Index Plan

San Francisco

   San Francisco

San Francisco is much appreciated by both its inhabitants and visitors. It is one of the few American cities where it is possible to either walk or use the dense public transport network. Between the beach (and its chilly water!), the harbor, a busy downtown, some rather huge parks, and its gay area (the Castro), the most famous in the world, the visitors' only problem is to choose from numerous things to see.

San Francisco has many traditional single screen theaters, which are closing down little by little since the opening of two multiplexes located in the centerc.

The multiplexes

Opened during the summer of '88, the AMC 1000 Van Ness was the first multiplex in town. It was built in an old building that hosted a Cadillac concession. Its lobby is huge, numerous escalators lead to the ten auditoriums.


The Sony Metreon opened in June 1999. With its fifteen screens and 3,800 seats, it is the largest theater in the city. It is located in the heart of a new giant glass building, along with an IMAX theater (the largest IMAX scree in the world, 100x80ft [!!!], a beautiful auditorium with 614 seats and stadium-style seating), shops, a food-court, and a large video games arcade room. In the evening, the place is very busy. A parking garage is located next to the building, at the entrance of the Tenderloin, San Francisco's poorest area, but safety doesn't seem to be a problem.

The auditoriums are beautiful, modern and comfortable, with stadium-style seatings, and curved screens. They are all equipped with SDDS sound and have the THX label. My only regret was that the screens could have been bigger in the largest auditoriums (no screen is wider than 50ft).

Theater    Seats    Screens Widths (ft)
1 96 32
2 125 32
3 125 34
4 122 34
5 134 32
6 156 36
7 282 38
8 253 38
9 266 38
10 259 38
11 300 47
12 301 47
13 589 47
14 369 50
15 415 33
Metreon - Map

The monument

Coronet The Coronet is the theater that should be seen in San Francisco. It was inaugurated in 1949. It is said to be one of George Lucas' favorites (it held the first public screening of Star Wars). Its front is big, but rather sober, and behind it is the large 1,200 seat auditorium. The screen is curved and is about 50ft wide, which is a little small for the back rows. It is equipped with the three digital sound systems (Dolby SRD, DTS and eight-track SDDS).

Coronet Coronet

The rest is much less exciting. It is harder and harder to fill large single-screens theaters, and unlike in multiplexes, it is impossible to switch movies on a weekly or even daily basis. It became public last July that the theater and a nearby parking lot had been bought by the Goldman Institute on Aging for 8.5 million dollars. At the end of the year, the unfortunate cinema will close down and will be torn down. The end of an era for San Francisco moviegoers.

Coronet Coronet


In a couple of years, San Francisco lost some of its largest movie theaters. Most of their building remained, and sometimes let strollers guess their past glory. Photographic visit...

TheAlhambra had been divided into two auditoriums

Coliseum Northpoint
Above left, the Coliseum; right, the Northpoint was said to have the largest screen and the best sound in town; "Midnight Cowboy", "The Exorcist", "Earthquake", "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Apocalypse Now", were played there.

Regency II
Near the AMC 1000, the Regency was a large single screen theater shaped like a live theater where I saw Good Morning Vietnam in 70mm. It closed down many years ago; it was a former dancing, and it became a dancing again, but I couldn't find it again. Nearby was the Regency II (left), its sister theater, which closed down in March 2000.

Regency III Ruby Skye

Near Union Square, the Stage Door, which was a former movie theater hosting the world premiere of Vertigo, then a live theater, became the Regency III (above right); it played movies that have been showed at the Regency I or Northpoint, some of them in 70mm. The Regency III closed down during the 90s, and was replaced by a dancing, the Ruby Skye.

Last one of the list, the Royal has a rather simple front, but its sign gets noticed. Behind the glass doors, the somptuous lobby can still be seen.


Market Street

The "not so good" section of San Francisco's main street, in the Tenderloin, has several large movie theaters, most of them closed down; the fronts still are remarkable.

