Balboa Theatre

3630 Balboa Street,
San Francisco, CA 94121

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Balboa Theatre

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The Balboa Theatre is one of the very last neighborhood theatres still operating in the city. It was built by Samuel H. Levin as part of his chain of neighborhood theatres known as San Francisco Theatres Inc. Opened as the New Balboa Theatre on February 7, 1926 with a seating capacity for 800. It was designed by brothers James & Merritt Reid, renowned architects who also designed the Cliff Hose, Fairmont Hotel, Spreckels Temple of Music in Golden Gate Park and many other theatres in the Bay area. The Balboa Theatre was remodeled after a 1940’s fire.

By the 1960’s, the Balboa Theatre had very long runs of blockbuster films, at popular prices, includiing 92 weeks in 1966 and 1967 for “The Sound of Music”, which followed the roadshow engagement at the United Artists Theatre on Market Street. After a another fire in in 1978, the theatre was twinned.

The theatre was run by the Levin family for almost 60 years until February 2001. At that time the Balboa Theatre, which was showing second-run films, underwent a renaissance thanks to the efforts by the co-owner of Landmark Theatres chain, Gary Meyer, who leased it from the Levin family. Meyer showed quality second-run films at very reasonable prices and his efforts built a buzz around town. He renovated the theatre and included revival and film festival screenings. He later switched to first-run films.

Meyer ran the theatre as a labor of love, but after a decade felt it was time for a change. The master lease was turned over to the San Francisco Neighborhood Theatre Foundation in late-2011 under a lease lasting through 2024. In February 2012 Meyer stepped down from being in charge. Both the Balboa Theatre and the Vogue Theatre are now part of the new CinemaSF organization, as the Vogue Theatre had already been rescued by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theatre Foundation.

The Balboa Theatre has 307 seats in auditorium 1 and 226 seats in auditorium 2.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

eileengoodnight on September 2, 2011 at 1:40 am

I worked at the Balboa during the ‘70s. I was working there when Star Wars opened; in fact I remember the black and silver poster being hung up in the lobby. I didn’t like sci-fi so I was . Damn, I wish I had it now! During my tenure we showed mostly soft core porn and Kung Fu movies. Great location, fine theatre, wonderful memories!

davidkaye on January 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Gary Meyer has run the Balboa for 10 years and finally decided that he either had to sell it or take in a partner. It’s been known for years that he hadn’t made a dime off it but was operating it as a hobby, given his fulltime career as director of the Telluride film festival.

That partner is the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, which also had taken over operating the Vogue Theater. Website:

So, as of January 6, 2012, not only is the Balboa getting a new lease on life but a new outdoor paint job as well. Looks like the Balboa is saved for now.

GaryMeyer on February 22, 2012 at 10:11 am

The Balboa was taken over by Adam Bergeron and Jaimi Holker on Jan. 13, 2012. The master lease was turned over to the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation in late 2011. The enthusiastic new operators, Cinema SF, also are running the sister theater, the Vogue. I had obtained a city grant to redo the facade and we are proud of the results…need to get a photo up here soon. New heaters were installed and there are many other projects planed for both theaters. I will still consult on special events and whatever they need help on but the plans are going to really bring back the theaters with contiued special events too.

And if you live nearby and want to experience a night at the movies, circa 1926, check this out. BALBOA BIRTHDAY BASH

Sunday, March 4, 2012 Doors open at 6:45pm Show starts at 7:00

The Balboa Theatre will celebrate its 86th Birthday on Sunday, March 4. A night at the movies circa 1926 will be the order of the day.

Inspired by Martin Scorsese and Brian Selznick’s HUGO, the evening’s feature film will be Harold Lloyd’s silent classic SAFETY LAST with a 35mm print directly from his granddaughter Suzanne.

It will be accompanied with an original score by pianist extraordinaire Frederick Hodges , preceded by a program of short subjects including films by George Melies (HUGO again).

There will also be a live vaudeville show featuring Melies himself performing some of his famous magic effects. Songstress Linda Kosut will sing songs her mother sang.

Author John Bengsten will offer an illustrated lecture exploring the locations Harold Lloyd used to make his movie. Bengston will sign copies of his newest book, Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York through the Films of Harold Lloyd,

Everybody will get birthday prizes and the evening will conclude with a special birthday cake created by the Cake Lady, Diane Boate served with liquid libations.

Audience members are encouraged to dress in their best jazz age clothing as we recreate a night at the movies in 1926. Vintage cars will be in front of the Balboa.

Advance tickets are on sale at the Balboa and online at

The Balboa Theatre is located at 3630 Balboa Street (Fox Performing Arts Centerth Avenue) in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

moviebuff82 on May 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Wonder if Rocky Balboa played at this theater (the original 1976 version)? LOL

hdtv267 on June 14, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Scroll down before you leave stupid comments, you nitwit.

Look at Feb 24, 2010.

It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now.

Stick to your little toss fest in North Jersey.

hdtv267 on June 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm

yup, and I apologize to those who actually bring something creative to this site instead of the self important nonsense I’ve been complaining about for 4 years.

Actually I should have said scroll up. Doesn’t matter though the concept of thought is lost on some.

I on the other hand have had enough and since the powers that be here seem to be asleep at the switch, keeping people on topic and keeping the inane drivel off the board, I’ve taken the law into my own hands.

I only noticed this comment since I am in the process of removing all my photos and any evidence of my presence here

hdtv267 on June 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm

exactly, I tried to contribute something that some basis and merit to this site.

Not posting comments for comments sake, not posting up something that can be found in a common spot like Fandango or

I’ve complained about this waste of resources and it continues, even to today.

So I’m taking my insightful thoughtful comments and photographs never to be seen again. You folks want to leave up stupidity about such and such movie being shown in a particular format and other inane drivel, you go right ahead.

My photos are gone, favourites removed. I’m in the process of removing my comments. Since this can’t be done in a mass way, I need to do it one by one, so that will take me a few weeks.

Once they are gone, they’re gone. You’ve had your chances to stop this stupidity.

Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm

A 2011 photo can be seen here.

MN-MovieLover on July 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm

HDTV, Very sad that you would remove all your photos so that even after you’ve decide to up and leave, others can’t enjoy

mattyj2001 on August 31, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Does anyone know if the Balboa has Dolby Digital or a reguler stereo set up with surrounds? Last time I went it was mono sound. If they are now showing first run films please put in a better sound system. Most people now have Dolby Digital at home. Some day I hope they take out the wall down the middle and turn it back to single screen. I don’t like the narrow long look it is in know. (terrywade, August 11, 2007)

I’m fairly certain that they still don’t have Dolby, and I’m not even sure if they have stereo sound. I’ve seen a hundred movies there (probably) and I don’t even remember what they sounded like.

They were recently able to convert to digital projection, with a little help from a kickstarter, but I’m not sure about the sound. I just started working at Dolby this week, I should probably start paying attention to these things. Ha ha.

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