Balboa Theatre

3630 Balboa Street,
San Francisco, CA 94121

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Balboa Theatre

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 27, 1926 with a seating capacity for 800. It was designed by brothers James & Merritt Reid, renowned architects who also designed the Cliff House, 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, including 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 1978, the theatre was twinned, reopening on April 21, 1978.

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. Both auditoriums have been equipped with Dolby 5.1 sound systems since 2012.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

tommysfo on November 15, 2016 at 2:39 pm

I heard there were a couple fires at the theatre. Was anyone ever hurt in those fires??? Does anyone know?

stevenj on November 16, 2016 at 8:54 am

A fire that destroyed most of the interior of the Balboa occurred in 1978. It resulted in the theater being twinned during the renovation. Another online article also mentions a fire in the 1940’s but no mention of any injuries in either fire. One would probably need to research the archives of the local newspapers for more details. This June 2016 Hoodline article honoring the Balboa mentions the 1978 fire:

moviebuff82 on April 17, 2017 at 11:22 am

What is the highest grossing movie at this theater?

moviebuff82 on November 14, 2017 at 10:22 am

If a chain like AMC takes over this theater all hope will be lost.

davidcoppock on March 10, 2018 at 3:25 am

Did it screen the movie “Balboa”?

rivest266 on July 31, 2018 at 5:42 pm

February 27th, 1926 grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on August 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm

reopened as a twin cinema on April 21st, 1978. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

moviebuff82 on August 30, 2018 at 12:52 pm

around this area there was shots fired at the balboa high school.

stevenj on August 31, 2018 at 8:03 am

moviebuff82….Balboa High School is in the southern part of San Francisco in the Excelsior District 6-7 miles from the Balboa Theatre which is in the Outer Richmond District.

bigjoe59 on November 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Hello from NYC-

when The Sound of Music moved to this theater after its roadshow at the United Artist and after Doctor Zhivago moved here after its roadshow run at the Orpheum were they the original roadshow prints? in NYC when a film went to neighborhood theaters following roadshow runs they were often tweaked.

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