Jan 31

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Wondering What’s Left of the Avenue Theater’s Auditorium? See for Yourself

What’s behind the newly refurbished facade of the Avenue Theater?                     Photo by Arthur Koch

Now that the facade of the Avenue Theater has received a complete renovation, the question we keep hearing is “in what condition is the interior?”  The auditorium space was briefly reopened to the public for a sneak peek during last year’s big sign unveiling event.  Many, including myself, were expecting to see a creepy, crumbling, cobweb covered space but to our surprise, the old movie theater is in decent shape all things considered.

Much work would still need to be done to bring the 1927 structure up to modern building codes but arguably the most important architectural features and decorative elements are still largely intact.  Art Deco style handrails and plaster moldings remain in place as well as the upholstered wood seats and stage.  Notably missing are the colorful Deco murals that once washed the walls and ceiling of the space, painted over by the church congregation that briefly occupied the dormant movie theater.  It’s assumed that the murals lay under the top coats of paint and we’ve been told that they could be uncovered and brought back to life.

Checkout the photo gallery below and try to imagine the space covered in colorful 1920’s artwork. The relatively good condition of the auditorium makes an even stronger argument than ever before, to preserve and reuse it as a performance space.  No plans along these lines have been announced yet but we remain hopeful.

Avenue Theater Auditorium Gallery

Historic image showing the theater's interior. The architecture we see int he photos today looks to be exactly the same, just needs better paint.

The interior of the Avenue Theater after its 1940 renovation. Note the nymph motif in the Art Deco murals.

The Avenue Theater’s auditorium in 2017, most of the architectural elements remain including the murals under layers of paint.   Image created with multiple shots by Arthur Koch

Permanent link to this article: http://portolaplanet.com/2018/01/wondering-whats-left-avenue-theaters-auditorium-see/


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  1. Barry Koron

    In the late ’70s I produced a benefit there to defray the cost of Wesla Whitfield’s medical expenses.

  2. lindalitehi

    I was fortunate to attend a program at the theater in the late 1970’s and see some movie shorts from the 1930’s. So I find the potential of this building so exciting! I can’t wait to see what the future of this theater can be. The neighbors have made an amazing start. It would be great to have a chance at preserving one of the few remaining original movie theaters left in San Francisco. I am a frequent patron of the Castro and Balboa theaters–so hope springs eternal that we could have a real theater for events and movies in the South East part of SF. Fingers crossed!
    Linda L

  3. Gary Lee Parks

    Just a little clarification: The murals in the vintage photo above are not from the 1920s. They are part of a circa 1940 redecoration, along with the surviving central chandelier. The etched glass panels too, were part of that redecoration, though the mahogany door frames do date from the Twenties.

    1. Alex Hobbs

      Thanks for the clarification Gary! It would be great if we could find some better images of them or uncover a section.

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