CineArts at the Empire

85 West Portal Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94127

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Empire Theatre, San Francisco

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Slevin on September 23, 2007 at 7:00 pm

As noted above, Irving Morrow and William Garren were the architects. They were not major players in the local theatre scene. I know of only one other theatre by them: the San Mateo (1925), the first Art Deco theatre in the US, and maybe the first Deco building of any kind. Morrow, better known as a critic than as an architect, went on to better things: he is generally credited with the detailing on the Golden Gate Bridge. His wife, Gertrude Comfort Morrow, also an architect, is alleged to have suggested the “International Orange” color. For pix of some of her residential work, see the Arcadia book on West Portal.
An early drawing of the whole site, which extended to the exit alley on West Portal, shows a courtyard in place of the lobby and the stage at the Vicente St. end. The entrance should have been on the corner, but that would have entailed more excavation than the developers were willing to pay for.
Of all the theatres my family was asssociated with over 80 years, the Empire is the only one still showing movies. A couple of years ago I was in it for the first time since 1974. Aud. 1 is passable; the rest is dreck.

philbertgray on November 30, 2007 at 11:54 am

The theatre is a hideous inside and out. The triplexing is a travesty. They might as well tear it down

kencmcintyre on January 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Here is a photo from the opening in 1926:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 24, 2010 at 5:00 am

The 1970 renovation mentioned by Slevin in a comment above was designed by architect Bernard G. Nobler, according to an item in Boxoffice of March 2, 1970.

darquil on February 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Per my visit today, maximum seating capacity for screens 1, 2, and 3 are 295, 158, and 152, respectively, totaling 605 seats.

darquil on April 25, 2010 at 2:32 am

I’ve posted information and photos from a recent visit here.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on December 12, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Actually, Century is operated by Cinemark.

ColinG on August 16, 2015 at 12:11 am

I feel the need to come to the defense of The Empire. Yes, it was triplexed at an unfortunate time for such things and it could have been done with a bit more sensitivity. The large auditorium remains a fine place to see a film. The smaller auditoriums are adequate, especially when not busy. Still, it’s a very comfortable, clean, well-run neighborhood theatre. I’ve been seeing films there for almost 50 years and I’m very grateful for a local cinema that retains a bit of character and serves the neighborhood well.

Chris1982 on August 16, 2015 at 2:16 am

This is listed as the CIN√ČARTS AT THE EMPIRE on Cinemarks Website. Maybe the name in the header should be changed to the same.

stevenj on August 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm

As I recall the last time I was in the Empire (one of the upstairs theaters – Bad Education – that’s how long ago it was) the auditorium seating was cramped and the seats not aligned properly with the screen forcing you to look somewhat towards your shoulder to see the screen. The downstairs auditorium is fine. The theater is close to the West Portal Metro station which makes it fairly easy to get to.

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