Richelieu Cinema

1075 Geary Street,
San Francisco, CA 94109

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Richelieu Cinema, San Francisco, CA

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The Richelieu Cinema opened in March 1963 in the space formerly used as the Richelieu Casino, on the Geary Street side of the Richelieu Hotel on the Southeast corner of Geary Street and Van Ness Avenue.

Over the years its policy was mostly foreign and revival programming, employing a rear-view projection system in which the projector is located behind the screen, and the image is thrown upon the screen by the use of a mirror.

It closed in June 1981.

Contributed by Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 18, 2004 at 12:15 pm

I believe I visited this cinema only once, on July 22, 1978, to see Barbara Stanwyk in “Sorry, Wrong Number.” The place reminded me of the film programs at Theatre 80 St. Marks in Manhattan, which I believe also employed rear-projection.

norml on April 23, 2005 at 1:56 pm

I once saved the show at the Richlieu.

The operator made several false starts on The Red Shoes. There was no sound. I jumped up and entered the booth through the door beside the screen. “I work at KQED,” I said by way of a credential.

I asked for a can of dust-off. He produced it and I squirted a puff into the Bell and Howell sound head. I grabbed a scrap of paper, passed it through the head and heard a rewarding “bloop” from the speaker.

“Carry on,” I said, returning annonymously to my seat.

(I guess I should have billed you for that, Jack.)

FoxFan on April 23, 2005 at 3:42 pm

This theater was an experience to say the least!
Can’t remember what we saw – but we enjoyed ourselves.
Rear Projection was not as clear as regular shot booths but
nevertheless – the movie house was a treat to visit.

davidkaye on January 21, 2009 at 5:06 am

Jack Tillmany is modest in not telling us that he was the genius behind both the Gateway and Richelieu cinemas, where I spent a minimum of two nights a week through much of the 1970s. He had a revival policy, then unusual, and I got a quick education in film noir and foreign films. A showing of the historic “Birth of A Nation” resulted in vandals storming the theater and cutting up the screen. Luckily I had seen the film the night before.

jenkinsp on April 18, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I used to stay at the Richelieu Hotel with my parents when I was a teenager in the late 1960’s. I recall going to the movies on several occasions at the Richelieu. The two movies I recall having seen were “Greetings,” and a Czech film about auto thefts – the name I don’t recall. I also remember a version of Tolstoy’s “Ressurection” playing but was not allowed to attend (by my parents) because of the racy subject matter. -P Jenkins

jenkinsp on December 3, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I just visited San Francisco and stayed at the Opal Hotel formerly the Richelieu. The space occupied by the Richelieu Cinema is boarded up. Foster’s Cafeteria on the NE corner of Van Ness and Geary is long gone and the Jack Tar Hotel, later the Cathedral Hill Hotel is closed and awaiting redevelopment (as a hospital??). Tommy’s Joint is still on the SW corner and I am happy to say the Opal Hotel (formerly the Richelieu) on the southeast corner is still a decent enough place to stay.

popvoid on October 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

The brief description here doesn’t really do the sad story of the Richelieu justice. As davidkaye mentioned, when the Richelieu showed The Birth of a Nation, a group of particularly obnoxious protestors came in and completely destroyed the theater. The theater was repaired but was never ever able to recoup the costs of the repairs and folded shortly thereafter.

gjvnapa on December 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

My wife and I went to SJSC in mid-1960’s. Great time for foreign films and theaters. There was a Russian (or Eastern European) film we remember. Mid-1960’s. About an old couple. We saw at Richelieu in The City. Can you remember the film and title? May have had “sun” in the title. Is the Richelieu' owner still around?

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