Cento Cedar Cinema

38 Cedar Alley,
San Francisco, CA 94109

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Terre
Terre on August 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Paul Kenney was an artist, sculptor and on maker living on Beulah street in the Haight, Ashbury district when I first met him in 1964. Richard Hongisto was a visitor, when Richard had just joined the S.F. police force. The love film and literature was our common bond. If any one film could most illustrate Paul’s love of cinema, “ The Saragossa manuscript ” would be the one. Any one who knew Paul, who might wish to converse, please call me in Montana at 406 207 4958. Always ready to nostagicate about the 60s. Nathan

Terre
Terre on August 17, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Cedar alley had been a grocery store. I personally removed all of the fixtures from the interior as I worked with Paul Kenney, the designer and first owner of this movie house. I still have the original plans of the building as laid out by Paul. Rear projection and single aisle. I live in Montana now and can be reached at 406 207 4958 Thank You, Nathan Terre'

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

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

StevesNostalgia
StevesNostalgia on March 7, 2008 at 11:06 am

I was finally able to see the little Cento Cedar for myself yesterday. The building is now colored burgandy/brick and the box office window is bricked-in. Seems to be a residence now.
I would have loved to see a film here! The alley, although branched off from the sketchy part of Polk Street, was clean and there were no sketchy people around. There were some nice cars parked all along the row. Perhaps it became slightly gentrified or night hadn’t fallen yet (and the night people hadn’t come out yet).
It’s easily walkable from Union Square and just a block or more from Van Ness.
Cute building, too.

StevesNostalgia
StevesNostalgia on March 3, 2008 at 11:27 am

Thanks for posting that photo! I often walk home from work and I have been trying to see where this theater was located. Before I moved here, I used to clip newspaper ads of movies and this theater’s name was always listed.
I’m saving this photo. Thanks!

zachgeo
zachgeo on August 7, 2007 at 6:09 pm

I used to see lots of foreign movies with my artsy friends at the Cento Cedar in the ‘80s, during my high school and college years — I particularly remember seeing Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Bob le Flambeur.” We used to treck into the City just to see movies at the Cento, and then eat at Tommy’s Joynt. Now I live just a few blocks away, but virtually all of the theaters along the Van Ness corridor have vanished. Here’s a picture of the theater, when it was still the Cedar Alley Cinema:
View link

GSenda
GSenda on May 12, 2006 at 5:44 am

We saw many films here and afterward would go to the Strand fish and chips place on Larkin.

I recall seeing Orson Welles Chimes At Midnight/Falstaff there.

I always wondered why it closed.

George Senda
Concord Ca

EricB
EricB on December 16, 2005 at 7:01 pm

I worked at The Cento Cedar during its' brief revival in the 80s. Cool art/foreign programming.Cozy little theater, but no parking, and entrance was in an alley frequented by street people and hustlers, which eventually killed the business. I talked the owner into booking Michael Powell’s neglected classic Peeping Tom. The film was forgotten, unseen for years, we even had the director there, who was very gratified that somebody finally liked his movie, even 20-someting years later. I believe that started the critical re-evaluation of this film.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 26, 2005 at 3:00 am

I noted seeing Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God here on July 12, 1977.

jackeboy
jackeboy on July 17, 2005 at 5:59 pm

A very San Francisco kind of place. I remember My Dinner with Andre, and the Secret Policeman’s Ball playing in the theater’s last days

robertgippy
robertgippy on July 13, 2005 at 5:47 pm

The Cento Cedar was a very cozy movie house, in the Cento Cedar alley. Very well kept and clean. The projection system was rear projection, like the Richileu. My very first movie I saw there was called “Salo” by producer Pasolini, who was murdered 6 months after the film was made. It was advertised in the paper as “the most horrifying movie ever made” I thought it was a horror movie, it wasn’t by a long shot. Derived by a book written by De Sade, it depicted amputations, scalpings etc, and half the audience walked out of it in disgust. The Cento had a little snack bar that served great coffee. Small cozy house with no interior of any significance Films there were offbeat, foreign, and attracted a very cultured crowd. Miss the theatre very much

cosmo
cosmo on August 13, 2004 at 11:12 pm

I got to work as the projectionist for the Cento Cedar. What was so different about this theater wsa the fact that it had rear projection. That meant you could not shoot the picture directly on the screen,or you would blind everyone in the theater,so you shot into a mirror that reflected the picture onto the screen. Since you were behind the screen,you could have very little light. You were working almost in the dark. Not many projectionist got to do rear projection,I am glad I did.

gsmurph
gsmurph on June 27, 2004 at 10:45 am

See Tillmany’s comment above for details.

Tillmany
Tillmany on June 28, 2002 at 2:08 am

Status: Closed;
Screen: One;
Seating: 250;

Tillmany
Tillmany on June 28, 2002 at 2:07 am

Note: Correct name is CENTO Cedar, not CENTRO.

Located in a narrow alleyway north of Geary, the Cento Cedar opened in August 1965 as the Cedar Alley Cinema, offering offbeat and revival programming, and espresso coffee in the lobby. In October 1967, it was renamed Cento Cedar and continued as a popular venue until July 1984, when its owner and operator, John Buckley, shut down in order to expand to a more desirable location, the former Rio on Union Street which he renamed the Mercury.