Strand Theatre

1127 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Showing 51 - 73 of 73 comments

fiuwriter on September 17, 2006 at 7:41 pm

I fondly remember growing up and going to the Strand almost on a weekly basis in the mid 80’s. I first saw Mad Max (1979) in 1984. Next door you had the option of going to the Embassy as well. Thanks to the Strand (and the Embassy, the Electric, and the St. Francis I and II) I saw many cinema classics on the big screen. The last time I went to the Strand was in 1994 before I went to college in Florida. The last film I ever saw there was a little gem titled TAXI DRIVER.

GSenda on May 12, 2006 at 5:16 am

No one has mentioned the reason for the demise of this great theatre.

In the 70s or 80s, the manager of the theatre tried to get a deranged patron to leave.

This nutcase pulled a gun and shot the manager/owner dead in front of the candy counter.

The manager had owned the theatre for years and was a very pleasant man. He ran a nightly bingo game for years and I won several games over the years. After he was shot, some other people tried to run it but the street got rougher and it closed later opening as a porn theatre.

Upstairs was a dance studio run by an old vaudvilliane. I think the Strand and Embassy were both vaudville theatres at one time. The last remaining theatre that was a vaudville theatre that is still open is the Orpheum just down the street.

Triple bills were the fare here with films ranging from the 50s to the 80s with Westerns being very poplular. I recall men being lined up for blocks whenever they would show Russ Meyer movies !

In the next block where the UA used to be (now Market Street Cinema) were two adjoining theatres. One briefly became a regular mens clothing store after being a porn theatre. Oddly enough, one theatre became a Pussycat Theatre and all 3 were running porn films at the same time in the late 70s early 80s.

George Senda
Concord, Ca

GinoinSF on April 24, 2006 at 12:54 pm

Are there any plans on the block to save this old theater in the heart of downtown San Francisco? I would be willing to invest…..

guillyca on April 19, 2006 at 8:05 pm

I remember watching b movies here such as Blood diner & the last triple feature I watched here was The Hunger, Daughters of Darkness & The Lost Boys. My firend had a crushon the guy who worked there. He had blond hair and pigtails if I remember correctly. Also he can be seen in the begging scenes of Market Street in Interview with the Vampire.

moviebeast on March 10, 2006 at 10:14 pm

I have to thank Mike Thomas for providing a space for some of the greatest art films of all time at the Strand during the early 1980s. I went there as frequently as the York and Roxy (that also had wonderful programs). There were interesting experiments too, such as a festival of old William Castle horror films that included actually electrifying the seats for “The Tingler” (I heard the original 1959 screenings used vibrators beneath the seats).

sinclair on January 22, 2006 at 9:22 am

One of my favorite cinematic moments of all time was within these walls. Sitting in the balcony, watching the once-a-week gay porn that was part of the usual monthly lineup in the very late ‘70s, some gentleman with a white cane – blind as can be – moved on up to the very last rows to partake the adventurous realm that was presented there. That’s good theater.

kencmcintyre on December 22, 2005 at 4:42 pm

Here is a photo of the Sun, later the Strand, in 1920:

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kencmcintyre on December 22, 2005 at 4:40 pm

The UA is listed under Market Street Cinema. Here are some interior photos of the Strand:

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kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 5:10 pm

Here is a 1948 photo from the SFPL. You can also see the Embassy and the UA, the latter which I still have nto found listed anywhere:

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kencmcintyre on October 28, 2005 at 6:30 pm

From the SF Public Library website:

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kencmcintyre on October 28, 2005 at 6:30 pm

From the SF Public Library website:

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scottfavareille on October 17, 2005 at 12:23 pm

Marquee still up, building is boarded up. Side of building advertises Market St Cinema & LA Gals. Building is also red colored now (it was that color in its last few years of business).

moviesmovies on July 13, 2005 at 5:13 am

I remember seeing an unedited version of Radley Metzger’s ‘Score’ here while on vacation.

jackeboy on July 8, 2005 at 6:43 pm

Well someone should say something nice about this place.In the last couple of years before it closed it had an amazing variety of movies, sometimes on the same bill.I saw my first Jackie Chan film there, as well as Meet me in St Louis, Absolute Beginners, and many others. Towards the end they even had set up a form of Dolby Stereo. This consisted of two large speakers hung either side about halfway up the orchestra section. If you were sitting in the row between these two speakers the sound was awesome.The clientele was always problematic, due to the neighborhood and the cheap prices, but in the time I refer to, there were enough serious film freaks to make it it alright.From about 1987 till the earthquake in 1989 I went to the Strand at least once a week, and it looms large in my memory

