Strand Theatre

1127 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Strand Theatre

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This theatre opened on October 27, 1917 as part of the Grauman chain. It changed hands shortly thereafter and would change hands again in 1925 and 1939.

The West Side Theatre Company operated the Strand Theatre from 1940-1977. With the advent of television in the 1950’s and Market Street starting to decline in the 1960’s, the attendance at the theatre dropped (along with a change in the audience). Programming was triple bills, changed daily, with nightly bingo games.

Mike Thomas and a partner bought the Strand Theatre in 1977. (Thomas would also acquire and operate several other Market Street theatres around this time: the Warfield Theatre, the Crest Theatre, and the Embassy Theatre. He would later start up the independent film distributor Strand Releasing.) Thomas redid the theatre and hired security to help clear out undesirables. In June 1977, Thomas reopened the Strand Theatre with a revival of the Howard Hughes production of “The Outlaw” (which premiered originally down the street in 1943 at the United Artists Theatre aka Market Street Cinema). The show sold out and the Strand Theatre would become a well-known venue for revival cinema. The Strand Theatre also became a popular venue for midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

The mid-1980’s took a toll on the Strand Theatre. Home video took a bite into the revival theater business. Market Street would decline further. Then the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake would cause the Strand Theatre to close temporarily. (Its neighbor, the Embassy Theatre, wasn’t so lucky, as it was too badly damaged to reopen.) When the Strand Theatre reopened, it was sold to Silver Screen Amusements. (Thomas would still book the theatre.)

In June 1994, the Strand Theatre closed, only to reopen weeks later as a porn theatre showing projected video. The theatre deteriorated even further as it became a haven for crack dealers and hookers. Finally, in early-2003, the city of San Francisco would raid the theatre and shut it down for good. This was also the end to theatres that showed movies on Market Street.

In February 2012, the American Conservatory Theater announced plans to to reopen the Strand Theatre as a 300-seat live theatre.

Contributed by scottfavareille

Recent comments (view all 72 comments)

strand1978 on January 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I renovated the Strand in 1977, and operated and programmed it until the late eighties. I’m appearing at Yerba Buena Center on February 16, 2012 for a screening of a film I directed (in 1968) called “Meat Rack” (which features many Market Street theatres) and hope to also talk about my experiences with the Strand. -Mike Thomas

Paula Wirth
Paula Wirth on February 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Exciting news, indeed, for those of us who love live theatre performance and historic theaters.

Here’s American Conservatory Theater’s press release:

Central Market Gains New American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) Performance Venue – Transformation of Vacant Mid-Market Strand Theater Furthers Development & Revitalization of Arts District

Also: ACT to revive Mid-Market’s old Strand Theatre

YolandaAnneBrown on March 1, 2012 at 6:12 am

I heard about ACT taking over the building. Although I know some fans would love The Strand to be reborn as a revival house, I’m glad that they’ll be life back into it.

davidkaye on March 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Here is a link to a story about the purchase of the Strand by ACT:

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

A 2012 photo can be seen here.

hdtv267 on October 8, 2012 at 7:58 am

More about the Strand being taken over by ACT..

hdtv267 on August 5, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Work is beginning on the ACT renovation of the Strand.

It will be divided into three theatres actually.. From today (8/5/13) SF Chronicle..

“The architectural rendering shows 15 rows of seating, steeply raked, on the main floor and another five rows on the balcony, with boxes to the side. As opposed to 1,025 seats at the main stage, known informally as the Geary and formally as the American Conservatory Theater, the Strand will seat 285. Upstairs will be an ultra-experimental "black box” third stage seating 120"

It’s scheduled to re-open in January of 2015.

Link with details including photos is here, if someone wishes to link up, that would be great, and easier for the other members..

GaryParks on March 30, 2014 at 8:42 am

The familiar neon STRAND letters from the marquee are being refurbished at an offsite location, but will be back for an encore at the theatre.

AndrewBarrett on April 24, 2014 at 8:31 pm

According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by David L. Junchen, pg. 628, there was a two manual, seven-rank Smith theatre pipe organ installed at the Strand Theatre in San Francisco at some point. No date or further details are given.

Where is this organ (or its parts) today?

I do hope this theatre’s renovation turns out for the best, thanks!

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