Embassy Theatre

1125 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94103

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Architects: G. Albert Lansburgh, James Reid, Merritt Reid, Charles Peter Weeks

Firms: Reid Brothers

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: American Theatre, Rialto Theatre, Rivoli Opera House, Warner Brothers Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Embassy Theater and San Francisco Theater Row Venues

Originally planned to be a vaudeville theatre named Bell Theatre, it was already under construction to the plans of architect the Reid Brothers, when the earthquake and fire of April 1906 hit San Francisco. It finally opened on January 21 1907 as the American Theatre. In 1915 architect Charles Weeks redesigned the foyer and replaced the balcony with one of a shallower angle. It was known as the Rialto Theatre from May 6, 1916, the Rivoli Opera House from October 1, 1922 when light opera was presented. Finally, in 1927, it was remodeled to the plans of architect G. Albert Lansburgh and was renamed the Embassy Theatre. It premiered ‘Vitaphone Talking Pictures’ in San Francisco when John Barrymore in “"When a Man Loves” was the first sound picture to be screened in the city. It soon became known as the Warner Brothers Theatre, but reverted back to Embassy Theatre on August 31, 1933.

Under the management of Dan McLean, it became a popular second-run Market Street venue, with the added nightly attraction of Ten-O-Win, a spin-the-wheel game that McLean originated.

By the 1980’s, Market Street had deteriorated into a haven for the strange and the homeless, and the Embassy Theatre suffered the ignominy of providing a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes, and local crazies.

The Loma Prieta earthquake of October 1989 caused severe structural damage, the building was determined to be uninhabitable and was abandoned. It was torn down in 1994.

As the only theatrical structure to bracket both the 1906 and the 1989 Earthquakes, it holds unique status in the annals of San Francisco history. As an incredibly popular venue for several generations of San Francisco moviegoers, it will long be fondly remembered.

As of late-2012, there were plans to build a 12-story apartment building on the site. In November 2018 it was still an empty plot of land adjacent to the Strand Theatre.

Contributed by Tillmany

Recent comments (view all 35 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm

rds3000: The ticket stub might have been stuck in someone’s pocket for months before being pulled out and dropped into the unfinished wall. It’s an interesting mystery, and a person might make up any number of stories about how the ticket stub got there.

But I doubt that anyone spending $70,000 to remodel a theater would have been so thrifty as to store for several months a few rolls of tickets with the old name on them just to save a few dollars.

stevenj on July 27, 2015 at 11:30 am

I recently bought a scanner and have started going through 55+ years (got my first camera at age 8) of slides and negatives to digitalize. Was surprised to come across several B&W photos I took of the Embassy’s front entrance in March 1977 and have posted 2 of them in the Photos section. Maybe someone knows the lady in the box office? I believe that the ticket taker is manager Dan McLean (who also would spin the 10-0-Win wheel at evening shows).

rivest266 on July 29, 2018 at 10:31 am

Grand opening ad as American in the photo section.

rivest266 on July 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Reopened as Embassy on November 3rd, 1927. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

rivest266 on July 31, 2018 at 10:35 am

Became Warner Bros. on February 7th, 1931. Another ad posted.

rivest266 on July 31, 2018 at 10:51 am

Embassy again on August 31st, 1933. Another ad posted.

arto on January 21, 2019 at 10:06 pm

Have uploaded photo of account of Rialto opening, May 6, 1916. Overview page should be changed to reflect this.

arto on January 25, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Have uploaded photo of account of Rivoli Opera House opening, October 1, 1922. Overview page should be changed to reflect this. Thanks!

stevenj on July 22, 2020 at 9:00 am

I finally have had the time to locate and scan the slides I took in August 1976 of Dan McLean on stage spinning the Ten O Win wheel and posted them in the photo section.

markolivares on June 8, 2022 at 6:25 pm

I’m sad to say that my mother, Mary Olivares, the evening box office cashier at the Embassy for many years, passed away at our home in Fairfield, California this week. She was 87.

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