San Francisco's Film and Theater Scene

San Francisco's Film and Theater Scene

  • Jack Ryder
  • 01/24/23


The Castro Theatre is a favorite San Francisco theater for film festivals, sing-a-longs, and live performances. Built in 1922 by Timothy Pflueger, it reminds me of the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix where I gave tours for seven years out of high school as a volunteer, prior to escorting Carol Channing on one arm, and a woman who had been at the original opening in 1929 on the other, for the opening night of Hello, Dolly!  While Phoenix had one such theater, the San Francisco Bay Area has many. I've written and lectured on the Alcazar Theatre designed by Scottish architect, T. Paterson Ross in 1917. Pflueger also designed the Moorish Alhambra Theatre (c.1926) in Russian Hill near my house, now a gym facility. 

The Alexandria Theatre has been in the news the last few days after its crumbling marquee had to be removed. Closed and neglected since 2004, it could become the site of new housing.

I have enjoyed live performances at the Orpheum Theatre, the Sydney Goldstein Theater (formerly the Nourse), Golden Gate Theatre, the Curran, and the Toni Rembe Theater (formerly the Geary).

I took several classes through City College of San Francisco on the American Art Collection at the de Young Museum, and we met in the Gunn Theater (formerly Florence J. Gould Hall) at the Legion of Honor Museum where I have also attended small opera productions. I was also a member of the Ancient Art Council, and our lectures were held in the Gunn. 

Other favorites are Club Fugazi in North Beach, which hosted Beach Blanket Babylon for 45 years, the Marines Memorial Theatre, Swedish American Hall, Roxie, Victoria Theatre, Presidio Theatre, the Clay, which closed last year, the Vogue, the Yerba Center for the Arts, the Walt Disney Family Museum Theater, Herbst Theatre, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, SF War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Jazz Center, Regency Center, Punch Line, Cowell Theater, Bimbo's 365 Club, The Fillmore, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and Bottom of the Hill.

San Francisco's vibrant and varied film and live theater options are just one of the reasons to love San Francisco.


Film Festivals

Of the more than 38 annual film festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have supported and enjoyed attending Frameline, Berlin & Beyond, Mostly British Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, Tiburon International Film Festival, Napa Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival for many years and have seen hundreds of interesting films - some not so great, however, I haven't even scratched the surface! 

The Noir City Film Festival (January 20-29), formerly hosted at the Castro Theatre, is taking place at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland this year for the first time in its 20-year history. Two of my favorite noir films are Alfred Hitchcock's, Dial M for Murder and Rebecca. Though they are not part of the lineup for this year's Noir City, the 24-film extravaganza focuses on the heart of Hollywood's noir movement, 1948. Every film on the roster is celebrating its 75th Anniversary, including Key Largo, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, which opened the festival on Friday. 

Click here for a complete list of San Francisco Bay Area film festivals. 


Favorite Films

San Francisco is featured in so many movies, it's easy to create your own list. I've included my top picks below. 

Barbary Coast (1935) * After the Thin Man (1936) * San Francisco (1936) * Maltese Falcon (1931, 1941) - 1941 is the better version. * Flame of Barbary Coast (1945) * Dark Passage (1947) * My Favorite Brunette (1947) * The Lineup (1958) * Vertigo (1958) * Petulia (1968) * The Birds (1963) * Herbie Rides Again (1974) * Big Trouble in Little China (1986) * Star Trek IV (1986) * Pacific Heights (1990) * Basic Instinct (1992) *  Sister Act (1992) * Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) * Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) * The Rock (1996) * The Game (1997) * The Presidio (1998) * The Princess Diaries (2001) * Blue Jasmine (2013) * The Age of Adaline (2015)