Avenue Theatre

2650 San Bruno Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94134

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Showing 1 - 25 of 29 comments

Mikeyisirish on August 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Tructus, is there a website for the neighborhood group? Or do you know what plans/time tables they have?

tructus on August 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

A neighborhood group is now seeking to preserve the Avenue as a theater (and not a drugstore!). As a part of that effort, I’m compiling a more complete history of the building. I’d be VERY interested in speaking one-on-one with anyone who knows anything about the building, and wants to help us save it! My private email: . Many thanks in advance.

Mikeyisirish on August 6, 2012 at 12:11 am

A July 2012 photo can be seen here.

rickrub on June 11, 2011 at 1:31 am

Rick Marshall died in a Marin County nursing home in 2008. He was never a valid Zodiac suspect. They were desperate for suspects and put quite a few people on the list that were not valid suspects, at all.

fkrock on January 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm

One additional comment. Although the stage had no machinery, the stage house did have a steel grid that would have been used with stage machinery. Grid installation probably was part of the contract to install the structural steel for the building. The grid also may have provided additional required seismic strength to the stage house.

fkrock on September 27, 2010 at 5:51 pm

The Avenue Theater had a fairly large stage with a stage house. Stage machinery never had been installed. It did not have a pin rail. The information that I was given was that it was originally designed to be both a vaudeville and movie theater but after it was built the owners decided that vaudeville had no future so did not spend money to install stage machinery. The stage was a large empty area. Dressing rooms had not been finished. Two organ chambers were set on the stage behind the movie screen in the 1960’s. The original theater organ chambers remained empty. I recorded several organ concerts for broadcast and remember that the theater had fairly good accoustics.

TLSLOEWS on April 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Another theatre/church,well at least it has not been torn down.

wurl240 on April 13, 2009 at 1:10 am

In regards to whatever happened to the “big guy” (Rick Marshall),I believe he went to the great projection room in the sky last year. His greatest claim to fame, perhaps, was to be a suspect in the Zodiac murders in San Francisco. Rick and Avenue are mentioned in the film, “Zodiac”—-an unusual epitaph for both.

Wurlitzer1773 on October 21, 2008 at 12:58 am

Thought this might be interesting to some of the Avenue Theatre Silent Film Fans – I now own the Wurlitzer Opus 1773 that was installed in this theatre in the 1960’s. After the Avenue Theatre’s owner died the arrangement with the organ’s owners and the theatre’s new owners deteriorated and the organ was moved to the Towne Theatre in San Jose for a period. After its time there the instrument was removed and stored.

In 2005 the organ was packed and trucked to FL where it is being professionally installed in my studio after restoration takes place. This 3 year process is about over and I’m expecting a truck on Oct 27 to arrive here and installation to begin.

I’m proud to be the new curator of this piece of history that is nearly 81 years old.

Kalel13 on September 22, 2007 at 7:27 pm

I wonder whatever happened to that big guy who used to run the place. Big movie buff. I think his name was Ron or Rick Marshall (like the amps). He really new his old movies. I wonder where he is.

kencmcintyre on May 22, 2007 at 12:30 am

There is another photo of the Avenue on this page:

papibear on April 9, 2007 at 1:19 am

Just caught this video on YouTube; it’s a news piece from 1983 about theater organs, and it features some video of the Avenue’s Friday night silent movies. Also shows the neon sign outside at night. Worth watching!


abarry33 on March 10, 2007 at 2:10 am

The Avenue Theatre had as an original installation
a Wurlitzer Organ, Style D, 2 manuals 6 ranks. It was
Opus 1626 and installed 4/27/1927.

kencmcintyre on October 29, 2005 at 5:27 pm

From the SF Public Library website:

View link

Kiddman on July 19, 2005 at 2:31 am

I used to go to the Avenue back in the 70’s and early 80’s for the Friday night silent-movie programs. Didn’t go often… Hated the drive to SF, neighborhood was lousy, parking was non-existent, etc. Still, I should have gone more often! What a great little Cinema Treasure!

It had a 3-manual 14-rank Wurlitzer, with pipe-chambers installed on the stage, directly behind the screen, rather than the usual two chambers up on either side of the stage. I never knew why it was done this way, but it worked well.

