Coronet Theatre

3575 Geary Boulevard,
San Francisco, CA 94118

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Coate on June 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm

The Coronet was among just eleven theaters in the United States that installed the then-new Dolby Digital sound system for their engagement of “Batman Returns” which opened twenty-five years ago today. And here’s the link to a retrospective article that commemorates the occasion.

DavidZornig on May 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Summer 1995 photo added credit Larry Oliver.

Chapps on January 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm

I grew up on Parker Avenue, just around the corner from the Coronet – so, of course, it was our favorite theater in town. If my sister and I were good, my mom would pay for loge seating, and we felt like royalty! (Sometimes, my mom would just buy herself a loge seat, and leave us to our own noisy devices in the cheap seats)

I remember our dog escaping from the house one day, and we were crazed, running around the neighborhood looking for him. About two hours later, we got a call from the manager of the Coronet, asking us if we had a little schnauzer named Spockie (named after Mr. Spock – it was the 60s). We went to collect him, but he really wanted to stay, since they were feeding him hot dogs. The smell probably brought him there in the first place.

And, yes, I saw Star Wars there about a week after it opened, waiting in a huge line, even though I had already seen it twice down in the Palo Alto area (one of those geodesic dome theaters – forget the name). Because I had to see it in my childhood movie theater, or it wouldn’t have been the same.

A few years ago, I took my husband on a tour of ‘my’ San Francisco, and got confused, thinking I had somehow misplaced the Coronet. We stopped at Pier 1, and the employee there pointed to the hulking retirement facility a few doors down, saying ‘That’s where it was’. Gutted.

Coate on October 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

Happy 50th! “My Fair Lady” opened at the Coronet on this day in 1964 (and went on to become one of the theater’s longest-running engagements).

pbignardi on July 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

For the Star Wars reissue in 1996 – this was the one time I slept overnight in line for a movie. My girlfriend, later wife Terri, got in line in the early afternoon and I came over to take over after eating dinner at Mel’s Drive In (the tie in to George Lucas was great!). After midnight it quieted down nicely except for some nut case dressed as Chewbacca who was running around half of the night. By morning the line was past the 76 station and curling around the block. We were in the line for tickets for the first night show. The day show line went the other direction – and I think eventually the two lines met on Anza street to the south. It was all worth it. Now with advance ticketing this sort of craziness is history.

Patrick Petitclerc
Patrick Petitclerc on June 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

I walked by the Coronet Theatre one Fall day in 1966 and saw a Help Wanted sign on the Box office window, remembering the time years earlier when my brother and I saw Ben Hur, I decided to apply for a Job. I was hired and started working that very night as an usher . I stayed for 10 years .many memories of the people I worked with, the movies that premiered and the crowd of theatre goers from “Hawaii ” in ‘66 to “ Star Wars in '77

GaryMeyer on March 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Yes Eric was a godsend for the Coronet. As dedicated as they get.

I booked the Coronet and the other UATC Theaters in Northern California from !972-1977. Good ole Albert Levin—-a fixture and a character. We had a lot of sneak previews there as filmmakers loved the place——except maybe the night Stanley Donen, Liza Minnelli and Burt Reynolds sneaked LUCKY LADY and there were constant projection problems. They came up front and told stories, just as Coppola did at the GODFATHER 2 sneak with a break down. Those were the days of changeover and for sneaks, double system which is where the problem usually was. The studio would bring in their own sound and projection team to screw it up in a booth they did not know.

Booking STAR WARS was my job. UATC and Fox had a strong relationship. 20th wanted THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT in the best venues and luckily they also liked the Alexandria so I put that drama there, saving the Coronet for STAR WARS. Nobody at Fox nor practically anybody in the movie business believed in the Lucas space western, just as they had no faith in AMERICAN GRAFFITI before it.

So a lot of theaters got a new life by proving they could gross when they fell into STAR WARS as a last choice.

I had friends at Lucas and knew about their own unique grass roots marketing efforts that even Fox wasn’t aware of dedicated to generating massive turnout of science fiction fans to camp overnight and be the first to see it. (The head of distribution told me in Feb.that the Board has slept through it and were going to shelve it—-until I told him that the comic book and paperback novel were huge hits and about the science fiction convention slide shows Charles Lippincott was doing).

All went according to plan and in San Francisco and around the country the Lucas folks posing as regular folks called broadcast news directors and print editors to say, “Hey…what is going on at the Coronet? I just drove by and there are hundreds of people with their sleeping bags wrapped around the corner.”

Those camera crews arrived in plenty of time for the 11:00 o'clock newscast. The morning papers had front page photos. And the rest of the world was suddenly curious about this social phenomenon they hadn’t previously heard about and didn’t want their friends to find out they weren’t hip enough to have seen STAR WARS. They had to go asap. And thus the inverted word-of-mouth pyramid scheme was launched.

And science fiction suddenly came out of the geek closet.

ajtarantex on March 13, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Eric So well Put I was thinking about you and Mr Albert and Birdy, and Dudley and Tim and Kathy, These were sun Fun Days that i had the pleasure of being there and having so many times that, I was so bored and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there . And yes you did a Great Job in the booth. you didnt mention my favorite projectionest was Jim Dixon. email me sum time John Tarantino

EricGoebel on March 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm

When I finally made to you I knew I was the fortunate one. Inheriting Guido Girolo’s booth was an honor…and when he made a visit to his former theatre it was his way of saying in an unspoken manner he approved of my operation. So many sensed my passion and made that booth run like a Swiss watch: Mike C, Richie B, Sam Chavez, Rolfe and Ben, and the Great Man Albert Levin for trusting my judgement. I cried an ocean of tears when the end came. I will always miss you my fine lady.

