Northpoint Theatre

2290 Powell Street,
San Francisco, CA 94133

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Northpoint Theatre

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The Northpoint Theatre, San Francisco’s last major single screen house to be built, opened on June 28, 1967 with “The Dirty Dozen”. From the beginning, it was a major player in the San Francisco Celluloid Sweepstakes. Big films attracted big audiences; comfortable seats, a big wide screen, and state-of-the art projection and sound reminded them they were getting their money’s worth and kept them coming back for more.

From it’s initial presentation, one big film followed another, “The Hawaiians”, “Cabaret”, “The Exorcist”, “Earthquake” (in Sensurround), “Superman”, and “Alien”, were typical Northpoint fare. Sure, there were the usual occasional lapses, but they came and went quickly, always to make room for something bigger and better. But times change, tastes change, and films change.

By the mid-1980’s the Northpoint Theatre was looking and feeling tired. The overhead was going up, the theatre was getting run down, and even the best films were no longer attracting the numbers they once did.

The Northpoint Theatre closed on July 20, 1997, having served San Francisco for thirty glorious years; its ghostlike shell still stands vacant on the Southeast corner of Bay Street and Powell Street, one of the more recent headstones in the theatrical graveyard of yesteryear.

Contributed by Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 34 comments)

trainmaster
trainmaster on February 15, 2011 at 1:12 am

In reference to the questions raised about the shooting of “ZODIAC” at the Northpoint by T.J. and JBryan:

I took a very close look at the “Zodiac” movie last night. The Northpoint appears at approximately 1-hour and 35 minutes into the film.

The exterior is definately the Northpoint. However, the Marquee was reconstructed with errors. For one thing, as you look at the two photos on this site:

http://www.pacbus.org/images/ken4.jpg

View link

You will notice that the Marquee in the photos faced both Powell and Bay Streets. In addition, there was no large black band with “Northpoint” at the top and another black band at the bottom with “Theater.” The entire name was at the top.

You will notice in the early photo, before the theater had its grand opening, the glass was tinted so no one could see into the lobby from the outside. In the Fincher film, this part is overlooked, and the lights used in his film were not the ones in the real Northpoint.

As far as the interior is concerned, it was gutted when the theater closed. The real Northpoint did not have side wall curtains extending from the screen to the entrance. Another single-screen operating theater, probably in the L.A. area, was substituted for the audience shots.

Trainmaster

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on February 15, 2011 at 1:38 am

I remember see “Silverado” and “Lawrence of Arabia” here in the 1980’s. The theater had a tremendous sound system.

Coate
Coate on February 15, 2011 at 1:57 am

<<< “I took a very close look at the ‘Zodiac’ movie last night. The Northpoint appears at approximately 1-hour and 35 minutes into the film. The exterior is definately the Northpoint. However, the Marquee was reconstructed with errors. For one thing, as you look at the two photos on this site [snip] You will notice that the Marquee in the photos faced both Powell and Bay Streets. In addition, there was no large black band with ‘Northpoint’ at the top and another black band at the bottom with ‘Theater.’ ” >>>

Another error the “Zodiac” filmmakers made in recreating the Northpoint was they spelled it “Theater” on the marquee whereas photographic evidence indicates it was spelled “Theatre.” And an even bigger error was why they even featured the Northpoint when, as I pointed out a few comments up, that “Dirty Harry,” the film featured in “Zodiac,” did not even play at that theater!

<<< *“As far as the interior is concerned, it was gutted when the theater closed. The real Northpoint did not have side wall curtains extending from the screen to the entrance. Another single-screen operating theater, probably in the L.A. area, was substituted for the audience shots.” * >>>

The interiors were shot at the National.

trainmaster
trainmaster on February 15, 2011 at 6:39 am

Here are some interior shows of the Northpoint.

The pictures are of “fair” quality, except for the audiitorium interior, which was poor.