My most vivid memory from there was a “Railroad Night” special they had one Friday. This drew a HUGE crowd, filling the Avenue to the rafters with died-in-the-wool train buffs.

There was a silent serial-type movie and a couple of early talkies, which the train buffs ate up, despite the fact the films were pretty poor.

THEN came the feature, “Danger Lights”, a corny-but-effective 1930 melodrama about a talented but careless young engineer, the “Old-Guard” railroad boss, and the young guy’s romance with the boss’s daughter.

Of course, the old boss didn’t approve of this romance, and did everything he could to stop it, mostly because the kid didn’t respect The Railroad. Slowly, the kid came around, but the boss didn’t buy into it until the kid came to the rescue, pulling the boss out of the way of a runaway engine. The boss was injured, but the kid had saved his life.

Later, the kid and the girl were visiting the old guy in the hospital, and he asked the crusty boss for permission to marry his girl. The boss let out a BIG sigh, and mustered the energy to rasp out: “Kid, you can have my girl… I’LL take The RAILROAD!!”

The theater ERUPTED with wildly cheering railfans! You’d think they’d won the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Lottery, and their very own locomotive, all at the same time!

That was quite an experience! Gotta love railbuffs…

GaryParks on June 9, 2005 at 8:31 pm

I must append a comment to that made above by Mr. Greco (fun Photoshop work, by the way!). Below his photos linked above, there is the comment that the facade is removed and whitewashed. Indeed, the facade and signage have been repainted in a bland two-tone scheme, but all ornament is still intact, as well as the vertical sign and marquee. This theatre still merits at least a driveby look for theatre buffs who are in the area.

robertgippy on June 9, 2005 at 6:29 pm

The Avenue Theatre was a beautiful theatre. The vertical blade of the marquee, closely resembled the Metro on Union Street. When i attended it, it was showing Greek films during the week and silent classics with the Organ on weekends. Warren Lubich was a great organist there. “On the Avenue” a 33 lp recorded at the Avenue with the organ is great. Very spacious auditorium with a nice sized stadium style balcony area. The projection booth was accessible by a metal staircase right out side in the balcony, the build very similar to the York on 24th Street. The ceiling had a beautiful dome lighting fixture, with signs of the zodiac circling around it. In the movie “Nightmare In Blood” filmed mostly in the Fox Oakland, has a great exterior shot of the Avenue at night lit up, and great views of the long gone island marquee.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 28, 2004 at 12:12 pm

In a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle I have for Wed, Nov 24th 1976, the Avenue Theatre is listed under the ‘International’ section screening Bela Lugosi “The Midnight Girl” + “The Monster Walks” (1940) for one day only!

zachgeo on October 8, 2004 at 5:10 am

Pictures available here:

View link

My family used to go there regularly in the ‘70s, to watch films from Greece of all things!

gsmurph on June 27, 2004 at 6:52 pm

The Avenue’s number of screens should state “Single Screen.”

JGGreco on June 24, 2004 at 5:10 am

I grew up in the neighborhood and have many fond memories of the Avenue. As I child at the Saturday matinees in the 1950’s I vividly remember the art deco chandeliers and paintings on the walls and ceiling and the etched glass doors. It was a work of art. My friends and I were once thrown out for throwing popcorn (by the uniformed usherette with flashlight). Hey, I was only 10 years old! Great memories.

citygalsf on February 27, 2004 at 4:24 am

I also enjoyed the silent films at the Avenue theater for many years.

While the neigborhood (the Portola District of SF), like many others experienced some hard times during the crack epidemic of the 80’s, it was never a life-threatening experience to attend a film there, although it might have felt like that to uptight suburbanites horrified by any local “color”.

The Portola is a solid, multicultural working and middle class neighborhood with a vital business district along San Bruno Avenue. The Shekinh church that now occupies the Avenue Theater has done a very attractive renovation and they make the theater available to local community groups such as the Community Alliance of the Portola and Silver Terrace (CAPS). There are photos and a brief history of the original theater in the display cases outside the entrance.