State Theatre

787 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94103

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rivest266 on August 1, 2018 at 2:57 pm

December 31st, 1941 grand opening ads for the State and the Downtown (opened Jan. 1 1942) can be found in the photo section.

rivest266 on July 29, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Grand opening ad in the photo section.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 13, 2011 at 4:13 am

I’ve come across this rendering of the California Theatre in the December, 1917, issue of The Architect and Engineer of California. The problem is that it is part of a portfolio of recent work by architect Louis Christian Mullgardt, not Alfred Henry Jacobs.

The August, 1918, issue of the San Francisco-based journal The Architect has three photos of the California Theatre, and attributes the design to Alfred H. Jacobs (scan at Google Books.)

Naturally, I’m a bit puzzled. Did Jacobs and Mullgardt collaborate on the building? Did Jacobs design the theater and Mullgardt the office and commercial parts of the structure? Can anyone clear up this mystery?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2011 at 4:34 am

Also, I notice that there’s been some confusion surrounding the exact location of this theater (ken mc and Chuck’s comments of June 4, 2006.) The confusion comes from the fact that San Francisco’s numbered streets don’t match up with the address numbers (it’s the same situation as in Manhattan.) The numbered streets begin at the old shoreline of the bay, which was about half a mile inland from where the current shoreline is, but street numbers begin at the Embarcadero, along the modern shoreline. Thus 4th street marks the end of the 700 block and the beginning of the 800 block on Market Street.

The photos ken mc linked to on August 26, 2009, show that the State Theatre was definitely on the southeast corner of 4th and Market. The old skyscraper next door to the theater is the former Humboldt Bank Building, which is still standing at 785 Market.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2011 at 3:38 am

Kewpie: The theater in the drawing you linked to is the former Loew’s house that is listed at Cinema Treasures as the Warfield Theatre. It was never called the State. It was named for Marcus Loew’s business partner, actor David Warfield, who was born in San Francisco.

kencmcintyre on July 6, 2006 at 5:55 am

The State can be seen in the film DOA, with Edmond O'Brien.

kencmcintyre on June 6, 2006 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for the verification. I saw two separate references to 4th and Market and wasn’t sure if that was correct.

kencmcintyre on June 4, 2006 at 7:10 pm

This page also says 4th & Market. Is the 787 Market Street address incorrect?

tomdelay on December 22, 2005 at 6:55 pm

Regarding the comment above by Adam Blankenship, the SF California?State Wurlitzer is NOT installed in the Fox Theatre Visalia. Only the 4 manual console from the SF Cal/State is in Visalia.

The remainder of this large, historic instrument was broken up for parts. Ron Downer of SF has some dramatic photos of the stage house walls coming down with the 32' Diaphones coming down as rubble as well. Between Ron Downer, Dick Villemin, and Ed Stout, most of the rest of the organ was removed and saved, but used as parts—not a complete instrument.

Dick Villemin restored the Cal/State console for his sister Ruth’s home Wurlitzer which she had in her home in Malbu. The rest of the organ was from the Palace Grande Theatre in LA via the Elmo Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

Mrs. Villemin-Dresser is to be commended for donating this wonderful organ to the Fox Theatre in Visalia. Shame on the Fox Visalia for NOT presenting this organ more often OR allowing better access to the playing of the instrument!

kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 5:28 pm

Another SFPL photo from 1945:

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kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 5:26 pm

This picture was taken in 1945, but the caption says Fourth looking down at Market, so the building in the forefront may be another theater. Note the smaller Portola next door showing a Cagney-Bogey western (the only one, I think):

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kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 5:03 pm

1947, from the SFPL. If you’re an agoraphobe, look at the picture at your own risk:

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kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 4:16 pm

1949, from the SF Public Library:

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kencmcintyre on December 11, 2005 at 8:14 am

From the SF Public Library:

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scottfavareille on November 14, 2005 at 7:41 am

Shortly before its demise, the theater had been on the market for sale. There is a good story in Dave Friedman’s book “A Youth in Babylon” where he talks about one of the exploitation distributors/producers using this theater to show a film. SS Millard (called one of the “forty thieves”, along with Kroger Babb and Dan Sonney) went into a real estate office (on a Friday) wanting to take a look at the theater. The agent there gave him the keys. Millard went out to the theater and found there was electricity hooked up and wound up running a 2 day program of one of his films. (Complete with posters, lobby cards, etc!) On Monday morning, he dropped off the keys in the mailslot before the office opened. Millard, of course, did not pay for use of the theater or the utilities, and of course pocketed all the proceeds.

kencmcintyre on October 29, 2005 at 9:11 am

From the SF Public Library website:

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adameb on April 18, 2005 at 10:37 pm

The 1917 Mighty Wurlitzer is now assembled in the Visalia Fox Theatre in Visalia California. Just prior to the demolition of the State Theatre, Richard S. Villemin rescued this beautiful 4 manual 22 rank Wurlitzer pipe organ. The 32 foot pipes are not with the organ and I am not sure where they are. The Wurlitzer Organ is OPUS 433. The organ is scheduled for four concerts a year. In 2003, Dr. Ruth Villeman Dresser donated this beautiful Organ to the Fox in Visalia where she and her brother Richard Villeman tuned the origional Fox organ in the 1930’s. This is one of many organs that Richard Villeman rescued during the times when theatres were being demolished.

Adam Blankenship
Oakdale, California
Email adress is

AllenWhite on June 18, 2004 at 10:39 pm

The State Theatre came into my life as an organist for the “Golden Gate Temple” a evangelical seven day a week revival center. As the organist I remember the incredible three and half manual Mighty Wurlitzer installed, I’m told, personally by Robert Hope-Jones. The huge 32 foot pipes, I’m also told, were considered as part of the plot of a film that Alfred Hitchcock thought about creating. No, question, it was quite a theatre and the destruction of the theatre was certainly another San Francisco tragedy.

Allen White
San Francisco, California
June 18, 2004

William on December 4, 2003 at 2:41 pm

The State Theatre was part of the Paramount Theatre Corp. chain. In the San Francisco area Paramount Theatre Crp. operated the Paramount and the St. Francis theatre also.

Tillmany on July 30, 2002 at 3:01 am

The State opened as the California on 1 November 1917 with “The Woman God Forgot.” It was built at a cost of $1,850,000, Alfred Henry Jacobs architect. With 2135 seats, the State was the first large size motion picture house to open on Market Street, and was a major first run outlet from its inception. Unfortunately, during the next few years, other large theatres, such as the Paramount (nee Granada) (1921), the Warfield (1922), the Golden Gate (1922), the Orpheum (nee Pantages) (1926) and the Fox (1929), opened further up Market Street and the parade passed it by. By the 1930’s double feature second and third run programs were being offered at the desperately low price of 20 cents (matinees) and 30 cents (evenings) with Ten-O-Win on Monday and Bank Nite on Thursday! On 31 December 1941 it reopened as the State, with a modernized marquee and an upgraded policy of moveover attractions from its sister theatres, the Paramount and St. Francis, and/or first run major studio re-releases. Needless to say, this policy was still pretty shaky at best , and not the solution to filling those 2000 empty seats, nor overcoming what was really its basic problem, being two blocks too far East from the First Run Theatre Zone. Television made its impact and by the early 1950’s the end was in sight. It closed on 2 March 1954, but remained standing for many years, occasionally used as a church by various revivalist groups. It was finally torn down around 1960.