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

Contributed by Ross Melnick, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 33 comments)

GaryMeyer
GaryMeyer on February 22, 2012 at 2:11 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 www.frederickhodges.com , preceded by a program of short subjects including films by George Melies http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/melies/ (HUGO again).

There will also be a live vaudeville show featuring Melies himself performing some of his famous magic effects. Songstress Linda Kosut www.lindakosut.com/ 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, http://silentlocations.wordpress.com/

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 www.BalboaMovies.com

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

Mikeyisirish
Mikeyisirish on June 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

A 2011 photo can be seen here.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on February 3, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens during my X-Mas sojourn in SF. It’s a fantastic neighborhood theatre with a great, congenial staff. Loved the experience!

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on February 4, 2016 at 5:11 am

Added two lobby photos from Dec. 2015.

hdtv267
hdtv267 on February 18, 2016 at 1:33 pm

on March the 6th, this great theatre will be celebrating it’s 90th birthday!

including a screening of the 1926 “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” accompanied by live piano accompaniment from Kylan deGhetaldi! The night will be hosting by the awesome Gary Meyer!

Also, magic, live music, trivia and prizes and what birthday party would be complete without CAKE?

Info on the Balboa’s website and i’ve uploaded the advert to the photo section out of respect to this amazing venue that deserves respect and proper attention on it’s 90th birthday.

Here’s hoping some great memories of patrons are included on this theatre’s page!

hdtv267
hdtv267 on March 5, 2016 at 11:45 am

Congratulations to Gary and the staff on having Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar & the SF Board of Supervisors to officially designate March 6th as “Balboa Theatre Day” in honor of the 90th birthday of this great venue.

Very cool article in the SF Examiner about this along with a great photo of the Balboa at night…

http://www.examiner.com/article/music-magic-and-memories-san-francisco-s-balboa-theatre-turns-90-1

tommysfo
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?

hdtv267
hdtv267 on November 15, 2016 at 4:51 pm

why not ask the people you “heard” about these fires from- as I’m not aware of anything.

stevenj
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:

http://hoodline.com/2016/06/the-story-of-the-outer-richmond-s-historic-balboa-theatre

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