CSWalczak on October 5, 2012 at 12:37 am

Remembering “Star Wars” at the Coronet: slideshow and article here.

GaryMeyer on August 23, 2012 at 8:46 am

Jimwhiterice, How is your book on SF Theatres coming. I have been involved with SF theaters for many years starting with the Times in the late 1960s. I wrote a chapter in LEFT IN THE DARK.

Gary Meyer

August on February 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I saw the first morning screening of STAR WARS on opening day in 1977, and came back 24 times. At least. Saw many, many great movies there over the years, and some not so great. Every time I pass where this theater once stood, I get a little angry. But, I was glad to be one of four school kids who skipped classes to see STAR WARS with about twenty-five Senior Citizens, at the legendary Coronet Theatre that day!

TLSLOEWS on March 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Opened 11/2/49 with the movie “I was a male war bride”.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

1986 nice marquee,someone actually cared about the getting the marquee right,thanks for the picture.

whitejimrice on April 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Thank you so much for posting this LTS.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Interior Coronet photos here:

Click on the San Fran section and scroll down.

whitejimrice on January 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm

I’m currently writing a Book on San Francisco Movie Theaters, If anyone would like their 2 cents into it about the Coronet, Let me know. This Theater as well as the Fox should of been saved.
This was my Absolute Favorite theater in San francisco because of the Star Wars Memories. Pls feel free to contact me.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on December 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

From 1993 a night time view of the Coronet Theater in San Francisco showing “Demolition Man”.


kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 1:47 pm

A couple more shots of the late Coronet – from 1996 & 1997:
View link
View link

HowardBHaas on February 27, 2009 at 5:19 am

If you google search exactly
Boxoffice May 6, 1950
enter page 111
American Seating ad with photo of seating area of Coronet.

Steve2 on January 7, 2009 at 2:47 pm

A screen bigger than it’s 1959 Ben Hur presentation? Goose bumps!

philbertgray on September 10, 2008 at 3:37 am

The saddest thing about this theatre is San Francisco sat idly by and let this happen. Baghdad by the Bay has been replaced by commercialism by the bay. As far as a sense of history San Francisco officially sucks.

stefanyoungs on June 11, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for posting those JimC. I have some photos too (off the demolition) but yours are better.
Very sad. I believe “Space Cowboys” was the last film I recall seeing there.

garyrc on May 13, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Believe it or not, the Coronet had an EVEN BIGGER screen at the time of the FIRST THREE 70 mm Todd-AO films, The Miracle of Todd-AO, Oklahoma!, and Around the World in 80 Days. I saw them all at the Coronet, 80 Days Repeatedly. For those three films, the deeply curved screen filled the ENTIRE AREA behind the curved curtains, with no masks on the sides, top, or bottom (the usual black masks, when fully open, were hidden behind the very small trimmer curtains). The image on the film running through the projector was 2.2:1, but it became more like 2:1 on the screen, when viewed from head-on, because the curve took up some of the width, as intended. It was only for these three films that the film ran at 30 frames per second (instead of the usual 24 fps), to smooth out the action, and allow for extraordinarily bright (“Sparkling,” one critic said) image without the flicker that bright projection sometimes causes (the Critical Flicker Frequency —the frequency in frames per second at which persistence of vision fails — is a function of brightness). They actually used two Todd-AO cameras simultaneously to shoot these films, one running at 30 fps and one at 24 fps for the inevitably disappointing 35 mm print downs for lesser theaters. In the 70 mm versions, all of the factors that increase arousal in the cerebral cortex were maximized — brightness, largeness, loudness and complexity of the sound (6 channel stereo, with great dynamics, and, in the case of 80 Days, a 114 piece orchestra). Consequently, the audience was “up.” It was near hypnotic! 80 Days ran well into its second year at the Coronet, forcing the chain to equip the inferior Alexandria down the street for 70 mm for South Pacific. At the Coronet, 80 Days began with a small 35 mm image of Edward R. Murrow introducing the film then the curtains, black masks, and image dramatically widened out to the full Todd-AO size, with the black masks disappearing behind the trimmer curtains.

When other 70 mm processes that didn’t use Todd-AO’s optical correction for the deeply curved screen started to be used, the Coronet tore down its big curved screen, and installed a more nearly flat, and smaller, one behind the same large curved curtains. Although it was still larger than most screens (at least from the front set of rows that extended right down to the screen, because there was no orchestra pit, and no stage to get in the way, it lacked the sense of total, engulfing involvement that the earlier screen provided. Had the owners of the newly arriving 70 mm processes (Super Technirama 70, Panavision 70, Camera 65, etc.) been able to get together on sharing an optical correction, the Coronet might have been able to hang on to the big screen, making everything from Ben-Hur to Star Wars more spectacular but this was a competition as misguided as HDDVD vs. BlueRay. or Beta vs VHS, or SACD vs. DVD-A …. everyone lost.

Now the Coronet is rubble. When we heard this, my friends and I sank momentarily into misanthropy.