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Syufy/West Wind also operates former drive-ins as flea markets, such as the Coliseum Drive-In in Oakland.
West Wind drive-ins are still in the Syufy family and have been since 1940. Syufy changed its name to Century Cinemas and then later sold their indoor theaters, so they had to change their name to something else. Thus, West Wind. Some of their former drive-ins are now swap meets which they still run, such as the Coliseum Drive-In in Oakland.
Originally the two radio towers supported a horizontal wire antenna which was strung between them. The transmitter moved away in 1950.
The old operator, Coming Attractions, a very corporate operator, abruptly closed down the Minor and removed equipment and seats. The landlord brought in a partner and the Minor will reopen on Sept 16, 2016 with art house and retro movies, adding food and beer. Many seats have been removed to allow for tables and easy in and out. They set up a black tie opening night event, which was sold out as of yesterday. Sounds really good! I can hardly wait to go up to Arcata and experience this for myself. I’ve always loved the Minor.
Here is a link to a discussion about the log book from the Stage Door Canteen, appraised on the PBS show, “Antiques Roadshow”.
They Kay Von was named after KVON, an AM radio station (“The Voice of Napa”). Since AM transmitter sites require lots of land, the land of the drive-in was also used to site the 4 towers needed for the radio station.
Here is a link to a story about the purchase of the Strand by ACT: http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/culturefeed/act-buys-strand-theater-larger-project/
Gary Meyer has run the Balboa for 10 years and finally decided that he either had to sell it or take in a partner. It’s been known for years that he hadn’t made a dime off it but was operating it as a hobby, given his fulltime career as director of the Telluride film festival.
That partner is the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, which also had taken over operating the Vogue Theater. Website: http://sfntf.org/
So, as of January 6, 2012, not only is the Balboa getting a new lease on life but a new outdoor paint job as well. Looks like the Balboa is saved for now.
Where is the photo of the Brisbane from the 40s?
Does anybody know why it was named the Bal? Is it Spanish? Was it someone’s last name?
Movie palaces had been doing better the last few years due to the distributors opening the doors to additional theaters for first-run shows. SF’s Castro and Balboa and the Grand Lake benefited in being able to book some first-runs.
But I guess that first-run option is fading. The Castro is closed 4 nights this month. The Balboa continues to struggle (Gary Meyer says he does not take any salary from the Balboa). It looks like times are tough in the movie theater biz.
I’m wondering if street beautification (that is, planting trees in front of businesses) has had some hand in discouraging patronage of businesses. Lost Memory’s photo of the Strand is a case in point. The theater is so obscured by trees that even if someone was hankerin' to see a movie, they’d be likely to walk or drive right by the place.
I’m wondering if the Castro Theatre’s success is due partly to its extreme visibility. It is impossible to photograph the main commercial block of Castro without getting that marquee in the photo one way or another.
Though the Strand wasn’t the best theater in layout (long, skinny, and a huge balcony rake) I still miss the place for what it was in its revival day.
Do people in the San Lorenzo/Hayward area not like the Lorenzo Theater? This restoration project has had no updates in almost 2 years. The 14-month deadline has passed. Does anybody know the status today?
Prior to Gary Meyer co-founding Landmark Cinemas and Mike Thomas operating the Strand Theater and co-founding Strand Releasing, they ran some incredible double-bills at the Times. As I remember it was $1 a show and had the misfortune of seats that would occasionally come unhinged and collapse in the middle of a movie. It was always a treat to take the Muni up to Chinatown and do a movie or two at the Times.
Jack Tillmany is modest in not telling us that he was the genius behind both the Gateway and Richelieu cinemas, where I spent a minimum of two nights a week through much of the 1970s. He had a revival policy, then unusual, and I got a quick education in film noir and foreign films. A showing of the historic “Birth of A Nation” resulted in vandals storming the theater and cutting up the screen. Luckily I had seen the film the night before.
