Cento Cedar Cinema

38 Cedar Alley,
San Francisco, CA 94109

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The building was originally built in 1919 as a grocery store. In 1938, it was still a Safeway store. A Chinese family operated a family grocery store in the building until January 1955 when it was taken over by Hans H. Hammann & his brother Detlef K. Hammann. It was gutted and converted into a movie theatre.

The entrance was switched from 1031 Post Street to a new entrance on 38 Cedar Alley. During the Summer of 1955, the Cedar Alley Cinema was opened. Later, for legal reasons, the name was changed to Cento Cedar Cinema. Mr Hammann states that the cinema had normal projection, and not a rear projection system, as had been thought.

The Cento Cedar Cinema was leased to Marge & John Buckley in 1972, and was sold to them in 1974. They later relocated to another site in San Francisco and the building was sold to an architect, who converted it into his home.

Contributed by Juan-Miguel Gallegos, Hans H. Hammann

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Tillmany
Tillmany on June 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Contrary to some of the above comments, Cento Cedar did not have rear projection. Contributors have apparently confused it with either the Richelieu or the Interplayers (on Beach Street) who did use rear projection during the years that Cento Cedar was in operation.

davidkaye
davidkaye on January 21, 2009 at 3:55 am

I attended the Cedar and I also don’t remember any rear projection. Jack Tillmany’s Richelieu did, however, and it was a few blocks away, so people may have confused it.

The last operator of the Cedar was one of the owners of Express Auto Parts, a fellow who always wanted to operate a movie theater. He tried his damnedest, even experimenting with a singles movie night. The problem was what with the rent and the earthquake insurance, and whatnot, the Cedar would have to sell 265 seats a night to break even. The theater had only 250 seats, so it would literally have to be packed for two showings each night to make a profit.

wmclarty
wmclarty on May 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Used to live around the corner. A bonus for the neighborhood to be sure. Good snack bar too!

Marinersfan04
Marinersfan04 on August 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

When I was a teenager in 1969, they used to show The Saragossa Manuscript quite often. I must have seen it a dozen times!

barryg99
barryg99 on November 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

I saw many great movies there including Wim Wenders' “Alice in the Cities” and “The Goalie’s Anxiety” in 1977. I think it was the first time Wenders' movies had ever been shown in San Francisco. The people who attended the Cedar were a bit snooty and “hipper than thou” but all in all, it was a good place.

klosso
klosso on November 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I’m so glad to read about this theater. For years I’ve wondered if it was a figment of my imagination. In 1965 or early 1966, my high school French teacher brought a bunch of us 15 year old French students, in a school bus, at night, on a field trip to this theater. We saw two French films— “Sundays and Cybelle” and “Shoot the Piano Player” (or is it “Don’t Shoot the Piano Player”). There was just one person working there and he stood behind a desk made out of a plank of wood (or something similar) to take our money. There was no snack bar—nothing to eat or drink. During the break between films, our teacher told us to go next door to a coffeehouse to get something to eat and drink. There was a huge block of inscense burning in the doorway before you walked in. When we went inside, there was a strange odor that none of us could identify. We assumed it was something that they were cooking so we decided that we were not going to order any food. The people inside looked at us like we dropped in from another planet and tried to get us out of there asap—-probably had something to do with that odor which I later identified the first time I went to a party where a joint was being passed around. The menue was really wierd- at least for a 15 year old—and the only thing they had for a high school kid to drink was hot apple cider—which we drank outside due to the foul odor and mean looking people. All of this was a great adventure and I fell in love with “Sundays and Cybelle”. Does anyone know anything about that coffeehouse?

LorettaM
LorettaM on October 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

The coffee house was called the “Orion"
Accross the alley was the back door for Edinburough Castle. The bartender would go to Larkin St to pick up fish & chips for customers
(not allowed in the theater)

I worked at Cento Cedar in 1967-68, I believe.
I was hired by Hans to hand out fliers in Union Square for a French film, “War of the Buttons” during a newspaper strike.

Hans was the projectionist and his wife, Lila, chose the films.
They were required to hire a union projectionist 2 days a week to avoid conflicts.

Many fond memories

loingirl
loingirl on December 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Former theater-goers and curious old-timers of the Tenderloin cinematic haunts would be glad to know that although the old Cento Theater is gone, the building has remained in the loving care of an architecture firm (not a home) during the last 20-plus years since being acquired in 1988.

Although little of the original theater remains, interior renovations have transformed the artsy theater to a tasteful design studio. The owner maintains nostalgia for the building, respecting its humble, gloried historical past. It is an edifice where many ghosts and memories continue to linger within its quaint, but seismically improved, brick walls. It was not by accident that he chose to keep the remnants of the old projection room in the mezzanine above fairly intact, complete with the projection squares. I should know since I used to be an employee here for over 15 years now and used to peer out the project squares when relegated to organizing the archives in the former projection room.

While I don’t think I was born when this place was a theater, I have heard many stories. The door to this projection room is the only original remnant of a bygone era. Those who worked at the Cento Theatre’s projection room would be glad to know that the words “Home of the 50 second splice” still remain scrawled on that very door to the former projection room. There remain some memories too special to expunge.

Sadly, the popcorn concession did not survive the renovations, but the original bathroom locations remain, but have been transformed to be more modern and comfortable. The entrance has been relocated from the more modest, but still gritty Cedar Alley to the livelier and more colorful 1031 Post Street.

Hans_Hammann
Hans_Hammann on October 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

I never worked as a projectionist at the theatre but negotiated the deals to enable us to show the films. Also I was the sole owner of the building and only leased the the same to the Buckleys but never sold the same to them. The Buckleys leased the building from me! Loretta M. was a student at the University of SF while working with us. She was our very dearest co-worker! Hans H. Hammann

Hans_Hammann
Hans_Hammann on October 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

Until 1972 my wife and I managed the theatre alone. At that time we sold the business and leased the building to the Buckleys.
Hans H. Hammann

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