03 May, 2009

Movie Palaces of Mission Street

Taking advantage of an unseasonably rainy Sunday, I took a stroll to visit a few buildings that seem to look better on a gloomy day; the abandoned movie palaces that line the "miracle mile" of Mission Street. Second only to Market Street in its heyday, Mission St. featured several grand theatres showing second and third run pictures. All have been closed for years now and are in various states of decay. Some saw a second life as churches or discount stores, one (the El Capitan) has been a parking lot since the 1960s. The undisputed queen of the street is the New Mission Theatre. Designed by the Reid Bros. in 1916 and remodelled by Timothy Pflueger (architect of the Paramount in Oakland and the Castro Theatre in The City) in 1932, The New Mission ceased showing films in 1993 and did time as a low-rent furniture store. Recently it was designated City landmark #245 in an effort to save it from demolition by SF City College. Plans for restoration have gone nowhere, though. The (mostly intact) interior was recently vandalized by know-nothing ravers who gleefully posted their "work" on flikr (sigh, I'm only linking this so you can leave a nasty comment on their page!). There's nothing quite so sad and evocative as an old, abandoned movie house, at least that's true for me.

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