Pagoda Theatre

1741 Powell Street,
San Francisco, CA 94133

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Showing 1 - 25 of 28 comments

stevenj on August 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Re: the Curtain-finally-falls article linked above- it left me with the impression that the theater was now a pile of rubble when I saw the article online earlier this morning. The blade is not being torn down Wednesday as reported. It’s gone today. The “walls” Nevius refers to are the Powell St and Columbus Ave walls on the front of the building. The auditorium walls are still up including the back wall with stairway and bathroom exposed. A demolition worker at the site said it would take about a month to demolish the whole theater and cart all the debris away. I posted a couple photos of the demolition that were taken today.

robertcampbell on August 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Status should be sadly changed to demolished. According to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the walls were torn down Monday morning.

stevenj on July 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm

The SFMTA demolition notice stating June 27 as the start date.

CSWalczak on December 3, 2012 at 5:22 am

A new MUNI transit proposal involves razing the Pagoda for a transit station: View article

celaniasdawn on May 13, 2011 at 6:08 am

Mikerogers, the theater in the movie Laughing Policeman was the Victoria on 16th Street. Back then, it was a burlesque house. The Palace was a nice theater, the last movie I saw there was a chinese horror film called The Chinese Ghost Story. The inside of the Palace reminded me of the Noe Theater, the lobby, phone booth, and the womens lounge were all in the same spots, looked the same, except the murals were different. There was this huge gong on the right of the stage, and before the movie started, this cute elderly lady that worked the snack bar, walked on stage and hit the gong. Then the drapes opened and the movie started.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 31, 2010 at 4:06 am

DOES ANYONE KNOW THE NAME OF THE THEATRE IN “The Laughing Policeman”. SHOT IN San Francisco.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 31, 2010 at 3:45 am

A 1937 remodeling of the Milano Theatre was the work of architect A.A. Cantin, according to Architect & Engineer of April, 1937. The theater had suffered major damage in a fire, and the rebuilding was expected to cost $25,000. 1937 was the year the house reopened as the Palace, according to Jack Tillmany’s comment near the top of this page.

robzilla on July 1, 2008 at 2:17 pm

I was the Theatre Manager of the Pagoda in 1986 not long after Alan Michaan took it over for Renaissance Rialto. At that time R.R. was booking it as a daily rep house with 2 new films each day. It was an amazing experience to be a part of the theatre’s history. Unfortunately due to high rent, lack of parking, numerous other Rep houses in town at the time, and other factors, the theatre just wasn’t making $. They started booking full week runs, which, depending on the film either did very well, or really poorly. Out of desperation they booked a live Chinese Opera there for a week run. It was interesting, but a complete nightmare as a manager. There was a tiny room next to my office which had 100’s of film reels from China. There was a rental apartment above my office which was attached to us by a spiral staircase. There was also a series of, what appeared to be, dressing rooms, that had not been used in decades. Very creepy to wonder around in these at night. Despite many crazy times there, I have wonderful memories of the Pagoda.

Rosealle on May 3, 2008 at 9:57 pm

I loved the Palace. The marqueee had “two big hits” with chinese pictures playing there. In 1985, I believe, we went there and saw the film Picnic with Kim Novak, and she appeared onstage for a interview. But the best times was in the early 70’s with the midnight shows on the weekends. It was funny when the theatre emptied out from the chinese customers on friday nights, they were met by crowds of people waiting for midnight show, all dressed in drag and other costumes. Big celebrities showed there for those screenings, like Peter Max, Truman Capote, and Tony Curtis. I wish i would have been there when Bette Midler showed up, I understand she did quite a few times in those days. The one time I will never forget was when Janis Joplin came in there stoned higher than a kite, sang on stage with a band called the 13th floor elevators. She stumbled down the stairs and her friends carried her out. Went there for many a movie, big screen, great sound, and comfortable seating.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on April 13, 2007 at 5:36 am

Hello Robert. Is the Pagoda building still standing?


robertgippy on April 12, 2007 at 9:33 am

The Palace theatre was one of the unique theatres in San Francisco, that had a rich history, especially during the late 60’s early 70’s. During it’s chinese movie run, two gigantic billboard signs, were installed on the outside walls of the theatre, showing the current feature and what was coming on the following week. The Palace was then converted to the Pagoda Palace, with the vertical blade and marquee lettering changed perfectly. The red, blue, and green neon, actually complimented the chinese theme! The interior wasn’t changed much, except red drapes were installed over the murals on each side of the screen, dragon heads were placed over each aisle entrance to the auditorium. Chinese lettering was etched on the columns on each side of the screen (often wondered what it meant) which was removed when Al Michaan took it over. When he took it over, he replaced the wonderful cushiony black leather seating in the loge, with hard as rocks rocking chairs.Unfortunately, half the marquee was destroyed in 1982 when a truck lost control and went over the sidewalk, smashing the marquee. It was repaired, but never looked the same. I will never forget during a midnight movie there, (in 1971), Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, then performing at the Bimbos 365 club, came in. He went to the piano that was on the main floor and started playing a tune, and she went onstage and yelled “anyone have a joint?” about 100 joints came flying down from the balcony and she was picking all of them up. Freda Payne (Band of Gold) got on stage and sang Bring the Boys Home which brought the house down. A gang related shooting in the theatre, frightened the chinese residents and chinese movies became a thing of the past. It was reporatory for awhile and finally shut down. Passing by it just yesterday, I was very saddened. The City of San Francisco should be ashamed of themselves for not saving this theatre.