These were taken after the theater was closed in 1997 and before the interior was gutted for retail use.

http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/2924.html

Trainmaster

ajtarantex
ajtarantex on January 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I was the District Manager for this Theatre from 1989 thru 1992, I also Managed the St Francis and the Northpoint from Dec 1985 to April of 87. Then I left and went Mann theatres to open Fashion Island 6 in San Mateo ,returned to Cineplex as District Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area, Running the Northpoint was a piece of cake It rarely was busy and when it was you always had 2 hours after each show to relax, The only problem was the Parking Garage was a pain in the ass with giving out tokens for the parking. It was a Union house and I had the BEST of I A T S E projectionist at the Northpoint! also had the best at the Coronet when I was there. Good Old Henry Meyers always took care of me from when I was trained BY Al Levin, He was the Best in Theatre Management,Anyone who could work with him learned the business and its peoples very well.

plinfesty
plinfesty on June 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

“The real Northpoint did not have side wall curtains extending from the screen to the entrance.”

Oh, yes it did. At least during the 70’s. Bright gold curtains.

I’m convinced this is the same exact theatre design ABC used for their Cinemart theatre in Wilmington. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oegNyQ4ZKbE&feature=relmfu) The exterior is somewhat different, and yet the lobby features the same narrow tall windows, snack bar, chandeliers, hallway lwading to booth above snack bar, auditorium entrance doors, two sets of exit doors, front and back, same type of air conditioning vents, gold curtains throughout, etc. (although it seems to have a white suspended ceiling

plinfesty
plinfesty on June 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm

(continued) while I recall the Northpoint’s was black. The Wilmington theatre has been vacant for 32 years, so it’s remarkable the drapes look to be uin good shape.

Dougan66
Dougan66 on August 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I can still remember the night my dad coming home all wide-eyed and scared after a showing ALIEN. (I was 8 years old at the time, and was pissed because he wouldn’t take me with him to see that.) He very eradically told me the tale of little spider-creatures jumping on the faces of Space Miners, monsters bursting from thier chests, and the horrorific things that transpired after… freaked me out enough that I wouldn’t see that film until 3 years after it came out. LoL!

Unfortunatley, I only attended The Northpoint once when Empire Strikes Back was in it’s 2nd week. No trailers were shown at that preformance. I remember the 70mm auditorium being huge, and the 6-track Dolby was even more intense. I remember walking out of there one angry 9 year old, as I wouldn’t learn the fates of Han Solo and the rest of the gang for another 3 years.

If anyone has links to pictures of The Northpoints auditorioum, I’d appreaciate a look see.

mattyj2001
mattyj2001 on August 31, 2014 at 6:27 am

“STAR WARS was only available [initially] to theatres who had 70 and or Dolby Stereo.” (Twistr54, Jun 20)


It is a myth that the initial release of the original “Star Wars” was made available only to Dolby-equipped theaters. The history of this movie’s release has really been screwed up by the faulty memories of people and the false claims made by authors of books and magazine articles on the subject. (Coate, Aug. 31, 2005)


Just wanted to clarify this old comment since I have some very reliable sources that clarified it for me.

The initial 70mm release of Star Wars was only available with Dolby, but that’s not the only format it was initially released in. If you wanted a 70mm print on release day, you had to have a Dolby equipped theater. My sources are sketchy on how long it took for non Dolby prints to be released, but most of them thing it was 2-3 months after the initial release. There was just too much demand to not print 70mm reels without Dolby.

mattyj2001
mattyj2001 on August 31, 2014 at 6:36 am

I just watched a fairly entertaining movie from 1979 named “Time After Time” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080025/). The trivia at IMDB claims that the movie scene within the movie was filmed at the Northpoint (they allude to the Zodiac Killer’s “Exorcist” letter), but hilariously enough, as the characters walk out of the theater there is a weird vertical marquee that clearly shows them walking out of Ghirardelli Square (the marquee also says that The Exorcist IV is playing, perhaps a nod to the Zodiac killer.) It’s easy enough to find the door they walked out of along Beach street in San Francisco. The weird ‘marquee’ sign is gone but it appears as though the mount/bracket for it is still on the building.

The interior shot shows seats that look like they’re covered in some sort of yellow vinyl, which leads me to believe it wasn’t the Northpoint. Were the seats there every covered in yellow vinyl? The very few interior pictures I’ve come across look to be standard red fabric covered seats.

They don’t show the screen in the theater in the movie but the sounds are made up if machine guns and airplanes, clearly a war movie. The film itself was set in November 1979, when Apocalypse Now was playing, which actually might be historically accurate.

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