In Memoriam: Steve Levin

posted by Ross Melnick on December 15, 2008 at 12:12 pm

Karen Noonan, president of the Theatre Historical Society, has sent the following sad news:

The theater world has lost a tremendous historian, researcher and friend. Former THS President and Marquee editor STEVE LEVIN passed away suddenly on Saturday (Dec 13) after a short illness. Steve was also very active in ATOS as well. This leaves a deep void in our lives, an important voice is gone.

We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and to our friends at THS during this difficult time. He will, indeed, be sorely missed.

Comments (14)

MPol on December 15, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Without having known Steve Levin, much less heard of him until today, here’s holding his loved ones to the light during these dark and difficult times. All my condolences.

JohnRice on December 15, 2008 at 4:30 pm

A great loss indeed to the theatre history community! Not that I didn’t love movies and theatres since childhood but my real introduction to the historical and architectural aspects came at a slide show and lecture by Mr. Levin at the San Francisco Public Library in the mid 1970’s. I encountered Steve several times later and was always impressed with his knowledge and passion for our Cinema Treasures. Rest in Peace Mr. Levin, you will be missed!

MPol on December 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Just out of curiosity….how old a guy was Steve Levin?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Steve was born into the movie theater business in San Fran in the 1940s (?). He had a superior knowledge of the movie distribution business, and was also very knowledgeable about movie theater history with a strong interest in theater architects and architecture. He knew a great deal about the various chains or circuits. He ably served for years as the editor of Marquee Magazine (THSA). Never a loud braggart like some people in the various hobbies, he was rather a shy, quiet man. I am sorry indeed to learn that he has “gone west”.

uptownadviser on December 17, 2008 at 6:28 am

Steve had the bearing of a hard-boiled journalist. And he always seemed to be on a mission. He knew FACTS and he had done his homework of research, information gathering and photo collecting.

FACTS go a long way toward telling an accurate story! His editing of Marquee magazine helped continue the growth of scholarly consideration of theatre architecture that began with the seed-germ of Ben Hall, Bro. Andrew Corsini Fowler and others.

I always enjoyed Steve’s company and conversations, even when we disagreed. He was a busy man and did much for the effort. I recall fondly his descriptions of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, Wash., and wish that I had seen it with him.

MPol on December 17, 2008 at 8:02 am

He sounded like a neat person.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on December 18, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Some while back, Steve was giving yet another tour of San Francisco’s Castro Theatre and made mention of how this fabulous movie palace survived the 1989 “Loma Prieta” earthquake.

At that moment in time, I was performing some needed seat repairs in the balcony and decided to fire-up the follow spotlight and highlight many parts of the hanging tent-style dome. The beam of light clearly revealed what Steve was lecturing about and how the ceiling had swung to the left (about 7") and not returned to absolute center.

Steve generously gave me the courtesy of describing my experiences of working there, so I told the story of an almost six hour operation to help re-lamp the multi-circuit great chandelier AND finding old dated notes from others who had done this fun task.

Steve, THANKS for EVERYTHING. It’s time now for your curtain call!

MPol on December 18, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Thanks for all the info, Simon Overton. Without ever having known Steve Levin personally or even online, he certainly sounds like he was an extremely valuable person to learn from, regarding knowledge about theatres.

theatrehistoricalsociety on December 19, 2008 at 6:58 pm

The Theatre Historical Society will be publishing a tribute issue on Steve in our quarterly journal Marquee in the near future. We will also post the material on our THS website, Your recollections are invited!

Steve was an integral part of THS from the very beginning in 1969 – nearly 40 years.

He was editor of Marquee and the THS Annuals for 11 years and, for many, was the “voice” of THS. In more than 50 issues, many hundreds of pages and thousands of words, he brought to life the history of our wonderful theatres.

In addition, he produced the feature “An Acre of Seats” for the ATOS magazine for many years, providing fascinating glimpses of the theatres which housed the organs.

His insistance on historical accuracy combined with his well-honed yet informal writing style and witty turn-of-phrase made for many hours of enjoyable – and always factual – reading.

He will truly be missed!

jrhine on December 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I knew Steve in high school and have not seen him for years. I don’t know if he maintained his outrageous sense of humor and willngness to do outrageous things as an adult. He was a lot of fun. We saw many movies together. His obituary:

View link

Another article said he died of pneumona.

SchineHistorian on December 22, 2008 at 8:40 am

Tolover – i can assure you that Steve not only maintained his outrageousness, he diligently honed his skills to even higher levels of outrageous absurdity!

What a huge loss this is on so many levels- Steve’s death leaves a void that can hardly be filled. But while we grieve together at the loss of a great guy and an incomparable theater historian, we all smile together at the memories of the loyal friend and colleague that we had in Steve Levin.

MPol on December 22, 2008 at 6:17 pm

Without ever having known Steve Levin personally, I’m sorry to hear about his passing.

jrhine on December 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Steve had a good deal of influence in my becoming a theater organ lover. We spent many hours at the Avenue Theater, which his father owned during the days they showed silents and also at Ye Olde Pizza Joynt in San Lorenzo Village. Steve had a skill I have never seen in anyone else. He was able to turn his eyelids inside out and he would walk around that way just to get people’s looks. I am glad he continued to advance his outrageousness. I wish we had kept in touch.

MPol on December 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm

What a funny, interesting person Steve Levin sounded like. It sounds like he really did lots to help advance the preservation of good, older movie palaces here in the United States. Thanks for sharing the info about him.

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