The Orpheum has a beautiful front, it is now a live theater hosting major musicals.

Market Street Cinema
The Market Street Cinema now plays erotic movies; its bright blue and orange front can't be missed.

Saint Francis Strand
Left, the Saint Francis plays second-run movies for a low price; right, the Strand plays porn movies.

Still open for business

Fortunately, many movie theaters are still open in San Francisco, and most of them kept their interesting and sometimes beautiful front.

Castro Castro
The Castro (above and left) is located in the heart of the Castro, San Francisco's gay neighborhood. It was built in 1922, and its auditorium, which has a Wurlitzer organ, can accomodate 1,500 viewers. Its huge front is the most beautiful in the city. It plays art movies and gay movies, and often hosts festivals.

Four Star AMC Kabuki
Above left, the Four Star is located in a Chinese area; it has two auditoriums, one of them tiny; right, the AMC Kabuki is located in the Japanese area; it has eight nice auditoriums, with digital sound and some balconies.

Galaxy Galaxy
The Galaxy (above) is a rather nice four-plex, located near Regency I and II, and AMC 1000. Behind its large glass front, the auditoriums have digital sound, but unfortunately they lost the THX label (let's hope it doesn't mean the place will close down any time soon...) The largest auditorium has about 500 seats and a 40ft screen.

Alexandria Presidio
Above left, the Alexandria has a beautiful front, but it has been divided into three auditoriums; right, the Presidio.

Bridge Vogue
Left, the Bridge; right, the Vogue.

Balboa Cinema 21
Left, the Balboa (two medium size auditoriums); right, the Cinema 21.

Metro Metro
The Metro

The Lumiere is an art theater; it was a single screen theater, in which two tiny tiny auditoriums were added; the original auditorium is by far the most pleasant.


Berkeley and its famous university are a few minutes away from the city with the BART. The center of this little town is much pleasant and a nice place for pedestrians who can stroll between the shops, the restaurants, and the movie theaters.

The California owns the most impressive front in Berkeley; unfortunately, it has been divided into three auditoriums.

United Artists
The United Artists (7 auditoriums, left) and Shattuck (9 auditoriums, above), are the largest multi-screen theaters in Berkeley.

Fine Arts Cinema UC Theatre
The Fine Arts Cinema (above left) and UC Theatre (right) are two renowned single-screen art theaters.

Address Book

Alexandria - Geary & 18th
Alhambra - Polk & Union
AMC Kabuki Theatres - Polk & Filmore
AMC 1000 - 1000 Van Ness
Balboa - 38th & Balboa
Bridge - 3010 Geary
Castro - Castro & Market
Cinema 21 - Chestnut & Steiner
Coliseum - Clement & 9th
Coronet - Geary & Arguello
Four Star - Clement & 23rd
Galaxy - Van Ness & Sutter
Lumiere - California & Polk
Market Street Cinema - Market between 6th & 7th
Metro - Union & Webster
North Point - Powell & Bay
Presidio - Chestnut near Scott
Regency 1 - 2 - Van Ness & Sutter
Regency 3 - 420 Mason
Royal - Polk near California
Sony Metreon - 101 4th
St Francis - Market between 5th & 6th
Strand - Market between 7th & 8th

California - 2113 Kittredge - Berkeley
Fine Arts Cinema - 2451 Shattuck - Berkeley
Shattuck - 2230 Shattuck - Berkeley
United Artists - 2274 Shattuck - Berkeley
UC Theatre - 2036 University - Berkeley

Photographic credits :
The picture from the inside of the Ruby Skye comes from their web site.
All other pictures: © Silver Screens 2000

Thank you to John Gilmore for all the information that helped me preparing this section.
Thank you to Alain and Romain who valiantly came along with me throughout the city looking for movie theaters!

Liens :
Fine Arts Cinema
Market Street Cinema
Ruby Skye, the dancing that replaced the Regency III.

San Francisco