Alexandria Theatre

5400 Geary Boulevard,
San Francisco, CA 94121

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Old Alexanria Theater Matchbook

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Alexandria Theatre opened on November 26, 1923 with Douglas MacLean in “Going Up.” It was built at a cost of $350,000 by Oppenheimer & (Alex) Levin; Reid Brothers were the architects. From the beginning, it was one of the Richmond district’s leading second-run theaters.

In 1941, it underwent extensive remodeling, emerging totally Moderne, with only the original stone pillars on its corner facade still exhibiting evidence of its original Egyptian roots.

It re-opened on June 19, 1942, but due to wartime blackout restrictions, much of its new neon elegance had to be subdued until sometime later. In the late-1950’s it was upgraded to a first run 70MM, reserved seat policy premiering such roadshow attractions as “South Pacific” (48 weeks), “Exodus” (20 weeks), “Can Can” (19 weeks), El Cid (21 weeks), “The Longest Day” (19 weeks), “Cleopatra” (56 weeks) & “Oliver!” (43 weeks).

On November 24, 1976, it re-opened as Alexandria 3, with the former balcony and loge sections converted into two separate, smaller auditoriums, but with the original downstairs section more or less intact.

Beneath the remodelling, rumor has it that the original dome and atmospheric ceiling still exists, retaining it’s twinkling lights, or at least the sockets, and that behind the bland walls of the lobby one can still see lotus-topped columns and colorful hieroglyphics.

The theater closed in the beginning of 2004 and its future is uncertain.

Contributed by tillmany, Juan-Miguel Gallegos

Recent comments (view all 96 comments)

GaryParks
GaryParks on April 18, 2010 at 11:10 am

The Alexandria project is at last appearing to be moving forward. Input from the community is being encouraged. Plans have been made which will respect/restore the exterior of the building, and preserve most of the interior elements from the 1940s remodeling, and discussion is underway on the idea of preserving the Egyptian decorative elements of the interior in ways that the public may enjoy them as well. The Alexandria will house a theatre equipped for small stage events as well as film, and there will be retail space, and a sort of restaurant/lounge area also. Imperative in the project are innovative structural features which will maintain much of the feeling of the original height of the auditorium wherever possible, while providing retail spaces on the ground level beneath the theatre and restaurant area. The murals of sea nymphs will remain. On the location of the theatre’s parking lot, a new building will house two levels of underground parking, and have much-needed residences above. The familiar neon “PARKING” sign on the side of the theatre will still point the way. The new building will be modern in design, but will feature bay window-like extensions to go with the characcter of the neighborhood, plus cornice work and overall massing which—while not at all copying the adjacent Egyptian Revival look of the theatre, will compliment its proportions.

GaryParks
GaryParks on December 9, 2010 at 11:17 am

According to a notice from the San Francisco Planning Department, dated Nov. 24, 2010, the Preliminary Mitigated Declaration for the 5400 Geary Boulevard project (Alexandria Theatre) has been extended until January 24, 2011. This is for the purpose of extending the comment period so that an informational hearing about the project before the Historic Preservation Commission can be held.

The meeting is January 19, 2011, at 12:30pm.

Contact Chelsea Fordham at (415) 575-9071 or

for more information.

Assuming I am able to attend the meeting, I am hoping to be able to bring up the issue of the trees that are planned for the sidwalks on both street facades of the Alexandria building. At last report, bushy, leafy trees are planned. In ten years or so, they will all but obscure the lower half of the theatre building. Others have voiced opposition to this type of tree, suggesting that palm trees be substituted. These would not obscure the building, and would be more appropriate for the Egyptian Revival character of the building exterior. By no means would this mean planting colossal date palms, as one city staffer mistakenly thought was the intention. Rather, a thinner, more graceful species (and there are many) could be selected. Leafier trees could still be planted along the sidewalk in front of the residential units making up the rest of the site. The result:
1. The ongoing “Greening” of San Francisco’s streets continues.
2. The Alexandria Theatre building’s exterior remains clearly visible as the last remaining Egyptian Revival theatre exterior in Northern California, and the only such theatre designed by the most prolific Northern California theatre architects of the period, the Reid Bros.

GaryParks
GaryParks on January 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

Due to work obligations, I am not able to attend this meeting, which is today. I’m hoping that MAYBE someone who has read my previous posts will attend, or at the very least, people from San Francisco’s neighborhood theatre and historic preservation community are going to be there.

GaryParks
GaryParks on February 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for linking to this article, Eric.

Mikeyisirish
Mikeyisirish on August 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

A July 2012 photo can be seen here.

cath61
cath61 on January 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Any new information? What have they decided? Curious!

cath61
cath61 on April 25, 2013 at 9:26 am

Thanks for the new info, I’ll take a closer look!

Eric
Eric on December 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm

What an absolute disgrace and such disrespect for a beautiful old theatre…..

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