Michaels on June 21, 2005 at 7:35 am

The STRAND THEATER was raided and CLOSED by the DEA and VICE, no supprise to any one who ventured in here. Nothing but Junkies and Prostitutes. Hopefully someone will realize that this is a perfect venue for live music, after about 100 gallons of bleach! Looking in my Rocky Horror Picture Show book I discovered that this had been a hipster hot spot at one time, SAD SAD SAD how the mighty have fallen.

robertgippy on June 10, 2005 at 9:16 am

The Strand Theatre was a fun place to see a movie. There was always a triple bill and had a great snack bar. The sunrise coffee shop, next to the Embassy gave you ½ off their meals if you showed a ticket stub. The auditorium was a dismal atmosphere, with dark red walls and rusty light fixtures above the exit signs. What lit up the house were two light bulbs suspended from the ceiling. They had bingo there and when you won you had to go up front and climb a rikkety platform and choose a star from a board. Behind those stars were money up to $20.00 and free passes. A steep marble staircase in the lobby went to the loge and balcony areas, with entrances to the restrooms half way up. Mens restroom was filthy. There were only two stalls with no doors and usually homeless guys were sitting on the toilets. YUCK. The womens had a little lounge with the restrooms having 5 stalls made of marble walls. I went in just before it closed while showing porn, just to see the inside. The candy counter was converted to sex toys and videos, and a big wooden sign over the staircase to the balcony said “NO DRUGS IN BALCONY” (yeah right) I went up there, and was immediately approached by a dealer wanting to sell me some crack. Up at the top of the balcony
were hookers turning the most horrible looking homeless tricks. The smell was horrible and there were rats!!!!! This theatre has always been known for gay sex, but at least when there was gay sex the place was clean. I was glad when it was shut down. Sad because when it was legitimate it packed good crowds.

mbfavretto on February 3, 2005 at 2:19 pm

I remember this place in the 70’s as a haven for gay men to have sex in the balcony. When somebody mentions “the Strand” all I can thhink of is the sticky floors upstairs and strands of whatever clinging to my shoes.

gorkipk on December 4, 2004 at 2:01 pm

I saw triple bills in the 70’s there alternating between its neighbor the Embassy.

During the 70’s it became a defacto flop house for the homeless who found the price of admission cheaper than a room. There was more snoring than applause.

Popcorn was trucked in in big plastic bags during the 70’s rather than being popped at the theatre.

In the 80’s it tried the revival route but video cassettes killed that market.

It was sad to see what had been an elegant theatre in its death throes during that era.

RobertR on November 29, 2004 at 1:17 pm

My friend ran this theatre for about a year. Even when it ran regular movies it was a sex house.

davidkaye on November 29, 2004 at 1:00 pm

The Strand name survives today in the name of Strand Releasing, a company co-founded by Thomas to distribute independent films. It is based in the Los Angeles area, as he had built the Strand into a small chain of art houses in the early 1980s.

BabyJaneHudson on November 14, 2004 at 11:47 am

Thank you, Tillmany, for the correct update on info for this theater. Where do some people get their info???
I knew the info was wrong when I saw the mentionof MAe West. You are correct that she appeared at the Warfield for the premiere of Sextette.

Tillmany on October 22, 2004 at 4:36 am

The Strand did not open in 1916 as the Empress as stated above.
(The Empress was down the street about three blocks, opened in 1910,
and was later known as the Strand (but not THIS Strand), and
was permanently renamed the St. Francis in 1925. It closed in 2000.)
The Strand we are dealing with here opened October 27, 1917 as the JEWEL, and was re-named the SUN on January 24, 1920, and then the COLLEGE on August 14, 1920. It became the FRANCESCA on November 5, 1921, and (finally) the STRAND in 1928.
Contrary to the above comments, Mae West, Lana Turner, and Sophia Loren did not appear there. They all appeared at the WARFIELD,a different theatre entirely, q.v.
However, under the auspices of Mike Thomas, Jane Russell did indeed appear for a presentation of The Outlaw, & Carroll Baker did likewise for a revival of Baby Doll.