Regency I

1320 Van Ness Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94109

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Regency I Theatre

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The Regency 1 opened on December 22, 1967, with “The Birds, the Bees and the Italians”. Built in 1911 as the Scottish Rite Temple, it had been remodelled into a theatre by Blumenfeld Enterprises, and reigned as one of San Francisco leading first run theatres for thirty years.

With lots of problems which made it less than user friendly (stairs up to the entrance could not be accommodated by the disabled; limited waiting room inside made it necessary for crowds to line up outside on Van Ness Avenue, despite inclement weather; a narrow proscenium meant top masking had to lowered to provide a proper wide screen ratio; a flat floor meant sight line problems for those sitting in back; and, to make matters worse, the manager and her daughter/assistant had a little too much attitude for their own good), blockbuster films meant turnaway audiences year in and year out, despite, rather than because of, the venue.

Maybe to a trekkie, martyrdom made seeing “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” all the more pleasurable, but by the mid-1990’s the Regency’s (and its manager’s days as Queen of Van Ness Avenue were definitely over as a movie theatre, and it closed forever on November 7, 1998.

Contributed by Jack Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Aerick on March 23, 2008 at 10:34 am

It was a beautiful theatre interior wise.. It was green and white as I remember. The walls were green with White moldings, and there were several chandeliers hanging from the ceiling in the main auditorium.

My first movie here was E.T. when I first moved to San Francisco in 1982. I so remember lining up on Van Ness and around the corner as the description above says. I miss that theatre.

Abodigital on June 29, 2008 at 4:56 pm

I worked at the Regency 1 in summer ‘97 and Mrs Stimmel was still working there, at least part time during the day. I worked nights so didn’t actually work with her but she was always nice to me whenever we spoke and was a real character. I returned while on vacation in summer '98 and she was still there, recognised me and let me in for free to see a movie (The Truman Show). I have very fond memories of the theatre, sad to see it closed. Con Air, Face Off and GI Jane were running the summer I worked there. Winona Ryder came in one night with friends to see GI Jane!

ajtarantex on September 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Does Any one know what" in the building NOW?

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on September 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm

It’s being used for live shows as well as banquets.

Swirlyewok on September 20, 2013 at 6:19 am

4 every1 on here 2 know, Mrs. Stimmel was my grandmother. She passed away this yr on January 25, 2013. She lived a great life, I loved all my memories @ that theater when she was manager. All the workers were always nice. I was very sad when she retired, but more sad when it closed down. & she definitely had an attitude. Lol. RIP GRANDMA. U’ll be missed but never 4gottin. :) ~Ur loving granddaughter Shirley Stimmel~

ColinG on August 16, 2015 at 5:45 am

Mrs. Stimmel was always very kind and gracious to me when I went to see a movie at the Regency. (I was an employee of another chain) My feeling was that she was a person who respected those that demonstrated respect for her. I am sorry to hear of her passing.

brettabaer on December 17, 2016 at 3:17 pm

My grandfatherJoe Blumenfeld created Regency I (& II) and I worked there in 1979 – 1982. He owned many theaters. When I was young Pearl’s tough facade scared me. When I grew up I understood Pearl. She had the highest standards of any manager we ever had. And she took no sh&t from no one. Once she learned that I respected her rules and her operation – she became like a 2nd mother to me. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. She was a special lady and holds a special place in my ❤. Those that say negative things about her unfortunately did not know her – or – deserved what she did to them (and yes – she would throw you out if you pressed your luck). After my grandfather passed in 1982 my uncles carried on the operation until its ultimate demise. Pearl was always welcome. The Regency theaters were classic theaters that movie goers loved for many years. OJ Simpson and Al Michaels once came to watch Nick Nolte and Mac Davis in North Dallas Forty and I got autographs. Sylvester Stallone came to the grand opening of Rocky I and Pearl took great care of him. Despite their flaws, these theaters were a part of the rich and diverse culture that made San Francisco great in that era – now gone.

Cinerama on December 7, 2017 at 8:24 pm

I think it was this theatre that I saw Good Morning Vietnam. The seats and walls were all in green. Plus it had a balcony that wrapped around to the side walls. Nobody was sitting on the side balcony as it was not very deep and maybe didn’t have any seats. Was it this theatre?

stevenj on December 8, 2017 at 4:45 pm

I can’t remember the color of the seats or walls inside the auditorium but yes, there was a narrow balcony that wrapped around the sides and rear of it. The lobby and waiting area on the Van Ness Ave side as I recall was quite ornate with green and purple paisley wallpaper and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I saw quite a few films at this theatre and loved going to the bargain matinees in the 70’s. Don’t remember much of a rake to the floor in the auditorium and the acoustics were not very good but this was a really popular theatre that really pulled the crowds in. The last film I saw here was Evita in the mid 90’s.

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