Jim Mitchell had a lot of connections with the San Francisco power structure. It was not unusual to see cops and politicians getting lap dances from the various women at the O'Farrell. That said, Jim Mitchell’s defense in killing his brother, Artie, was that he shot him because he was “trying to save him” from his alcoholism. The official defense was “intervention gone awry.” Many politicians and pundit Warren Hinckle chimed in to Jim’s defense, and Jim was convicted of manslaughter, not murder. According to the SF Chronicle, “The jury concluded that the killing was voluntary manslaughter committed by the elder brother in the heat of passion. Mitchell was released from San Quentin Prison on Oct. 3, 1997, after serving less than three years for his brother’s slaying.”
Can someone tell us what the O'Farell Theater was before the Mitchell Brothers opened it? Was it a theater?
As the Club Hangover it was a jazz club that featured many live radio broadcasts and the likes of performers such as Turk Murphy, Muggsy Spanier, Earl Fatha Hines, etc.
As the Nob Hill in the film days (before going to video showings) it featured the best projection of any gay male porn theater. Gay porn auteur, Wakefield Poole (who had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago) showed many of his famous films at the Nob Hill, including “Boys in the Sand”, and “Bijou”
Poole’s 1977 film, “Take One” is actually set in the Nob Hill.
I attended the Cedar and I also don’t remember any rear projection. Jack Tillmany’s Richelieu did, however, and it was a few blocks away, so people may have confused it.
The last operator of the Cedar was one of the owners of Express Auto Parts, a fellow who always wanted to operate a movie theater. He tried his damnedest, even experimenting with a singles movie night. The problem was what with the rent and the earthquake insurance, and whatnot, the Cedar would have to sell 265 seats a night to break even. The theater had only 250 seats, so it would literally have to be packed for two showings each night to make a profit.
MARQUEE: My dim memory has the current Castro marquee (repainted for the Milk movie filming) to be a close approximation to what the marquee had in the 1970s. The marquee and the whole exterior were painted in various shades of beige for some unknown reason in the 1990s. It was so bad the name was barely visible during the daytime. Also, the neon appears to have been redone, spruced up, and animated (it now flashes) for the Milk movie filming.
CEILING: I remember the Castro both pre and post 1989 quake, and the thing I remember most about the “restoration” was that the ceiling looked like it had just a coat of shellac on it. Of course, given the time frame and expense it would have been impossible to re-paint the ornate ceiling image to restore it to what it originally was. Before the quake the ceiling had lost a lot of plaster, so much that it looked speckled white. It would have been a 6-month project just to repaint the ceiling imagery. I assume that the shellac was an easy way to cover over the white and leave as much of the rest of the image as they could do under the circumstances.
SEATING: My only argument with the current Castro experience is the wooden cup rings between the seats. Better that they could have been attached to the seat in front rather than between where it’s too easy to bump a cup with your elbow.
Joe, are you absolutely sure the saloon photo comes from the El Capitan and 1932? I have been told that the exact photo was of Don Maclean (the Ten-O-Win guy) of the Embassy Theater, from very early in his career, and was actually a photo from a downtown theater. Does anybody know the facts for sure about this photo?
Mike Thomas, as far as I know, still operates the Minor Theatre in Arcata, and is still active in the cinema business. I believe he resigned from Strand Releasing several years ago, which is where he had been dedicating a lot of his energies after he reduced his involvement in running cinemas.
In the photo referenced above, View link , the empty lot to the left of the Strand was the Embassy, which closed due to quake damage in 1989 and was demolished not long after. The Strand itself hasn’t seen any action in many years.
The exterior of the Roxie has just been repainted, possibly for the first time in 30 years. It looks very nice now.
I understand that the Golden Gate was the last theatre in the Bay Area to have vaudeville shows. Supposedly they did these between the movies well into the late 1950s. Can anyone confirm this, or point me to the last theatre that did do vaudeville?