Historical Photograph of the Novato Theater

The Novato Theater was constructed in 1946 by Alfred Bowman as the first theater in Novato and had an occupancy of somewhere between 400-600 seats. For over 45 years, Alfred and Clara Bowman operated the Theater as a first-run cinema house until 1991 when it closed its doors due to competitive pressure from multiplex cinema chains.

In 1995, the Theater was acquired by the Novato Theater Restoration Company with aspirations to renovate and reopen the Theater. While much progress was made, insufficient funds were raised to complete the renovation. In 2004, the Theater was sold to the City of Novato, with the commitment of the city to maintain the property as a theater.

In 2011, under the leadership of Bernice Baeza, the guiding force behind the Lark Theater renovation in Larkspur, Novato Theater was incorporated and designated a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Significant funds were raised by Bernice and the Board of Directors of Novato Theater leading to the purchase of the Theater from the City of Novato on February 2, 2012. Much progress was made under the direction of Bernice and the board until her passing later that year.

Between 2013 and present day, the Board evolved to include a core volunteer group of business professionals and established artists - mostly Novato citizens - who were focussed on finding commercial funding to complete the project. In a phased approach, the Board completed Phase One of the restoration, $1.4 million dollar foundation construction, and secured additional funding and pledges for Phase Two, the construction of the Theater itself.  The COVID-19 pandemic, and recent withdrawal of key pledges from major funders, slowed progress from early 2020.