Coliseum Theatre

745 Clement Street,
San Francisco, CA 94118

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jwmovies on September 22, 2022 at 2:13 am

BTW the Loma Prieta Earthquake brought the house down this one! LITERALLY! RIP COL! 😇😇😔

jwmovies on March 22, 2022 at 4:39 pm

Ah just like the old Cinema 21! At least the top floor is a movie theater AKA Marina instead of stupid expensive townhomes. Isn’t that what everything SOMA is there for? 😍😍

stevenj on July 2, 2021 at 9:09 am

Hi bigjoe59…seem to remember a discussion about this (Titanic) but cannot find the comments on either the Presidio or Marina theater pages here which are the 2 theaters on Chestnut St. - Titanic played at both. I saw it at the Presidio, G. DeLuca posted a pic on the Marina page from when it played there. The first THX installation in SF was at the UA Galaxy on Van Ness according to a Feb 2018 comment on the AMC Kabuki page.

bigjoe59 on July 1, 2021 at 2:19 pm

Hello Again from NYC-

to stevenj I have a question I hope you can help me with. there was a large single screen movie theater on Union or Chestnut Sts. that was the 1st theater in the country to have a THX sound system installed. when I was out in SF the first week of May 1998 the theater was still playing Titanic which had opened Dec. 1997. which theater was it?

bigjoe59 on June 30, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Hello from NYC-

to stevenj thanks for the info. whether in NYC or SF when grand old movie theaters are gutted or repurposed its usually for retail. this is the 1st instance I’ve come across in either NYC or SF where a grand old movie theater was turned into condos.

stevenj on June 30, 2021 at 8:31 am

bigjoe59 - I’ve uploaded a screen shot from google maps to Photos of the Coliseum. The ground floor is now a Walgreens. The rest of the building has been turned into condos.

bigjoe59 on June 29, 2021 at 10:01 am

Hello from NYC-

the last thing the intro at top says is that the theater was gutted in 2000. since it says it was gutted rather than demolished what is it being used as today?

sfinthe80s on August 18, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Sad to hear that the building has been converted into Walgreens today.

rivest266 on July 29, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Grand opening ad in the photo section.

dallasmovietheaters on January 19, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Launched November 22, 1918 just after WWI with Mayor James Rolph commending new owner Samuel H. Levin and his 700 patrons for the fine playhouse. A Robert Morgan organ entertained the crowds once inside followed by the Coliseum Orchestra.

cath61 on January 28, 2013 at 11:39 am

It was turned into a Walgreen’s with expensive living space above (a 2 bd, 1200 sf, apt sold for $800,000 last year). Sad but at least the building wasn’t ripped down like so many others. Just turned into housing that no one can afford.

YolandaAnneBrown on March 1, 2012 at 5:47 am

I went to see The Blues Brothers here so many MANY times!

kencmcintyre on January 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm

There was a fire at the Coliseum on July 2, 1935:

The Coliseum Theater at Ninth Avenue and Clement Street, one of San Francisco’s largest neighborhood theaters, was swept by a major fire causing undetermined damage early today. An unidentified motorist at 2:30 a.m. notified a special policeman two blocks from the playhouse that he had seen smoke issuing from the building as he drove past it. An alarm summoned firemen, who broke down the heavy doors of the main entrance. This action, they said, resulted in a draft which caused the entire balcony section of the theater to burst into flames. A second alarm brought additional men and apparatus to the scene and a stubborn battle against the flames began. Five hours later the battle was still in progress.

Reports from the scene said the whole balcony section of the theater had been destroyed and the main floor seriously damaged by smoke and water. Valuable projection and sound equipment also was lost, the report said. The origin of the fire had not been determined, but fire department officials expressed belief that it was caused by a carelessly discarded cigaret in the balcony section, where smoking was permitted. The theater is owned by the San Francisco Theater Corporation, with offices at Taylor Street.

fats88 on May 13, 2006 at 10:23 pm

Oh yeah, the last film that I saw at the coliseum, was Predator in 1987; a lunch and a movie date.

