The Balboa Theatre (3630 Balboa Street, at 37th Avenue) was designed by brothers James William Reid (1851-1943) and his brother Merritt J. Reid (1855-1932). Two of San Francisco’s most prominent architects, the Reid Brothers and their firm created a number of San Francisco landmarks during the “City Beautiful” period. They are perhaps best known for many classic movie theaters, including the Coliseum Theater (745 Clement, 1918), the Alexandria Theater (5400 Geary, 1923), the Metropolitan (2055 Union, 1924), the Balboa Theatre (3630 Balboa Street, 1926), the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland (1926), the Fox in Redwood City, and Golden State Theatre in Monterey (1926).
On February 7, 1926, opening day of the New Balboa (so named to distinguish it from another theatre named the Balboa on Ocean Avenue), Mr. Samuel H. Levin stated: “In building theaters nearest the home it is my aim to provide entertainment for them of a standard worthy of family patronage. In the New Balboa, as in all my theaters, I seek to supply the comforts and intimate surroundings associated with the higher ideals of home life.”
From its opening through the late 1950s, the Balboa switched programs two to three times a week. In 1978, the Balboa changed from a single-screen to a mini-multiplex (two screens) and began offering quality second-run films booked in double features.
The Levin family continuously operated the Balboa until 2001. Gary Meyer, a film consultant, original co-founder of Landmark Theatres (1975), and Resident Curator for the Telluride Film Festival took over the Balboa Theatre in 2001.
The Balboa is a unique movie theatre, premiering not-from-Hollywood films, playing old but not forgotten locally filmed shows, and offering live performances at affordable prices. The current film of note is “Remembering Playland, the Story of San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach.” Tom Wyrsch’s full length documentary premiered on Tuesday, March 16th and continues to sell out.
There is a rotating art exhibition in the theatre lobby. The current art exhibition is This Into That, Jim Rosenau’s thematic bookshelves from vintage books. As the son and grandson of publishers, Jim was raised in a house with over 5,000 books. This Berkeley designer has been making and selling furniture made from vintage books since 2002.
For more information: Balboa Theatre information is available at www.balboamovies.com or 415-221-8184. Advanced tickets to Remembering Playland are available at the Balboa box office and online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/100972. Information about Jim Rosenau’s vintage book furniture is available at www.thisintothat.com.