787 Market Street,
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Designed by architect Alfred Henry Jacobs, who also designed San Francisco’s Granada Theatre and Curran Theatre, the Gothic style California Theatre opened its doors on Thursday, November 1, 1917. This was just before the Armistice that ended World War I, and newspapers of the day took only minor notice of the theatre’s opening. The papers were full of talk regarding the war, but some publicity was planted in the Chronicle and Call Bulletin papers by Herbert Rothschild, the attorney who developed the California Theatre.
Built on the corner of 4th Street and Market Street, the small lot on which it was constructed restricted a mere 40 percent of the 2,134 seats to the main floor, all other seats were in the balcony. Neverless, Rothschild and his producer Jack Parkington, had a keen business sense, and turned the California Theatre into a thriving movie house, San Francisco’s first real movie palace. The California Theatre was equipped with a Wirlitzer 4 manual 32 ranks theatre organ.
Almost four years to the day after the the California Theatre opened, Rothschild unveiled his newest palace, the Granada Theatre three blocks up across the other side of Market Street. Ironically, this was part of the ‘movement’ of Market Street cinemas further west in the coming years, culminating with the 1929 opening of the Fox Theatre at 8th Street and Market Street.
By the late-1920’s, the theatre district was so far west, that the once popular California Theatre had to struggle to survive. Given a fresh facade, and renamed State Theatre, the old theatre reopened on New Years Eve of 1941. After struggling for years with sub-standard bookings and little foot traffic, it was finally closed in 1954, and subsequently demolished in August 1961.
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