El Capitan Theatre

2353 Mission Street,
San Francisco, CA 94110

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El Capitan Theatre

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The El Capitan Theatre was built in 1928 for the Ackerman & Harris circuit, opening on June 29, 1928. This large 3,100-seat theatre in the Mission district offered a downtown stage and screen policy at neighborhood prices. It opened with 5-acts of vaudeville and Mel Hertz opening the 3 manual 11 ranks Wurlitzer (Style 235) pipe organ to accompany a silent film. The interior was a beautiful example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture while the outside was built with a splendid Mexican Baroque facade. It later became part of the Fox West Coast Theatres chain and operated into the 1950’s.

Although the auditorium is long gone, the facade and attached hotel still stand, with the Moderne style marquee standing guard over the entrance to the theatre’s new use as a barren parking lot.

The demolition of all but the decorative facade and the gutted foyer of the El Capitan Theatre in 1964, remains one of San Francisco’s major losses.

Contributed by Juan-Miguel Gallegos

Recent comments (view all 45 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 7, 2012 at 6:07 am

Obituaries of San Francisco architect William H. Crim, Jr. list the El Capitan Theatre in San Francisco as one of his designs. I think that the current attribution of the house to G. Albert Lansburgh on this page might be the result of a conflation of the San Francisco El Capitan with the Hollywood El Capitan, which Lansburgh did design. I’ve been unable to find any sources showing any connection between Lansburgh and this San Francisco house, though I suppose it’s possible he was architect for a later remodeling job.

CSWalczak on August 7, 2012 at 6:39 am

Some additional photos of the theater fron the San Francisco Public Library: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

volcomsuperhero on February 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Wow. This theater looked beautiful. I wish we could see some more pictures of the interior. It’s a shame that it had to become a parking lot of all things.

Mikeyisirish on February 6, 2013 at 1:22 am

At least they didn’t COMPLETELY destroy it. I’d rather see it become a drive through parking lot with the facade in tact than see it demolished and becoming a Walmart or something…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 20, 2016 at 1:30 am

What remains of the El Capitan Theatre and Hotel was designated a San Francisco city landmark in 1996, which was unfortunately long after the auditorium had been demolished. A PDF of the Planning Commission document with the history of the building can be downloaded with this link. The document says that while G. Albert Lansburgh did in fact act as consulting architect on the project, the architect of record was William H. Crim.

AlanCo4 on May 14, 2018 at 10:42 am

Constructed in 1928

davidcoppock on May 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Is the hotel building still used?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm

It’s still a hotel and even has a web site.

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