Information about the Magic Lantern Theater in Isla Vista

The Magic Lantern Theater was an independent movie theater that opened for business in mid-November, 1965. The opening is announced in this advertisement (in Adobe .pdf, as are most links on this page) taken from the UCSB student newspaper, then called the El Gaucho (now called the Daily Nexus).

The Magic Lantern was raided on the evening of Friday, September 8, 1967, by Santa Barbara and Los Angeles County officials. A film, `A Change of Heart,' by Andrew Noren was seized as being obscene.

Descriptions of this event and its consequences were covered by the Santa Barbara News Press (file 1, file 2), the the Isla Vista Argo, the Gazette-Citizen, and El Gaucho.

After some legal wrangling, the film was actually ruled obscene by Judge Arden T. Jensen of Solvang, in January 1968. Two defendants, James Murray Babb who was the manager of the Magic Lantern, and William Eaton Hess who was the vice president of the Red Lion Corporation, owners of the theater and adjacent bookstore, where then supposed to stand trial for showing the obscene film. The plan of their attorneys, Thomas Sammon and Boyd Hornor, was to appeal the obscenity ruling. I have not been able to find more about the result of the appeal and/or trial.

Sometime in early 1969, however, the Magic Lantern Theater was taken over by the Metropolitan Theater Corporation (MTC); a letter to El Gaucho mourns the transfer of the venue. Later in 1969 the adjacent Red Lion Bookstore went out of business; MTC then converted the bookstore to a second movie theater.

Today, the Magic Lantern Theater is used by UCSB as a lecture hall, known as Isla Vista Theater #1, and the smaller Isla Vista Theater #2 is in the converted Red Lion Bookstore.

In April, 2004, a group called Magic Lantern Films started showing films on Friday evenings in the old Magic Lantern Theater.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney at the time of the film seizure, David D. Minier, recently retired as from a position as a Madera County judge, and received the Order of California award for his service in the State Military Reserve. According to an LA Times article from July 29, 2001, Col. Minier as well as other members of the District Attorney's office were demonstrators in Isla Vista in the late 1960's and early 1970's.