West Portal History Walk: Empire Cinema


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Empire Cinema (CinéArts)

(formally the Portal Theatre)

Location: 85 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Opened: December 26, 1925

Although no architecturally significant structures have been designated on West Portal Avenue, the movie theater has been a fixture since it opened as the "Portal Theatre" on December 26, 1925. Local architect Irving Morrow (of Morrow & Garren) originally designed a more open entry courtyard for the theatre and business block, but much of his 1923 plan, including a Moorish style was carried out.

Renamed and re-opened on October 1, 1936 as the "Empire," it had its single screen split into three in 1974. In the twenty-first century it has been promoted as "CinéArts at the Empire."

Portal Theatre, later named the Empire, at 85 West Portal Avenue in 1925. - San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Playbill for December 1928 for Portal Theater (later Empire) on West Portal Avenue. Ads for Kohfield's Cleaning, Tuggey's Hardware, West Portal Pharmacy, and J.A. Robinson Quality Market. - Courtesy of Walt Von Hauffe

Empire Cinema, formerly the Portal and later CineArts, at 85 West Portal Avenue in 1966. - Courtesy of Jack Tillmany

Rendering by architect Irving Morrow for West Portal theater and shops at Vicente Street, 1923. - Irving F. and Gertrude Comfort Morrow Collection, Environmental Design Archives, UC Berkeley

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Page launched 22 January 2002