View of El Rey Theatre from Victoria Street in Ingleside Terraces. - Courtesy of Jack Tillmany

El Rey Theatre

Location: 1970 Ocean Avenue at Victoria Street, San Francisco, CA

Opened: November 14, 1931
First film: "The Smiling Lieutenant" starring Maurice Chevalier

Closed: April 1, 1977

Architect was Timothy Pflueger (other San Francisco works included the Castro Theatre, Roosevelt Junior High, and Lincoln and Washington high schools.)

Spanish-Colonial Revival style was extremely popular in the surrounding neighborhoods of Ingleside Terraces, Mount Davidson Manor, and Balboa Terrace at the time of the El Rey's construction. A Spanish name ("The King") was chosen and Pflueger mixed Spanish elements with Moderne style in the design.

Neighborhood theater mogul Samuel H. Levin spent $500,000 constructing the 1,830-seat theater.

For thirty years the building was used by the Voice of Pentecost church, and the monumental 146-foot tower painted with a cross by the church. Pflueger intended the tower top to be a beacon in the foggy neighborhood, with a directional light charted by aviation authorities. Even without its original green and red neon lights, the El Rey is still the major Ocean Avenue landmark, visible from Mount Davidson to Merced Heights.

The El Rey building was purchased by a group of investors in 2015. The building (also home to the first GAP retail store in 1967) was granted landmark status by City Hall in 2017. Future uses are currently under consideration by the new owners.

(Thanks to Jack Tillmany and Therese Poletti for most of this information.)

View east to El Rey Theatre and El Rey Food Shop. [Jack Tillmany Collection SC9], 1947 - Photographer Unknown (Courtesy of a Private Collector)


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