Posts Tagged ‘movie palaces’

The El Rey Theatre to come back as a movie palace for a night

October 31, 2011

Ad for the El Rey Theater in November 1931 in the "San Francisco News"

The El Rey Theatre, the former movie palace that still towers over Ocean Avenue and parts of Ingleside Terraces, is turning 80 next month. To celebrate the anniversary, the Voice of Pentecost, which bought the building in 1977, is hosting a fund-raiser, and the organizers will be showing the same film that was featured during the Moderne theatre’s gala opening on November 14, 1931. This time, the movie, “The Smiling Lieutenant,” starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert, will be shown in a digital format on a large screen on the stage.

It should be a fun night. The organizers include the Ingleside Light newspaper and the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse project. The proceeds from ticket sales, which cost $25 each, are going to benefit the Geneva Car Barn project. The evening begins at 7 pm, with a talk given by architect Joshua Aidlin, whose firm Aidlin Darling Design has prepared plans to restore the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, a non-profit youth arts project. The goal is to turn the 1901 building that powered and housed electric street cars into an exhibition and events hall, with classrooms, an auditorium, kitchen and cafe by 2014.

A brief description of the architecture of the theatre, which was one of the last movie palaces designed by architect Timothy Pflueger, will be discussed by yours truly, with a few photos to compare and contrast the El Rey Theatre with other theatres designed by Pflueger at the same time: the Paramount Theatre in Oakland and the Alameda. One unusual feature of the El Rey is its massive stepped tower, which still stands today at 146-feet high. Once glowing with red and green neon tubing, the tower gave the theatre a skyscraper-like appearance that can still be seen from various spots in Ingleside Terraces. As you can see from this old 1931 ad promoting the opening, when the theatre was complete it had a beacon at the top, which was used to warn airplanes of the tower in the fog. The beacon also seems to have served as a built-in klieg light for the surrounding neighborhoods West of Twin Peaks.The El Rey’s big birthday party will be celebrated at the theatre at 1970 Ocean Avenue on Saturday, November 19 from 7 pm til 10 pm, with food, wine and live music. For more info, email info@elrey80th.com or call 415-215-4246.

Don’t miss this rare chance to see a film in the old movie palace again. “The Smiling Lieutenant” was also nominated for Best Production, the early Academy Awards equivalent of Best Film, in 1931.   In addition, authors and theatre experts Jack Tillmany and Gary Lee Parks will be joining me in selling our theatre-related books at special discounts to attendees (Tillmany has written Theatres of San Francisco and Theatres of Oakland, and Parks has written Theatres of San Jose).  A new book that they co-authored,  Theatres of the San Francisco Peninsula, recently published by Arcadia with many photos from Tillmany’s collection, will also be available.  All of these theatre books, and my Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger, make excellent holiday gifts.

Sun dial in Ingleside Terraces, with the El Rey tower seen beyond the trees.

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Next talk on Pflueger to be in a Pflueger

November 15, 2009
Alameda Vertical renovated

Renovated Alameda Theatre

This is a tad early for a save-the-date notice, but a special lecture is coming up next year. 

In January, I will be doing a talk on architect Timothy Pflueger for the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society. As a special treat, the lecture will take place inside the Pflueger-designed Alameda Theatre, resplendent since its $15.2 million restoration in the heart of downtown Alameda.

The lecture will cover Pflueger’s humble beginnings as a son of working class German immigrants to his rise as one of the city’s most prominent architects of the 1920s to the late 1940s.  Many of Tom Paiva’s gorgeous photos from our book Art Deco San Francisco will illustrate the evolution of Pflueger’s work — from his early training in the Beaux-Arts style to the exotic movie palaces such as the Paramount and Alameda, to more streamlined work of the Great Depression, to the first inkling of modernism in buildings like the Transbay Terminal.

Because of the special venue at the Alameda, which was dark as a movie theatre for nearly 30 years before its grand 2008 reopening, the slideshow presentation will include some discussion of the restoration project. The nearly $40 million project included building a new cineplex connected to the historic theatre, constructing a parking garage and the restoration of the 1932 theatre.

ADSF25a Alameda Seahorse

Alameda interior

Alameda Architectural Preservation Society members are free. Non-members are welcome for $5.00, and books will be available at a discount.

Please come to the talk on Sunday, January 24 at 6:00 pm, especially if you have not yet been inside this incredible theatre, which can again be called a movie palace. 

If you can’t wait until then, there are plenty of first-run movies playing now. In addition, the Alameda Theatre is offering a classic film series in the historic theatre, starting off this week with “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Other films in the series include “The Bishop’s Wife” and the holiday  favorite, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”


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