UA Tanforan 4 Cinemas

400 Tanforan Park,
San Bruno, CA 94066

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Tanforan 4 Lower Lobby and Auditorium Entrances

This was a very busy theater when it opened on December 20, 1974. The box office was located on the second level of the two-story mall. Patrons purchased tickets upstairs and rode the escalator downstairs. The entire lobby was open and you could look into it and throw things at the customers or spit on them. It was hell running this theater when the escalators broke down. We had to put a cover above the snack bar or people would spit on the attendants. The largest grossing film was “Grease” which played on three screens. The theater was always booked first run. It closed on December 10, 2000 and was demolished in December 2004.

Contributed by John tarantino

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

CSWalczak on January 23, 2011 at 12:29 am

It did not always book first run; in its last years, it was known as the Tanforan Discount Cinemas, and I think it became an independent.

Fastphilly on February 3, 2012 at 1:15 am

This theater was opened well before 1988. I seen Return Of The Jedi there in late 1983/early 1984.

ColinM on May 29, 2012 at 12:02 am

The UA Tanforan 4 Cinemas opened at the Tanforan Park Mall in San Bruno, California circa 1970. During the 70s and early 80s, the theatre was often United Artists' highest grossing venue in Northern California. The cinemas consisted of 4 auditoriums on the lower level of the mall, accessed by escalators behind the box office on the main level of the mall adjacent to the west parking lot entrance. The lobby of the theatre was open to the upper level and mall skylight. The largest of the 4 auditoriums (#3) featured approximately 600 seats and was utilized for the larger blockbuster releases. Above the door of each auditorium was a reader board with the film title and a large, colored, plastic numeral denoting the auditorium number. The booth had Christie projectors and utilized a platter system. For its time, it was a spacious, modern and comfortable cinema with decent sound and projection, though only auditorium #3 featured stereo sound. The space formerly occupied by the cinemas is today the lower level of the Barnes and Noble book store.

1966gt350h on July 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I saw the movie Coma there in 1978 and the movie Survive there in 1976, the mall opened in 1971 and Im almost positive that the theater opened at the same time.

pbignardi on July 6, 2013 at 8:51 am

I am 99% sure this theatre opened in 1975. I recall shopping at Tanforan during Christmas 1974 and looking down from the mezzanine above at the partially completed theater and thinking it looked abandoned. Several years later when it was closed – it looked more beat up, but also looked abandoned, and then it was removed. I saw a lot of movies in this place before it closed.

rivest266 on July 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

This opened on December 20th, 1974. Grand opening ad in photo section. It was promoted as “4 theatres of the future”

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on July 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm

The entrance to the Edward’s Westminster Mall Cinemas in Westminster, CA looked similar to the box office/entrance area of Tanforan. Both built by UA, but the only two I’ve seen that looked so similar.

You can see a little of the big green number 4 in this picture:

EmpressDR on July 29, 2017 at 1:40 pm

This mall was built on the grounds of the old Tanforan Park race track (and had a statue of a running horse, Seabisquit himself, according to Wikipedia). Tanforan Racetrack was a thoroughbred horse racing facility from September 4, 1899 to 1964. The racetrack was destroyed by fire on July 31, 1964. The mall has a Tanforan Racetrack historical plaque, the Tanforan Assembly Center commemorative garden, and a statue of Seabiscuit. I did not like having to see Return of the Jedi at this cinema because I wanted to see it at the Hyatt. It was terrible after it became a discount cinema — little kids were dropped off by parents while they shopped, and the kids would run all over the place, usually just staying near the toy machines and video games but also racing through the theaters. I had a bad experience when I saw Empire Strikes Back in its re-issue in 1982 or 1983, when a stupid usher tore my ticket wrong, then re-tore it and gave me back a strip of cardboard — I was late to the film, so wanted to stay again to see the beginning and a mean female manager was abusive to me, lying and covering up for her usher, and wouldn’t let me see my film and threatened me. I then complained about having fallen down on the floor (slipped on their filthy, drink-covered, wet floor!), landing full length on the wet floor, ruining my sweater and pants and nearly losing my watch! That rotten female should never have been hired and I wanted my money back and she refused. I had no way to speak to the general manager, either because they covered up where I could go; I tried to complain directly to UA but got no reply. I am glad it is closed and I hope she is fired from any job she gets.

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