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Mark Ellinger’s fabulous blog (with some great photos of not only the St Francis but many of the other theaters between 5th and 9th St) Up From The Deep chronicles the section of Market St known as Mid Market:
While change is in the air for this stretch of Market St with Twitter buying up an entire building near 9th St and other internet companies being swooned by the City to set up headquarters in hopes of a revitalization, and the shopping mall going in where the St Francis stood near 5th St, it still remains mostly run down.
Last year I found a copy of Abby Wasserman’s book Praise, Vilification & Sexual Innuendo or, How to be a Critic – The Selected Writings of John L Wasserman 1964 – 1979 (the late entertainment critic for the SF Chronicle) in a used book store. One of the chapters “Movies that Suck” features his review of “Street People” at the St Francis. The (hilarious) review is more about the experience of going to the St Francis in the mid 70’s and a few of the customers seated around him than the actual film itself.
Movieposter.com has the poster for Weird Wicked World and lists the date as 1966.
I grew up on the SF Peninsula (San Carlos) during the 50’s and 60’s and the Fox was one of 3 theaters (along with the Laurel and Carlos in San Carlos) that became nearby homes away from homes to escape the parents. During that time the Fox showed mostly 1st run American International horror films and 20th Century Fox releases. The auditorium was in great shape then and quite beautiful. The proscenium was drape covered and lit with alternating colors at intermission. There was a round clock above the left front exit tunnel lit in blue neon and the name of a local nearby car dealer (EZ Davies – who probably paid for it) across the top half. Sneaking up to the balcony without getting caught was the Saturday matinee game we played with the uniformed usherettes (never using the lobby grand entrance but the one to the right of the snack bar). Saw many many Elvis/Christopher Lee/Vincent Price films here.
Burtonic: Yes, the Cadillac dealership at 1000 Van Nessas well as several others were picketed along Van Ness Ave’s Auto Row in the early 60’s over hiring policies that excluded African Americans.
hdtv267: What size screen do they use for IMAX at this theater? The Metreon has a gigantic screen (at the time it was built it was one of the largest in North America). Don’t go to this theater much as I’ve never cared for the $1.98 decorating of the auditoriums and the shopping mall cookie cutter look of the theater itself. The building and lobby (the old Cadillac showroom) are beautiful but otherwise the theaters could be anywhere.
From the Alamo Drafthouse page for San Francisco. Pictures of the interior are at the link at the end of the last sentence.
The location mentioned above “Located in South San Francisco’s Excelsior district” should read “Located in Daly City” as this drive in is just across the SF city/county line. The Excelsior district is in San Francisco about 1 mile northwest of this location and South San Francisco is about 5 miles south of here. The closest neighborhoods are Sunnydale, across Geneva Ave from the Cow Palace (SF) and Bayshore (Daly City), just southeast of the Cow Palace.
Looks like the planning commission has given its OK for the Alamo Drafthouse 5 plex + condos next door.
Another SF theater saved. The Strand on Market St also was saved in 2012 by ACT. After reading some of the above comments about how hard it is to restore/save movie theaters in SF (and it is) I think it is worth mentioning that film theaters are hard to save/restore everywhere, not just SF. The “closed” “demolished” list on Cinema Treasures is a testament to that. BTW the “Divisadero” mentioned above is the Harding Theater.
My Fair Lady played a long reserved seat engagement at the Coronet out on Geary Blvd. Long reserved seat engagements at the United Artists included West Side Story, Lawrence of Arabia and The Sound of Music, among others.
From 1958 until 1983 Hwy 17 (from San Jose to Oakland) was also known as the Nimitz Freeway, hence the name of the drive in.
Saw a 70mm print of The Master at the Grand Lake in Oakland 1 week ago. Same thing, no surround or curtains being used. They were playing music before the film started and it was obvious they were using all speakers. I have never been to the Grand Lake when they didn’t use the curtains. Coincidence or director’s instructions?
New photos (some of the interior downstairs auditorium) taken yesterday.
The shopping mall deal is moving ahead. Details here:
I met Keith Arnold, the Castro’s new programmer and general manager, by chance in front of the theater just an hour ago. He tells me the internet rumor that the theater will not be showing film after Dec 31 was spread by a disgruntled former employee and is totally false. This has also been confirmed on The Castro’s Facebook page.
