St. Francis Theatre

965 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Showing 1 - 25 of 35 comments

stevenj
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:

http://upfromthedeep.com/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.

Snooze_King
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.

Ian
Ian on March 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Photo from 2000, not long before closure:–

ST FRANCIS CINEMA

stevenj
stevenj on July 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

The shopping mall deal is moving ahead. Details here: http://www.sfgate.com/business/bottomline/article/Deal-sealed-for-Mid-Market-development-3720908.php

woodcubed
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

CSWalczak
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

StevesNostalgia
StevesNostalgia on May 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Great shots of the Saint Francis! Some circa 1979:
http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/2932.html

tarantex
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 Theatre.it 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.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on November 29, 2009 at 9:56 am

Any idea as to what year the original Oriental style roof treatment was removed?
I bet there’s a lot of nice old brick work behind all those false facades.

tarantex
tarantex on October 31, 2007 at 2:14 am

Scott D. I have Pictures of all the Theatres I managed so if you want to chat you can e-mail me at

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on October 31, 2007 at 12:26 am

I’ve always been fascinated with this theatre, but I can never find any good info on it’s last incarnation, only on the original configurations of each theatre.

John Tarantino, you seem to be the man I want to talk to. I had no idea that Plitt/Cineplex ran this place, and I’ve always wanted more information on the Plaza, Daly City as well as other places around the bay.

William
William on September 26, 2007 at 6:31 am

Larry Goldsmith posted “This theatre was never owned or operated by Fox Theatres or National General Theatres” on Aug. 4th. 2007.

If you go back to mid 1940’s it was operated by Fox West Coast Theatres in their Metropolitan District where the District manager was H. Kersken. The Metropolitan District was made up of the following theatres in San Francisco at that time.
Fox Theatre
Loew’s Warfield
Paramount
St. Francis
State
El Capitan
Rialto
Alcazar

The Paramount and St. Francis would later be operated again by Paramount Pictures Theatre Corp.. Some theatres at times were subleased to other chains during the 1930-50’s.

scottfavareille
scottfavareille on September 5, 2007 at 10:45 pm

According to today’s SF Chronicle, Cruising opened here on Feb 15, 1980. (It was to have opened at the Ghiradelli Square Cinema, but General Cinema backed out due to protests.) John, since you managed the St Francis at that time, do you have any recollections as to how it did at the St Francis. According to the SF Chronicle article, there were more protesters than patrons. (And even more interesting that Market Street got this as an SF exclusive during the time that moviegoing on Market was an adventure in itself.)

terrywade
terrywade on August 8, 2007 at 5:31 am

This was great road show house at a time. Many 70mm prints played, I went to see Sweat Charity in 70mm. They had a flat screen to bad It didn’t have a curve to it. Today someone thinks they can put condos on the site. Good Luck this is still one of the worst sections of Market St. I don’t see change coming.

tarantex
tarantex on August 4, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Larry is right, thia was leased by ABC THEATRES sold to Plitt and then Cineplex. I managed the St Francis Theatres from 1979, thru 1982 for Plitt Theatres, then they sold the lease to Harry Ho,
The theatre was a rat trap in the 80’s cock roaches from the sewers on Market street all the time would come in thru the toliets in the restrooms, Plitt remodeled in the late 70’s put drapes on the walls and made it look better , the basement connected to the five stores and they had seperate PGE meters that were in the theatre basement
which i had to read and bill the tenants monthly. the orignial theatre when it was a single screen there were no signs of that when i went thru the building it was gutted and twined.The clientlle was mostly black we played against the Fox warfield for the Karate films since we had 2 screens we generally got first run, Downtown always played first run with the Avenues,if the warfield got the film the moved it over to the Crest witch was there dump next door, I use to walk thru the Warfield everyday to get to the parking lot were i parked behind the Warfield. after the St Francis was sold I managed the Northpoint and then went to work in the office at Mann’s San Francisco office until the Fashion Island was built and then I opened that , I trained with Jim Scherlock at the Warfield and then was filling in at Manns Dublin six and then the Town and Country with Tannehill. until the sixplex in San Mateo opened.

larrygoldsmith
larrygoldsmith on August 4, 2007 at 1:14 pm

This theatre was never owned or operated by Fox Theatres or National General Theatres Larry Goldsmith.

Ian
Ian on March 18, 2007 at 9:27 am

Photo (exterior) here :–

View link

GSenda
GSenda on May 12, 2006 at 4:55 am

This theatre was owned at end by someone like a Bob Lurie-type who bought most or all of the block with the intention of tearing it all down and building new apts and office buildings on the block.

He could not get the financing and the site stays vacant today.

I only went in there once and wasnt impressed.

It would be interesting if some theatre fans could go to some of these theatres and take some interior shots before they’re torn down.

George Senda
Concord Ca

StevesNostalgia
StevesNostalgia on March 8, 2006 at 9:09 am

I enjoyed the St. Francis but I’m sad I missed the “heydey” of grindhouse cinema (horror movies, sci-fi flicks, kung-fu, blaxploitation). I preferred the smaller downstairs theater where I saw “Casino”, “Jurassic Park” and…“Leprechan 2”.
The last time I went, however, the picture wasn’t so rosey> I was watching the horror film “Bad Moon” and the rodents were being especially noisy and there was a colony of cockroaches all over the backs of the seats in front of me. I had to go the restroom and shake out my jacket and shirt. As I was leaving, two tourists from NYC were complaining to the manager about the roaches.
I didn’t mind (even though I didn’t see the rest of the movie) but them being from New York City…I’m shocked they were surprised by this.
Regardless, had this theater been maintained with strict standards and lots of extermination…I would have went a lot more. You could tell the place was once really, really nice. I do miss this place.

tomdelay
tomdelay on December 22, 2005 at 7:08 pm

I suspect “Nabimbaphone” is fancy hype for a regular Marimba. (Or perhaps the marquee letter kid did not know how to spell?)

Once in a while, the very early Wurlitzer organs (1917 San Francisco California/State Theatre) would have a ventil-controlled repeating action “Marimbaphone” in addition to the regular single stroke/strike Marimba/Harp.

BTW, the St. Francis Theatre had an early 1917 3/17 Robert Morton organ. The last I heard, this organ was in storage in the Sacramento area. A photo of the St. Francis Morton console is in Vol. II of the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ by the late David L. Junchen.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 22, 2005 at 4:30 pm

Strand, 1919. Anyone know what a nabimbaphone is?

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kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 21, 2005 at 5:17 pm

An undated photo of the Loew’s Empress:

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kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 20, 2005 at 4:12 pm

1950, from the SF Public Library:

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