Telenews Theatre

930 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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stevenj on May 31, 2018 at 11:54 am

August 1967 KTVU video report on the closing of the Telenews Theatre.


Hamm on February 9, 2018 at 4:49 pm

In the early 60s I occasionally went into the Telenews theatre. I was in junior high school at the time, and noted it had a very different vibe from the many other theatres on Market street, as it was one of the left over attractions for service personnel during World War 2. By my own era, there were nearly always far more seats than customers. I dimly recall an emphasis on newsreels and travelogues, bare wood chairs, a lack of heating, and less ornamentation on the wall. Despite all that, it had a peculiar magic. Occasionally they would also offer special televised viewings when the big boxing matches came around. And after the Telenews, I’d sometimes go to one of the nearby diners with unusually long counters. These places also had a different vibe, having served hotdogs and sodas even for a few years after the war. There were also more upscale restaurants nearby, and all the kids knew that many of their customers were veterans who had managed to come home after the war.

stevenj on October 4, 2017 at 8:21 am

Also the Golden Gate at Market and Taylor with musicals and plays. Run by Shorenstein Hays Nederlander (SHN) – On Your Feet (the Gloria Estefan musical) is currently playing.

GeorgeSenda on October 4, 2017 at 2:48 am

I forgot about The Warfield which has rock concerts.

GeorgeSenda on October 4, 2017 at 2:48 am

This theater had a huge fire that started in the projection room. Sadly an amazing fact is that at one time there were 59 movie theaters on Market Street. Only the Orpheum Theatre now showing plays survives.

Cinemaven on April 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

There was also a Telenews theatre in Chicago. I actually believe there were 2 Telenews cinemas. One On N.State St which later became the Loop theatre; Which operated until the late 1970’s. Also one on N.Rush St which later became the Carnegie. And then had a major fire in early 1966, But was rebuilt shortly thereafter, And operated until the 1980’s.

richardj on February 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

The Telenews was part of a national chain of newsreel theaters which flourished particularly in World War II. Indeed, the San Francisco Telenews opened its doors on September 1, 1939, the exact day of the German invasion of Poland, which started WWII. In those days, a newsreel was a standard part of the movie experience. A theater which showed just news and information was not unlike what CNN did on television compared to the network coverages. In addition to newsreels there were short subjects in the one hour program that changed weekly. If one went there at 11am Friday one could have a “twofer”…watch the past weeks show and see the newone for just one price. A box office innovation was a turnstyle at the cashier’s window, saving the cost of paying a ticket taker. During the war the Telenews had a large billboard on the street providing visual coverage of the latest news. Not uncommonly there was a piece of military equipment for the curious. There was a weekly man in the street radio interview also originating at he Telenews; in deed, a young and coming radio personality named Art Linkletter was the interviewer!

JohnnyEponymous on December 18, 2012 at 7:05 am

The KTVU archive posted this look at the closing of the Telenews. It mentioned it was a travelogue theatre. Chris

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 6, 2008 at 7:22 pm

One unique feature of Telenews Theatres was that the managers of each house in the chain would edit the newsreels provided by the major studios, adding in locally produced footage about local events. One brief bit of film that was probably produced by the San Francisco Telenews Theatre’s manager has survived in the Prelinger Archives, and is available at the Internet Archive. It’s called Dead Fair, and consists of scenes of the Golden Gate International Exposition’s grounds and buildings after the fair had closed in 1940. (Adobe Flash Player 7.0 or above required, and Javascript must be enabled)

GaryParks on December 10, 2007 at 9:23 pm

The facade of the Telenews featured a wonderful polychrome terra cotta fan of leafy and geometric shapes radiating above the marquee on an otherwise sleek, moderne composition. I recall seeing a color photo of it. The site of both the Esquire and Telenews is now an open plaza, with access to the subway tracks of both MUNI and BART.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 9, 2007 at 10:33 pm

San Francisco’s Telenews Theatre was the first in a chain that would eventually expand to 13 newsreel houses, according to a web page about the history of newsreels from the University of San Diego (I found the University’s website to be a massively unusable mess, so here’s Google’s cache of the page.)

This page at the Dallas Historical Society’s website has a couple of articles about Telenews Theatre in Dallas, including one about the grand opening. The 1941 article says that the Dallas Telenews was the 11th in the chain. It gives a description of way the place operated which probably applies to the other theatres in the chain as well.

The first article at the Dallas site names one Herbert Scheftel as the president of Telenews. Scheftel, it turns out, went on to be a pioneer in the television and cable industries as well as a real estate mogul who was one of those responsible for New York’s monstrous Pan Am Building, and he died as recently as 2000. Neither his obituary in the New York Times nor his paid death notice in the same paper mentions Telenews, but the latter does lead with the fact that he was the grandson of Ida and Isadore Straus, the elderly couple who owned Macy’s Department Store and who famously made their final journey to Davy Jones' Locker on board the Titanic. I wish newspapers would get their priorities straight. We want to know about the theatres, dammit!

Incidentally, on page 41 of Jack Tillmany’s book “Theatres of San Francisco” there’s a photo of the entrance to the San Francisco Telenews, showing the yards and yards of neon in the splendid soffit that extended from under the marquee all the way to the front doors. Sitting on the terrazzo was a stuffed polar bear, it’s slightly-open maw no match for that of the theatre.

DavidHurlbutt on December 9, 2007 at 1:58 pm

When the Telenews in Milwaukee, Wisconsin dropped its newsreel policy and switch to showing full-length features, the Telenews changed its name to ESQUIRE