In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tour of the Mission

I said in my review of the Victoria Theatre that there were more than a dozen theaters on Mission St. between 14th and 24th. In actually mapping the locations of these theaters, though, I now cannot corroborate this claim. Rather, I think might have been misreading the opening line from Jack Tillmany's chapter on "The Mission" in his book Theatres of San Francisco, but that line refers to all the theaters "from Sixteenth Street to the San Mateo County line", a much longer stretch of the road.  So, with that retraction in mind, I decided to pay a visit to the neighborhood to take a closer look at the buildings still standing.

Mission St. is unique in that its old theaters have not been torn down, preserving the theater congestion also seen on Market St. during the heyday. Below are photos I took of these theaters on this walking tour. The theater's header is a link to its page on Cinema Treasures. The lists of akas include links to photos of the theater during its various incarnations.

Grand Theater (1940-1988)
Here is an older photo. The building now houses a dollar store, which means I actually got to go inside!

Standing in the auditorium...

Fancy grill work on the air ducts...

More grill work...

Decorative molding on the ceiling...

And looking up at the old projection booth. At this point, the proprietors kindly asked me to stop taking pictures. (Afraid I was price hunting? In a dollar store?)

New Mission Theater (1916-1993)
This would have been the crown jewel of the Mission; an absolutely lavish theater built by Timothy L. Pflueger, who also gave us the AlhambraCastro, and Paramount. Be sure to check out the Cinema Treasures link above as there are some old photos of the interior of the theater.

The vertical sign isn't looking so hot these days, but check it out in 1943.

Likewise the marquee has seen better days.

The sun beats down.

I'm not sure if this will gain traction, but there is a movement to convert the theater into a night club. That link shows several photos of the theater's interior, as it is today, following the graffiti introduced by this rave.

I find this photo of particular interest because it reveals the funky floor plan of the theater, with an incredibly long lobby reaching deep into the block. The auditorium itself was actually on the other side of the block. This photo below shows the lobby structure (at right) connecting to the theater's auditorium (at left), with a fire escape coming down from the theater's balcony.

Below is the rear of the theater.

Cine Latino (1913-1987)
Known variously as the Wigwam, New RialtoCrown, and Cine Latino. The theater is now entirely gutted.

Tower Theater (1910s-1994)
Known as the Majestic and Tower.

Looks like there is some sort of renovation going on inside, in the sense that the theater hasn't been totally gutted like the Cine Latino. In an ally to once side are many of the theater's seats.

El Capitan (1928-1957)
Once the El Capitan, always the El Capitan.

Beautiful fa├žade, in a style similar to that of the Castro.

What was once the lobby is now a driveway to a parking lot.

There is still some nice decorative work visible in the driveway.

The theater's auditorium has been demolished; in its place is a parking lot. Here is a shot of the back of the remaining structure. By all appearances, the brick building has been glommed on to the top of what was the original theater.


Some things that look like old theaters, aren't. Like this store, below, with its funky vertical sign.

And some things that don't look like theaters, kinda are. Below is the entrance to Foreign Cinema. I had a brief email exchange with the proprietor, who was kind enough to inform me that the business is more a restaurant than a theater; they project foreign films on the side of an outdoor wall to increase the ambience. As such, it's a bit outside the scope of my project, so I'm including it here instead.

The building below is home to The Dark Room, who host Bad Movie Night each Sunday Night. I don't know that I'll get a chance to attend, but it sounds fun.

This building below has nothing to do with theaters, but it looked neat, so I thought I'd include it. This is how I picture New Orleans.

And who can fault a giant mural depicting good vs. evil? These artists can graffiti my building any day.

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