O'Farrell Theater

895 O'Farrell Street,
San Francisco, CA 94109

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The Mitchell Brothers, Jim and Artie, started their empire of porn by opening this theater on July 4, 1969. The building had housed a Buick dealership prior to its opening. Porn film played here from its opening until the late 1970’s, when live sex shows were added to the mix.

It was frequently the target for attempts at prosecuting for obscenity, but it has survived. Today, the theater still operates, with live sex shows only.

Contributed by scottfavareille

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

George75
George75 on July 12, 2006 at 11:55 pm

I worked at the O'Farrell in the mid-1980s. Hunter Thompson was not the night manager (although Herb Caen said he was); rather, HST sat upstairs in the manager’s office, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Lots of guys came in with HST paperbacks for him to sign; alas, we had to tell them that the Gonzo one was upstairs and unavailable.

If anyone reading this knows the O'Farrell’s management, would you tell me if Gish, Charlie, Lonnie and the others are still around? I know they fired Vaughan, the mean-spirited, longtime night doorman, after Vaughan’s buddy Artie was killed. That place had the same staff for many years, mainly the Mitchells' friends from childhood. The O'Farrell was a model of inefficiency, mainly because some of the top people had the attitude, “Well, I don’t have to do anything because my bosses are my friends and they won’t fire me.” Nice work if you can get it, huh?

neeb
neeb on July 16, 2007 at 8:10 am

View link

Notorious porn filmmaker — fade to black

Jim Mitchell, who helped bring eroticism into the political and social consciousness of San Francisco and later was imprisoned for the sensational killing of his own brother, died apparently of a heart attack, at his home in western Sonoma County, investigators said Friday.

Patsy
Patsy on June 5, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Well, I just finished watching on Tru TV the story of the Mitchell Brothers and their O'Farrell Theatre though saying it was a theatre cheapens the word in this case.

Patsy
Patsy on June 6, 2008 at 6:02 pm

“Jim Mitchell, who helped bring eroticism into the political and social consciousness of San Francisco and later was imprisoned for the sensational killing of his own brother, died apparently of a heart attack, at his home in western Sonoma County, investigators said Friday.” Was this quote correct in saying that Jim was imprisoned for killing his brother yet died at his home? Was he released from prison at some point in time though he committed murder?

davidkaye
davidkaye on January 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Jim Mitchell had a lot of connections with the San Francisco power structure. It was not unusual to see cops and politicians getting lap dances from the various women at the O'Farrell. That said, Jim Mitchell’s defense in killing his brother, Artie, was that he shot him because he was “trying to save him” from his alcoholism. The official defense was “intervention gone awry.” Many politicians and pundit Warren Hinckle chimed in to Jim’s defense, and Jim was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. According to the SF Chronicle, “The jury concluded that the killing was voluntary manslaughter committed by the elder brother in the heat of passion. Mitchell was released from San Quentin Prison on Oct. 3, 1997, after serving less than three years for his brother’s slaying.”

Can someone tell us what the O'Farell Theater was before the Mitchell Brothers opened it? Was it a theater?

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 26, 2009 at 1:33 am

Here is part of an article from the San Mateo Times dated 8/16/69:

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI)– A federal judge has ordered San Francisco police not to arrest patrons attending theaters where erotic movies are shown. Some 19 embarrassed persons were arrested this week in police raids on two sex film theaters.

U.S. District Judge Alfonso J. Zarpoli stressed that the temporary restraining order issued Friday is limited to patrons, and would not prevent the arrest of the theater owner or operator. The judge set next Friday for a hearing on the matter.

Zirpoli acted in a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of James Mitchell, 25, operator of the O’Farrell Theater, the site of one of this week’s raids. The suit charged state laws regarding obscenity and “visiting a disorderly house'‘ were unconstitutional.

After the court action, Mitchell said. “We are open for business and we will stay open. Our customers are protected even if we aren’t. But we’ll take our chances.” Mitchell was arrested July 25 on charges of showing an obscene film. But with some 27 theaters in San Francisco showing erotic movies, police decided to change tactics and arrest the customers.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 26, 2009 at 1:36 am

That building does look like an old car dealership-you can see where the display windows have been filled in.

Vaughan
Vaughan on March 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

George75… Hey asshole, This is Vaughan. Whattamean, mean-spirited?!?! I live in a Philippines whorehouse, and doing fine without your approval. Gish used to visit me here regularly until he died of cancer a couple of years ago. I still see Doc Dossett occasionally. Who are you, anyway? I’m more mean-spirited than ever, got it down to an art form!

Snooze_King
Snooze_King on July 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Vaughan…Charlie fired me because he disliked me, and fired you because you did everything except what you were supposed to do. You knew you were golden as long as Artie was there; when you learned of his death, did you know Charlie would fire you? I suppose you know that Jim, Vince, Shelby and many of the dancers from that era are now dead. I’m sure Charlie has retired; is he still alive? Lonnie and Bill moved back to CT, I believe. Tom, 25, 300 lbs. (assistant manager), grew to 400 lbs. and quit to study computers. (A lot of good his Stanford degree did him! Wonder if he’s still celibate.)

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