Alexandria Theatre

 

Alexandria Theatre. Photo courtesy of Robby Virus on Flickr

5400 Geary Boulevard
Built 1923
Reid Brothers

Brief History

The Alexandria Theatre opened in 1923 by Samuel Theatre Levin, a San Francisco movie entrepreneur and his brothers Alex and Joseph. At the time of the theater’s opening in 1923, it made news as the first theater in the area to use a sloped floor. The building stands out within the Richmond district due to its large physical presence and unique Egyptian Architecture. Capitalizing on the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, the architects for the building, the Reid Brothers, designed the Alexandria Theatre with a stylized Egyptian theme, mixing elements of ancient Egypt, Minoan culture, and classical detailing. The Reid Brothers designed 20 theaters during the 1920s and 30s; many of these theater buildings in San Francisco remain (although in some cases are not operating as theaters), such as the Balboa, Metro, York, Avenue, and New Mission. In 1941, it underwent extensive remodeling, emerging totally Moderne, with only the original stone pillars on its corner facade still exhibiting evidence of its original Egyptian roots.

Interior of the Alexandria Theater 1942. Photo courtesy of SF Public Library

The Alexandria remained a single-screen theater until United Artists Theater Co. bought it in 1976 and created two viewing rooms by closing off the theater’s upper seats with partition walls. Regal Entertainment acquired the bankrupt United Artists in 1998 and operated the Alexandria. It closed on Feb. 16, 2004, one week after being sold to a group of investors, Alexandria Enterprises LLC, which owns it today.

Current Project Background

Rendering of the Alexandria Theatre project. Photo courtesy of Elevation Architects

 

The proposed project would adaptively reuse space in the Alexandria Theatre building and construct a new residential mixed-use building with underground parking on the site of the theater’s adjacent surface parking lot.  The project would include residential and retail uses, a boutique movie theater, a full-service restaurant, and a two-level underground parking garage. The theater and restaurant would be in the existing Alexandria Theatre building, while residential uses would be in the new building. Both buildings would include retail/commercial use.

The city issued a Preliminary Mitigated Negative Declaration (PMND), which documents the determination of the Planning Department that the proposed project could not have a significant adverse effect on the environment. The project is still under review by the city.

Heritage Position

Heritage submitted joint written comments with the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the PMND in January 2011. While we support the reuse of the theater and have no issue with the infill development, we expressed concern at a proposed floor at the mezzanine level cuts the character defining volume of space in half.  The proposed restaurant space could be reduced and the mezzanine level be pulled back so a significant portion of the historic volume is retained. We would also support a concept that places the restaurant on the ground floor with only the theater on the second floor, thus opening the entirety of the volume to a restaurant use.

Heritage Comments

January 24, 2011 – Joint comments with NTHP on Alexandria Theatre PMND

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