779 Market Street,
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Architects: Alfred Henry Jacobs
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Previous Names: Portola Theatre, New Portola Theatre, Farros Theatre
The Portola Theatre opened around September 1909, one of the first larger and more important theatres to be built on Market Street after the devastating fire and earthquake of April 1906. It opened with a seating capacity for 1,100. As films quickly grew in popularity it soon became a popular first run venue. In 1919 it was equipped with a Wurlitzer Style 135 Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. By 1922 it had been remodeled in an Italian Pompeian villa style after being taken over by lawyer/exhibitor Herbert L. Rothscild and renamed New Portola Theatre. But the larger and grander movie palaces that were being built, particularly the 2,000-seat California/State Theatre opening in 1917 just a few doors away (qv), soon ended the Portola Theatre’s days as a popular venue and it closed in 1928.
The lobby of the building was then converted into a bus station waiting room for Gray Line Tours and so it lasted until 1944.
In 1944 it re-opened once again as a film theatre, catering to the wartime crowds that filled every Market Street theatre night and day. Its policy seemed to be to run just about anything that moved that people were willing to pay fifty cents to watch.
A six week sub-run of “The Outlaw” in early 1947 established its identity as a outlet for anything that was just not quite appropriate for mainstream houses, foreign and domestic. Titles like “Whirlpool of Desire”, “The Widow Misbehaves”, “The Foolish Virgin” and “Wages of Sin” started popping up on its marquee, and the rest, as they say, was history. Exploitation was the name of the game.
On May 1, 1957, its owner, Harry Farros, changed the name to Farros Theatre and it began screening adult movies. On July 2, 1961 it was renamed the Paris Theatre, opening with “Naked in the Deep” & “Young Sinners”. It closed in August 1971, not for lack of business, but as part of the Market Street Redevelopment plan; it was immediately torn down.
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