fats88 on May 12, 2006 at 6:09 am

I grew up on the Presidio,( 1976-81 ) and used to sneak through a hole in the fence that put you on 15th ave. and Lake, rather than go all the way around to the Lincoln/25th ave. entrance. Through the summers of 1976-‘77 my buddies and I saw many films at the Coliseum, the Coronet, and the Alexandria. The Alexandria was a particular favorite place because of the Atari Gand prix game in the lobby. I remember seeing the Sorcerer, A bridge to far, a double feature of both the Godfather and the GodfatherII !, and more that I can’t recall at the moment. The last film I saw there was The adventures of Yellow dog in 1994. A few years ago I was walking in the richmond, and was devastated to see the coliseum just after they finished a phase, the building was gutted, no insides, no roof just the outside walls, I just stopped and stared, just seeing it like that …and just like now as I’m typing this,it made me cry. It made me remember not only the films I saw there, but also the buddies and girlfriends I went there with. Remember the line in the classic film Vertigo that the tycoon said to James Stewart’s character “ The things that mean San Francisco to me are quickly disappearing ” I guess this happens to all of us who live long enough.

kencmcintyre on December 26, 2005 at 2:09 pm

Here is another photo from Bryan Krefft’s aforementioned link:

kencmcintyre on December 21, 2005 at 4:04 pm

This is a photo from 1944. The theater is on the right:

View link

kencmcintyre on October 29, 2005 at 10:17 am

From the SF Public Library website:

View link

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 10, 2005 at 5:39 pm

In the mid-1920’s press adverts show the Coliseum Theater being operated by the Samuel H. Levin chain of neighborhood theatres, San Francisco Theatres Inc.

gsmurph on June 27, 2004 at 10:48 am

Though the interoir is hollowed out and gone, Coliseum’s status should be “Closed,” not “Closed-Demolished.”

gsmurph on June 9, 2004 at 12:35 am

Not demolished yet—-just “Closed.”

Falkenberg2001 on April 24, 2004 at 11:13 am

I saw the opening of Superman here. Somehow I got so excited it set off a seizure and had to have help walking to the bus a short block away.

Always wondered what they were going to do with it after the ‘89 quake. Ever notice that drugstores seem to have money to put drugstores in theatres and wonder why they couldnt restore one for a change…:(

George Senda
Concord, Ca

Tillmany on November 30, 2003 at 1:07 am

The opening date of the Coliseum was November 22, 1918.
The official seating capacity was 2047 seats,
not 3000 as posted above. By the late 1980’s
the upstairs portions of the theatre were deemed unusable,
allegedly because the fire escapes therefrom were no longer safe.
The building was severely damaged by the October 17, 1989 earthquake, and closed permanently as a result of the damage.
The shell of the original building remains, with portions of
the facade restored to their original design, while, inside,
the interior has been remodelled and converted to condominium apartments.

GaryParks on January 11, 2003 at 1:17 pm

The architects were Reid Bros.

The original decorative feel was an eclectic blend of Arts and Crafts and Italian Renaissance, with hints of Moorish. The Mezzanine featured faux fireplaces and furnishings worthy of the finest bungalows. Later, sometime in the Twenties, the theatre underwent a slight redecoration, but the most significant remodeling occurred c. 1930 at the hands of LA architect S. Charles Lee. The predominantly silver and black “high art deco” interior scheme could be called a budget version of the interior of Lee’s Fox Wilshire in LA. In any case by the end of the decade, perhaps being deemed too distracting, the decor was toned down considerably, with the rich ornamental art deco plasterwork fronting the organ chambers remaining, but repainted along with the entire interior, in subdued colors with Greco-deco nudes painted along the sidewalls. The lobby was drastically redecorated in the Sixties, with the main floor being reseated around the same time. At some point the balcony fire escapes were deemed unsafe, and so for the remaining years of the Coliseum’s operation the vast balcony was kept closed and became a sort of time capsule, with seating from the 1930s remodel undisturbed, along with the carpet.

I visited the closed Coliseum in 1995 through a connection in United Artists, and was able to photograph the entire interior. Even though it was day, we turned on the vertical sign and marquee for the photos. This was likely the last time they were ever on.

When the theatre was gutted in 2000, everything was gutted to the bare walls, though four of the nude goddesses on the auditorium walls remained, and were sealed behind new concrete shearwall. One of the huge auditorium chandeliers (there had been eight), and one of the small under-balcony hanging fixtures were rescued from destruction during the demolition process, and were subsequently beautifully restored and sold. Likewise the etched glass windows on the Mezzanine from the 1930 remodel which were hidden behind later drywall were saved.

At least the outside of the building still looks obviously like a theatre, with facade ornament intact and a simple marquee holding the Walgreens sign (the ground floor retail tenant). All the upper floors are housing.