Help needed reviving San Francisco theater

posted by expo51 on January 2, 2008 at 3:55 pm

I founded and run a 501c3 nonprofit historical society that is looking at some property in San Francisco to lease or buy for our offices and headquarters. It is a three story building built in 1909 and the ground floor is a theater that is vacant and needs some work.

For the last 20 years, it was a video store, so the seats are gone. It is not a big or super fancy theater, there is no marquee on the building and it is about 1,995 square feet in size. My guess is that it was probably used as a small, independent type of theater at one time. It is in a very good location in San Francisco, at the edge of their entertainment/North Beach district where a lot of tourists go.

Our plans are to use the upper two floors and turn the theater into a business of some sort to generate income, either through leasing it or going in with someone on it. My nonprofit is small, and if we do get into the property it will take all we have to make that happen. I would need a business of some type in the theater fast as we would not be in a position to let it sit empty.

What we are looking for are ideas on what to do with it, funding for it or someone that might be willing to invest in it or work with us on it, someone that is knowledgeable in this field. I am very flexible and open to any ideas, thoughts, and help of any kind. I can provide pictures of it as well.

Thank you
Randy Richter

Founder, Co-President,
World’s Fair Preservation Society
P.O. Box 773, Wheat Ridge, CO 80034

Comments (5)

scottfavareille on January 2, 2008 at 5:38 pm

One thing that you might want to think about is doing an earthquake retrofit of the building.

As far as possible uses, it sounds too small for a movie house. (Could this have been one of those “storefront” theaters that showed XXX fare back in the 1970s??) Small music venue or playhouse perhaps??

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on January 2, 2008 at 11:16 pm

What is the address of the “theater”?

You could ask locals about the history of this place or research the records at City Hall. When I did a major search of information for my book the “files” were located in the basement.

Most of the “Theaters and Cinemas” were listed on small index file cards and many were written in pencil and somewhat contradicting to each other.

Best of luck. P.S. Take your bed, food and drink with you. You’ll need it as their is a ton of ancient history down there!!!

philbertgray on January 3, 2008 at 9:00 am

The old Bella Union on Kearny St? It closed in the 1980s. As I recall it wasn’t that big inside. I went to see Jaws there once and they had a print that had Japanese subtitles. That was kinda bizarre

fmbeall on January 3, 2008 at 5:24 pm

The Bella Union was gutted to the brick walls and was only one story high. The Movie at Kearney and Broadway is a likely candidate. It operated from 1957 into the 80’s. However, there were many small theatres opened in the North Beach area during it’s last revival.

scottfavareille on January 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm

If it was the North Beach Movie, that indeed was a storefront XXX house in the day.

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