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 14 comments)

George75 on July 12, 2006 at 5:33 pm

I worked at the Regency 1 in the summer of 1991. Mrs. S., the old woman who managed the place from its opening, was the meanest human being I had ever met. She mocked and degraded her staff almost daily; was she the boss till the end? She must’ve been 75 by 1998! Would love to know what became of her as well as Anita and Ana (her two friendly assistants when I worked there; Mrs. S.’s daughter was not always her assistant).

George75 on February 16, 2007 at 10:14 am

Pearl Stimmel (1922-2006) was the “manager with an attitude” at the Regency 1. I believe she retired in 1993. Her assistant Anita went home to North Dakota. I have no idea what became of Ana.

Aerick on March 23, 2008 at 5:34 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 10:56 am

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 10:59 am

Does Any one know what" in the building NOW?

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on September 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm

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

Swirlyewok on September 20, 2013 at 12:19 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 15, 2015 at 11:45 pm

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 9:17 am

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.

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