Sutter Cinema

369 Sutter Street,
San Francisco, CA 94108

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rivest266 on August 11, 2018 at 11:33 am

This opened on May 22nd, 1970. Ad posted.

gospelover on May 14, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Darn, I wrote a bunch of stuff and it just went away and didn’t post. I’ll try again later.

wfa1021 on January 27, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Holiday O'Hara! It’s been YEARS. I remember when Larry and John owned the place and when it burned down. What happened to Stormy Weather?? or Malakamore (sp?)What happened to Judy? Has she written any more books?

Kit on January 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Just watching “Freebie and the Bean” (1974) starring Alan Arkin and James Caan. The Sutter Cinema can be seen clearly in one of the car chase scenes. Many other good views of SF in the film.

HoH on October 15, 2007 at 4:23 pm

Holiday again. What many don’t know about this particular piece of real estate is that it was originally The Forbidden City, a famous Chinese nightclub, in the 1930s and 40s! XOX ~ HOH

HoH on October 9, 2007 at 7:36 pm

My name is Holiday O'Hara, and I worked on and off at The Sutter St Burlesque Theatre at 369 Sutter St as an ecdysiast from it’s opening week, Nov 1976 till 80 when I went full time as stage manger and theatre manager till 83, when I left as it went “New York Live.” It closed in 84. It’s between Stockton and Grant. More later XOX ~ HOH

HarryInSF on July 23, 2007 at 12:06 pm

In the early seventies it was definitely called the Sutter Cinema.

Though I can’t now picture exactly how far down, yes, it was close to the Canterbury Hotel but on the other side of the street.

The Sutter Cinema was a walk-up. Near the top of the stairs was a room with a desk in it. Behind the desk sat a woman who took the money and issued tickets. There was no “ticket window”. (Very vague on this: was there a coffee machine nearby? A small popcorn dispenser? Could be dreaming.)

Though I didn’t personally know anyone involved, I read back then that the woman who owned the place had previously been a performer in x-rated films herself.

Searched today for Sutter Cinema after reading of the death of the last of the Mitchell brothers. Never went to their place though I remember going by it often. Sutter Cinema was a very few blocks from where I lived.

kygemini on January 2, 2006 at 4:57 pm

My husband and I moved from Kentucky to “Frisco” back in the early ‘70’s. We both worked at the Sutter between 1970-71. If memory serves, it was called Sutter Cinema back then. I sold tickets ($5.00 each) and hubby was the projectionist. I was also hired to clean Lowell’s house during that time. Arlene hooked us up with a large rental house in the Mission District. Our housemate was Justin Green, creator of underground comic Binky Brown. Lovin’ the memories.

scottfavareille on October 17, 2005 at 12:27 pm

It started showing live sex shows as it was losing audience share to the Mitchell Brothers (who themselves later went the “live sex” route) and to a lesser extent DeRenzy (Screening Room, Kearney Cinema, and North Beach Movie, all showing harder edged fare) and Pussycat. It was known that Pickett & Elsters film tastes tended more towards XXX fare that seemed tamer than the competition.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 28, 2004 at 6:16 am

The advert I have in the S.F. Chronicle 24th Nov 1976 lists the Sutter Street Theatre playing ‘Live Burlesque’ opening daily at 11am with adult films and live shows daily at 12 noon, 2:30, 5:30 9:00.

gsmurph on July 1, 2004 at 3:42 am

The closest cross street near the Sutter is Stockton Street. The building stands; the space is now occupied by a dance studio.

Bway on June 18, 2004 at 1:27 pm

Wow, that’s a switch! A theater being “opened” for a “porn” theater. The usual path is an old theater that gets the misfortune of being turned from a “normal” theater to a “porn” theater, like the fate so many of Manhattan’s theaters suffered. The only good thing though is that sometimes it keeps the theater “alive” until better days. Case in point, the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd St. A beautiful and ornate theater that suffered the fate so many Times Square theaters suffered in the 70’s and 80’s, being turned to porn. And now look at it, Disney bought it, restored it, and now it’s playing Disney Theater like the Lion King.
What a turnover – from porn to Disney….
Well, as for the Sutter, I guess it didn’t have a nice life. What cross street is it near? I stayed at the Canterbury in on Sutter when I was there, and was wondering if it was near there. Does the building still exist?

scottfavareille on June 18, 2004 at 8:33 am

The Sutter was operated by Lowell Pickett and Arlene Elster. It opened in the late 1960’s as a storefront porn theater that showed more “artsy” hardcore product than the loops that was playing the other storefront theaters of the period(such as The Screening Room). Pickett and Elster also hosted the annual San Francisco Erotic Film Festival. (In one of its early years, Don Simpson was one of the judges. This is the same Don Simpson who would later team with Jerry Bruckheimer to produce hits like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop.)

By the mid-1970’s, Pickett and Elster were tiring of the hardcore product that was proliferating in the sex film industry at the time, so they switched to live sex shows at this theater. (This predated the Mitchell Brothers doing this at the O'Farrell.) The theater would close for good in the early 1980’s.