions and meetings for up to 300 guests on the second floor.

Part of the Pasadena Civic Center District, the Auditorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the most revered performance halls in the country. “Over the past five years, we’ve been fortunate to have ‘America’s Got Talent’ not only film inside the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, but showcase its remarkable beauty around the world,” says Jeanne Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Live Broadcasts

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Civic Auditorium was the center of attention with live radio broadcasts of big band dances and speeches by famous personalities, while becoming the heart of the city’s cultural life by hosting ceremonies such as the Rose Queen, graduations, benefit concerts, and children’s programs. Along with the annual Rose Parade, the Auditorium helped promote the City of Pasadena throughout the country and the world.

Area Expansion

In the 1970s, the Pasadena Center was built around the Auditorium and offered local residents and visitors a full-service convention center complex. By adding conference and exhibition buildings, and an adjacent hotel with a parking garage, the Pasadena Center and Auditorium could now present events to attract people from all over the world.

Adding a touch of history, a traveling Moller organ was dedicated to the Auditorium in 1980. It had traveled throughout Europe, surviving World War II, and was part of Organ Power Pizza in San Diego before making its way to Pasadena.

Legends on Stage

The stage at the Auditorium has seen countless legendary performances by artists such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Luciano Pavarotti, and more. Some of the biggest TV specials took place in the theater, including “The Motown 25th Anniversary Television Special” and “Ray Charles: 50 Years in Music.” The Auditorium has hosted Broadway touring productions such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cats,” “Les Misérables,” and “Riverdance.”


The Civic Auditorium has hosted some of entertainment’s top productions over the years:

  • Broadway musicals
  • American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and San Francisco Ballet
  • Symphony orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Pasadena Symphony and POPS
  • Celebrity speakers
  • The dance program for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival
  • Primetime Emmy Awards
  • NAACP Image Awards
  • People’s Choice Awards
  • “America’s Got Talent”
  • “American Idol”
  • “So You Think You Can Dance”
  • TV location for shows such as “NCIS” and “Scandal”

Tradition Continues

The Civic Auditorium continues its great tradition of hosting top-notch events including MUSE/IQUE, a counter-conventional orchestra, and TV hits like “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” The legacy of the historic theater lives on, hosting big award and musical shows, cultural performances, and personal ceremonies amidst its grand lobbies and resplendent Gold Room. It promotes the City of Pasadena with a varied and proud tradition of excellence.

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