Theatre St. Francis

333 Geary Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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St Francis Cinema

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The Theatre St. Francis was opened on October 20, 1916 with Pauline Frederick in “Ashes of Ember”. It was designed in an Art Nouveau style by architect N.L. Josey. A feature was the location of the screen behind the facade, so that patrons walked away from it when entering the auditorium. The more familiar St. Francis Theatre on Market Street was called the Empress Theatre at this time, and would soon be renamed Strand Theatre, becoming St. Francis Theatre in 1925, as the Theatre St. Francis here described had already closed c.1919.

It has been Lefty O'Doul’s restaurant for longer than most people can remember, but a look at its upper facade reveals what is unmistakably a wonderfully theatrical-looking assortment of ornamentation. Presumably, some remnants of the theater’s interior exist above and behind the present restaurant interior.

My thanks to Jack Tillmany’s research for these facts.

Contributed by Gary Parks

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 19, 2011 at 3:39 am

The October, 1916, issue of The Architect and Engineer of California has an item concerning what must be the Theatre St. Francis, although it calls it the St. Francis Theater. The item also names a different architect for this house than the description does. Here is the relevant part of the item:

“It is announced that plans for the big moving picture theater at Fourth and Market Streets, San Francisco, are being made by Alfred Henry Jacobs, architect of the recently completed St. Francis Theater on Geary Street. The latter theater has occasioned some favorable comment on account of certain unique features, one of which is the placing of the picture screen at the entrance end of the theater, instead of forward. The seats all face the rear, the idea being to avoid the glare of the pictures when entering the theater.
The magazine might have been mistaken about Jacobs being the architect, but that doesn’t seem likely as this publication was usually quite reliable, and the item was published about the same time the house opened. It’s also interesting that the item reveals the St. Francis to have been a reverse theater. Perhaps evidence of the theater’s original projection booth still exists at the back of the building?

Tinseltoes on August 15, 2012 at 9:22 am

Described in this 1916 trade article: archive

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