Paris Theatre

779 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Portola Theatre exterior

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Portola Theatre opened around September 1909, one of the first larger and more important theatres to be built on Market Street after the devastating fire and earthquake of April 1906. It opened with a seating capacity for 1,100. As films quickly grew in popularity it soon became a popular first run venue. But the larger and grander movie palaces that were soon to be built, particularly the 2,000-seat California/State Theatre just a few doors away (qv), soon ended the Portola Theatre’s days as a popular venue and it closed in 1928.

The building was then converted into a bus station for Gray Line Tours and so it lasted until the early-1940’s.

In 1944 it re-opened once again as a film theatre, catering to the wartime crowds that filled every Market Street theatre night and day. Its policy seemed to be to run just about anything that moved that people were willing to pay fifty cents to watch.

A six week sub-run of “The Outlaw” in early 1947 established its identity as a outlet for anything that was just not quite appropriate for mainstream houses, foreign and domestic. Titles like “Whirlpool of Desire”, “The Widow Misbehaves”, “The Foolish Virgin” and “Wages of Sin” started popping up on its marquee, and the rest, as they say, was history. Exploitation was the name of the game.

In 1957, its owner, Harry Farros, changed the name to Farros Theatre, and in 1961 it was renamed the Paris Theatre. It closed in August 1971, not for lack of business, but as part of the Market Street Redevelopment plan; it was immediately torn down.

Contributed by Jack Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

GSenda
GSenda on May 12, 2006 at 6:35 am

Where the Paris stood is now the back entrance to a hotel.

The former Bank of America branch is now a Marshalls or Ross store and an atm is in the wall.

For years this site stood vacant and boarded up.

George Senda
Concord, Ca.

Rodney
Rodney on October 28, 2007 at 11:34 am

Adult film “FLESH and LACE” must have been quite the controversial boxoffice blockbuster for photos to be made of theatres exhibiting it. Below is a photo of the Sooner Theater (a former WB house), Oklahoma City.
OKC Sooner c1966 -
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SF Paris c1966 -
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and
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raybradley
raybradley on October 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Other vintage views as seen beside the California (AKA-State) Theatre -
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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 13, 2011 at 4:19 am

I’ve been unable to discover the original architect of the Portola Theatre, but the February 27, 1918, issue of Building and Engineering News said that architect Alfred Henry Jacobs had prepared plans for a $5,000 renovation of the house, to include redecoration, new marble and tile work, and some plumbing.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

Described on the right side of this page from a 1914 trade journal: archive

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on August 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm

The Portola Theatre rated several lines in a July 15, 1916, article about San Francisco’s movie theaters in The Moving Picture World:

“The Portola theater on Market street, near Fourth, is one of the most interesting houses in the city. When first opened it was devoted to vaudeville and moving pictures, but has been showing the latter exclusively for several years. Under the able direction of Eugene Roth it was been made a great success with its never varying policy in regard to prices and the selection of attractions. It has a seating capacity of 1,100 and has shown many of the greatest films produced, at ten and twenty cents. So marked has been the success of this house that a company known as the Market Street Realty Company has been formed to erect a moving picture theater at Fourth and Market streets with a seating capacity of about 3,000, this house to be one of the finest in America. This company has taken over the Portola theater, as well as the Market Street theater, two blocks further up the street. This latter house, which has been conducted since its erection by Hallahan & Getz, has a seating capacity of 1,100, so that when the new theater is ready Mr. Roth will have charge of three houses within two blocks, with a total of about 5,200 seats.”
The proposed theater at Market and Fourth opened in November, 1917, as the California Theatre, and was later known as the State Theatre.

stevenj
stevenj on December 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

Mr Senda’s 2006 comments on the location are slightly off. The Bank of America building to the right of the now gone Paris Theater is the historic Humboldt Bank Building. The Men’s Wearhouse currently occupies the ground floor. The Ross store he mentions is at the southeast corner of 4th and Market and in a building built on the site of the demolished State (California) Theater. Currently a coffee shop sits right where the Paris Theater once stood and to it’s left is Yerba Buena Lane, a pedestrian promenade leading south to Mission St.

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