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I just remembered that in the late 1970s, my father and I watched a whole-day screening of Bondarchuk’s WAR AND PEACE (four parts totaling 400 minutes), a real endurance event. Anyone else remember seeing it?
I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey there in 1980? … my 17th viewing of the film at the age of 17. It was one of the few revival theaters in the Bay Area that could do Kubrick’s classic justice with its huge screen and capable sound system.
Haha, back in the days when Beatles' films (Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour) as well as Reefer Madness were cult favorites. Sometimes theaters were so smoky with audience “enhancements.”
My dad finally took me to see The Exorcist here. But my greatest memories are of the Saturday matinee series of classic sci-fi films in 1976? 77?
Along with those, the Rialto hosted an unforgettable run of dual-strip 3D films from the 1950s. I think those were newly created prints, as pristines as you can imagine. I recall seeing IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON there, and we might’ve seen others (HOUSE OF WAX?). I might still have my Polaroid glasses. I still remember just how crisp and amazingly lifelike those Jack Arnold 3D films were. The later 80s 3D films didn’t hold a candle to those classics.
I feel blessed that the Rialto 4 gave us few Bay Area moviegoers that once in a lifetime experience. I’m so glad some photos still remain.
From the two films on the marquee, this looks to be circa 1942.
I remember the jazzy General Cinema (?) teaser reel that opened shows in this vaulted theater. Great place to see films, though the cavernous interior reflected laughter so much that I could barely catch every third line in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. It was close to home (North Beach), so walking distance for me.
Glad someone remembers this little theater. These were the movie houses where you got to see obscure films that barely made it to 4-5 markets in the US, and made San Francisco a “moviegoer’s” city.
I remember seeing MONTY PYTHON’S AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT here with my mother and among a dozen or less patrons we were the only ones laughing. Monty Python was practically unknown in the US at the time. When they started airing on KQED, I was already primed to soak in every episode.
Jack Tillmany’s program of revival and classic movies at the sibling theaters Gateway and Richelieu was a hallmark of San Francisco in the 1970s. If memory serves, Jack was one of the theater owner/exhibitors who convinced the studios to cut new prints of old classics, leading to a rebirth in appreciation of Hollywood’s Golden Age by mainstream viewers.
The Richelieu met its slow demise when some protesters (allegedly students from UC Berkeley) smashed the glass projection screen during short run of the AFI restored BIRTH OF A NATION. I saw it two days earlier. To recoup the money for the repair ($10,000? $20,000? I know it was a lot), Jack introduced a series of more recent classics which were very popular. It was unusual to see classic Connery James Bond adventures on the big screen, along with many others. Gateway “member” cards got you big savings on tickets and refreshments, and on closing night at the Gateway cardholders were allowed in as family and friends. It was a sad night, but a great opportunity to applaud Tillmany.
The Richelieu screened the less popular, more obscure selections that would be lost at the Gateway. Hence, this little theater was a portal to seeing old movies you otherwise would never see on TV, in the days before home video.
BTW, does anyone remember getting some homemade sweets from Findley’s Fabulous Fudge at 1035 Geary before a show? I know, theaters kept afloat on refreshment sales, but Findley’s was soooooo good.
Tillmany: Jack, I literally grew up in your theater. My parents took me to all the perennial double features as a kid (Robin Hood, San Francisco, Seven Samurai, et al), and I spent most of my teenage weekends in your theater. I still remember closing night, the secret screening of a private collector’s print of “Vertigo,” and shaking your hand and wishing you luck. I know a lot of tearful friends and customers were there for you that night. “Vertigo” was just icing on the cake.
You were one of the greats of old film revival and restoration, and won’t be forgotten.