CineArts at the Empire

85 W. Portal Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94127

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Empire Theatre, San Francisco

Built in the Moorish style, the Portal Theatre was opened December 26, 1925. Renamed Empire Cinema it reopened October 1, 1936. On June 26, 1974 it was divided into three screens. On September 12, 2003 it was renamed CineArts at the Empire. It was closed permanently in January 2021.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 36 comments)

stevenj on July 16, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I took the M Line almost daily down West Portal Ave in the late 60’s while I was attending SF State and remember a large Woolworth’s down a block from the Empire. I did find a 1960’s (exact year not specified) photo in the SF Public Library’s photo collection online showing the same building today at 200 West Portal as a Woolworth’s then so it may have been a Woolworth’s from the get go.

rivest266 on August 1, 2018 at 4:06 pm

1936 grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on August 12, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Became a 3-plex on June 26th, 1974. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on August 18, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Reopened as CineArts @ Empire on September 12th, 2003. an ad can be found in the photo section.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on February 10, 2021 at 11:02 am

Cinemark has marked this as Permanently Closed on their website. Not surprising as Regal was building a 12-plex not far from here to replace their aging UA Stonestown Twin.

terrywade on February 11, 2021 at 11:09 am

Lets hope they don’t bulldoze the Empire for more SF condos! May be time for the Vouge/Balboa Theatre group to get involved and save It. Take out the dumpy small twin loge theatres and make the place one large event/movie event space!

terrywade on February 11, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Rumor is in the neighborhood is that It may become a new sports gym like they did the Blumenfeld Alhambra Theatre on Polk St in SF now a fancy gym or the UA Metro Theatre on Union ST another expensive gym built inside a former movie theatre. They kept the neon marquee up outside at both of these former SF movie cinemas. The West Portal area that the Empire Theatre has been for many years has no nice large sports gym and is in a good money area. We hope It still remains a movie theatre in some way!

stevenj on February 14, 2021 at 2:42 pm

Here is the SFGate story on the Empire’s closing:


stevenj on February 14, 2021 at 2:52 pm

And a follow up story Feb 12, 2021:

Empire West Portal

curmudgeon on February 27, 2021 at 6:28 am

Sadly, looking at the photo’s listed here, I’d say this is no loss. Scope image letterboxed to a 1.85 screen, off-centre seating, no masking, no showmanship. Exactly the lack of care and presentation that has cheapened movie-going to the point of no-return.

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