St. Francis Theatre

965 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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St. Francis Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the Empress Theatre in 1910, this theatre was taken over by Sid Grauman in 1917 and renamed the Strand Theatre. A Robert-Morton 3 manual 16 rank theatre organ was installed. In 1924, it was renamed again, this time as the St. Francis Theatre.

In 1968, the theatre was twinned, and the downstairs screen was christened the St. Francis, while the upstairs screen was renamed as the Baronet Theatre, an homage to the recently closed Coronet & Baronet theatres in New York City.

The St. Francis Theatre closed in May, 2001. It stood empty until April/May 2013, when it was demolished to build a shopping mall. The same scheme also led to the demolition of the Pantages Theatre in June 2013.

Contributed by William Gabel, Floyd Perry Jr.

Recent comments (view all 36 comments)

tarantex on May 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

iN ORDER to take down the marquee letters on the top you needed a boom truck. no regular marquee ladder was high enough to get to the top line. when i managed that theatre i had SF Neon come out and put up Bargain Matinees Daily Until 2 pm . All seats were 1.50 the theatre showed no tracies of the original single screen theatre It was completely gutted when they twinned it and covered the wall with red brick and ugly drapes red downstairs and gold up stairs. when you were watching a movie upstairs and there was a full house the balcony would sway with all of the weight.the only room upstairs that was orignal was the janitors closet and that was used for the market street security who patroled the had a desk and a window and the old janitors sink. Otherwise nothing showed the orignal theatre at all. not even the torazzo was gone replaced with ugly brown brick flooring. the entire lobby was slopped and when they use to flood the restrooms it looked like a big pond. the basement was even re done when they twinned it cement walls were built covering all enteries to differnet rooms that were originally there. I m sure as a single screen this was grand because the space was large.they even re constucted the staircase that lead to the twin. as a twin. it had great seating capicity theatre one 766 theatre two was 565, good size for a twin. for that era it was a nice performer.

RetroFan on May 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Great shots of the Saint Francis! Some circa 1979:

CSWalczak on September 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm

The theater now appears doomed, as the project has been approved by the Board of Supervisors. Apparently there was attempt to at least preserve the facade: View link

woodcubed on March 26, 2011 at 1:18 am

The Shopping Mall project may have hit a snag- leaving room for another chance at some form of preservation?

View link

stevenj on July 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

The shopping mall deal is moving ahead. Details here:

Ian on March 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Photo from 2000, not long before closure:–


Snooze_King on June 12, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I moved to SF in 1984 from Vancouver and immediately applied to every movie house in “The City.” I ended up working at the Regency III, and the manger laughed when I told him I’d applied to the St. Francis. He said that Market Street had the St. Francis, a Jack in the Box and a video arcade all within two minutes of each other, and all three businesses depended on the “tough guys and bad dudes” as their best customers.

I left SF in 1993 and haven’t been back, but I’ve seen pictures of Mid-Market’s decline and didn’t think such a thing would ever happen to it.

stevenj on June 13, 2013 at 10:43 am

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.

jordanlage on August 5, 2015 at 10:42 am

Caught a matinee showing of the re-release of THE EXORCIST at the St. Francis in the summer of 1977. Maybe timed to prime audiences for the upcoming release of EXORCIST II: The Heretic. I hadn’t seen the film before, having been too young to go when it was initially released in 1973. This was the 1st screening of the re-release run at the St. Francis and I recall being very confused as to the chronology of the story. It seemed to jump forward in its narrative time frame — the climactic exorcism began about 20 minutes into the showing of the film then jumped back in time, then it it jumped inexplicably to another part of the film. Turns out the the projectionist had gotten the reels all mixed up. Despite the confusion, afterwards I was still rattled as hell (and nauseous) and a crowd had gathered in the lobby to bitterly complain to the manager about the reel snafu. I remember a young woman who had brought her infant daughter to the screening being among the most vociferous complainants.

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