Esquire Theatre

936 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Esquire Theater and San Francisco Theater Row Venues

Opened in 1909 as one of the first large size theaters on Market Street. First known as the Market Street Theatre, it was soon to be known as the Alhambra Theatre (1917), the Frolic Theatre (1919), the Cameo Theatre (1923-1929 when it was operated by the Universal Pictures chain), the Marion Davies Theatre (1929), and finally, the Esquire Theatre from December 5, 1940 when it came under the management of Blumenfeld Theatres. During the war years it was a popular first run outlet for Universal’s Abbott & Costello comedies, Maria Montez Technicolored ‘Exotica’, and the ever popular Universal horror films which became its backbone.

By the 1960’s, the racier American-International product took over, and things got pretty seedy. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) construction ended its life in 1972 when it was torn down to make way for Hallidie Plaza, and the new Powell and Market BART station.

Contributed by Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 26 comments)

seymourcox on October 27, 2007 at 2:04 pm

During the mid 1980s I lived in SF and my landlady, who was 90YOA at the time, said W.R. Hearst chose this location for his sweetheart’s theatre because from his office desk he could watch those giant “rosebud” pink neon letters spell out MARION DAVIES.

kencmcintyre on October 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm

According to some sources, Rosebud was Hearst’s pet name for a particular part of Davies’s anatomy. An in-joke for Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.

fmbeall on May 4, 2008 at 7:14 pm

To Ken mc. Your photos from 2005 were of the entrance to the Crystal Market. It was never a theatre. Beyond the signage was a large indoor market which was the delight of downtown food shoppers. It had a large glass ceiling and went all the way back to Mission St. and beyond the buildings over to 8th St. It was torn down to build a huge hotel complex (Del Webb’s Townhouse) which is now being slated for demolition to build new housing.

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2008 at 8:13 pm

OK, thanks for clarifying.

philbertgray on July 8, 2008 at 1:19 pm

In Answer to this comment:

Here is a little more info about The Crystal Market on Market street. It was built as a “super” market sometime in the 1920s and was one of the first and largest supermarkets established . Built on a former circus grounds, the store building was 68,000 square feet, with parking for 4,350 cars.

kencmcintyre on November 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Here is a 1942 photo from the new Life collection on Google:

kencmcintyre on November 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Here is another 1942 photo from Life showing the Esquire and the neighboring Telenews theaters:

William on November 21, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Don’t forget the Warfield Theatre just on the next block on the left side of the picture.

And Win with Warren billboard too.

kencmcintyre on November 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm

I think Earl Warren was running for governor at that time.

rivest266 on August 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm

This reopened as the Esquire on December 5th, 1940. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

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