Just bought my copy and love it. I grew up on the Peninsula and spent many days and nights at the Carlos and Laurel in San Carlos and Fox in Redwood City. Thanks to Gary Parks and Jack Tillmany for preserving the history of all the Peninsula theatres in their new book.
The supermarket Tillmany mentions is now a Whole Foods after being part of the Bell Market chain for 3 decades. There is a Victorian house on the lot just to the west of Whole Foods with a coffee shop (Bernie’s) on the ground floor and housing above and the next lot west of that is where the Noe Theatre stood. The current building on that site is a 3 story mixed use building with 2 retail stores (Just For Fun and a soap shop) on the ground floor and 2 floors of apartments above.
CW, I didn’t mention which fault the ‘89 Loma Prieta quake was on. (?) The USGS lists that quake as a 6.9, downgraded originally from a 7.1. I got the time wrong by a few minutes, it was 5:04pm. The (early I should have said) 80’s 5.8 quake (there were 2 just a few days apart – same magnitude) are listed as being on the Greenville or Marsh Creek-Greenville fault on that same website. I was referring to the 7pm Jan 24, 1980 quake. After we left the theater – everyone was too nervous to stay and watch the rest of the film – people on the sidewalks looked a little stunned after watching cars rock and plate glass windows bow. One person said to me that it looked like the windows were going to blow out if the shaking had lasted much longer. Most of the damage from those 2 quakes was to homes in the Danville area (cracked plaster, fireplaces, etc).
The Loma Prieta quake was on Oct 17, 1989 at 5:07pm to be exact. Magnitude 6.9. In the 80’s I was in the Castro for a showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Towards the end of the film just as the planets all align and the metalic slab crosses them, the theater started shaking, the chandelier started bolting, en exit sign crashed to the floor behind me and everyone got up and ran for the side exits. It was a magnitude 5.something centered on the Greenville fault in the East Bay.
“This Boy’s Life” was filmed in Concrete, Wa. in 1993. Based on the life of writer Tobias Wolff, the film starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Ellen Barkin.
I first saw this film at the Northpoint (SF) during it’s 70mm engagement. Still have the program. As I recall the theater was ¾ empty. In the mid 80’s I saw another 70mm presentation at the Kabuki (SF) with a packed house (and on a double bill with One From The Heart). Coppola was supposed to attend but his brother Roman came out on the stage and introduced the film. He told us that Mr Coppola had the theater’s sound system tweaked especially for the film so we could hear it the way it was meant to be heard. It was stunning.
San Francisco has lost more notable buildings than just the Fox. The City of Paris comes to mind immediately. Land in SF is much more valuable (and sought after) than land in Oakland and maybe that’s what ultimately saved the Oakland Fox. The voters of SF signed the Fox’s death warrant in 1961 when they voted down a proposal to have the City buy the Fox for a little over a million dollars for use as a convention center. Fortunately today, for those of us that live in SF, the beautiful Oakland Fox is a 20 min or less subway ride away.
An AP story in today’s SF Chronicle says the Castro set a box office record for the opening 3 days of Milk. The film grossed $109,440 Nov 26-28 beating the previous 3 day record of $50,584 set in May for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The Little Fox was located on Pacific Ave right off Columbus in North Beach. The last time I saw it (mid 70’s) the Market St Fox’s beautiful box office graced the entrance. The Little Fox had 2 major stage hits, each had lengthy runs: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (late 60’s) and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (early 70’s).
The last time I went to this drive in was in the late 70’s early 80’s and it had turned pretty much into a dump. The was a big dumpster in front of the screen which someone threw a cigarette butt into during the movie setting off a small smokey fire. The fire dept responded, put it out, then headed to the snack bar for some refreshments. The movie never stopped during all this. There was a little boy who couldn’t have been more than 8 pr 9 years old with a broom sweeping the wooden steps (or deck) that lead to the snack bar telling no one in particular that he was sweeping so that “his theater” was nice and clean. The movie playing on our screen (some strange documentary about people being healed of their diseases by methods no sane person would engage in), the little boy, the small fire and the alternative crowd, many of whom brought their own legal/illegal refreshments, made the whole experience surreal.
Celeste Holm AND an archive print of All About Eve for 6 bucks in a fabulous movie palace?? What a deal! That’s cheaper than a bargain matinee in SF. Would someone please bring this show to the Castro Theater?
The Sundance Kabuki officially opens Friday Dec 14th. Check out this link for the whole story on the transformation of SF’s first mutiplex to SF’s “greenist” theater.