ZabrinaTipton on October 9, 2006 at 5:38 pm

When campaigning for Aaron Peskin on his first and successful run for District Supervisor, his main platform was saving that movie house! After elected, a complete gut of the building began. Now it sits boarded up with a lame mural and graffiti.

The interior shots viewed by links here and elsewhere, makes my stomach turn to know that is was cast away and not treated as the treasure it should have been. And in the middle of one of the largest artists districts in San Francisco.


stevenj on September 12, 2006 at 5:33 am

As of 9/6/06 the theatre sits with it’s verticle sign gone and the entire front boarded over – looks like the taqueria project was abandoned.

kencmcintyre on November 6, 2005 at 10:43 am

From the SF Public Library:

View link

stevenj on February 4, 2005 at 9:46 am

Pam Trent’s just published “Midnight at the Palace” details the outrageous Cockettes shows held at the Palace in the early 70’s.

davidkaye on November 30, 2004 at 12:41 am

I attended Allan Michaan’s (Renaissance Rialto, Grand Lake) re-opening of the Palace in, I think, 1986. He had obviously spent some money restoring it and the place was beautiful. He was quite proud of it, and walked with several of us around the theatre to show off fixtures, restorations, etc. But his plan to show independent/rep films did not succeed and he only operated it for a short time.

stevenj on September 16, 2004 at 8:43 pm

The Pagoda Palace is slated to become a taqueria in less than a year. A story in todays SF Chronicle says the theatre was sold to Joel Campos, who owns 2 La Corneta Taquerias in other parts of the City. The restaurant will take up about half the 10,000 sq ft building.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 7, 2004 at 5:49 pm

I believe I was actually here only once, in 1986, when it was a repertory cinema. The film I caught was Jacques Rivette’s “Love on the Ground” with Jane Birkin and Geraldine Chaplin.

stevenj on June 1, 2004 at 7:09 pm

The Palace can be seen in the 2002 documentary “The Cockettes”. Nocturnal Dream Shows were wildly popular here in the early-mid 70’s. Presented at midnight (after the Chinese movies) throngs of people would crowd the box office waiting for the box office “lady” to finish decorating the box office windows (usually with feather boas) so they could buy tickets (for about $2) to see the Cockettes. There was always a film, usually a 30’s or 40’s musical, after the stage show. Divine threw dead fish from a shopping cart on the stage out into the audience to herald the showing of her new film “Female Trouble”, Sylvester would bring down the house singing “Big City Blues” and a very stoned audience would always have a great time. Busby Berkeley films were favorites. Someone was trying to reopen it as Muriel’s Supper Club a few years ago but their financing dried up.

GaryParks on April 8, 2004 at 1:38 pm

Quick comment for previous-poster Gerald A. DeLuca re. the Verdi Theatre. It later was known as the World—a Chinese movie theatre, and was demolished and replaced by an office building (circa 1980?) which housed a small modern Chinese movie theatre called the World, and preserved the former theatre’s neon vertical sign of Chinese characters.
Two murals on canvas salvaged from the Verdi/World were offered for sale ($$$$!)in the late 1990s by an antique store called Swallowtail, on Polk Street, not far from the Alhambra Theatre. These were of neoclassical female nudes, and of very high quality.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 8, 2004 at 1:24 pm

Information I received a few years ago (through Lido Cantarutti of Marin County) for a research project on Italian film exhibition in San Francisco said that during the 1930s and up until 1941, as the Milano Theatre, this site featured English language films during the day, but then during the evening, and even with shows at midnight, it presented Italian language films and plays. This would have ended with the start of the war, when Italian, German, and Japanese films were considered illegal enemy alien property and were confiscated and sequestered by the U. S. government. If anyone has information on the Verdi Theatre and Liberty Theatre on Broadway in North Beach which showed Italian films during that era, I would be glad to hear of it. The Green Street Theatre is supposed to have featured silent films from Italy. Also the Acme Theatre, at Stockton and Broadway is suppposed to have shown Italian films on a once-in-a-while basis.

gsmurph on January 18, 2004 at 1:15 pm

The Pagoda Palace was a single-screen theater.

William on December 4, 2003 at 1:53 pm

The Palace Theatre seated 1421 people.