Empire Cinema

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 1:00 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 6:54 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 5:07 pm

Here is a photo from the opening in 1926:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 24, 2010 at 12:00 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 3:59 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 24, 2010 at 8:32 pm

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

hdtv267 on December 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Finally made it out here for a showing back in November of 2011. It was a Sunday and I shelled out the dough for “Puss N Boots in 3D”. Wow, I need to agree with the above poster that the triplexing is a travesty.

One of the more bizarre set ups of a theatre I had been in. I was concerned how the 3D would work with this odd seating configuration, but it was fine. Bit of sticker shock too $14 for a 3D movie on Sunday night.

Going to this theatre was something to knock off my to-do list. I did it and was glad to get it out of my system.

Kevin Tredway
Kevin Tredway on August 26, 2014 at 5:44 am

This theatre currently goes by ‘CineArts At The Empire’.

hdtv267 on December 12, 2014 at 1:32 am

Actually Cinemark is operated by Century and that is just a ‘brand’ as is “Cine Arts”. They also have ‘Rave’ & ‘ Tinseltown’

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on December 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

Actually, Century is operated by Cinemark.

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