The Roxie Theatre

3117 16th St. | map |

Opened: 1913 or 1914 as the Poppy Theatre. This 80s view is from the Jack Tilmany collection. The location is on the south side of 16th just west of Valencia. To the right is now an annex, the 49 seat Little Roxie at 3125 16th St.


Architect: Alfred I. Coffey

A facade elevation from the set of plans for the building that are in the Gary Parks collection. See eight more images from the blueprints down at the bottom of the page. 

Seating: When it became the Roxie in 1933 it had 300 seats. It currently seats 238.

City records give a 1913 construction date for the building but it's not in the 1913 city directory. In the 1914 directory Philip H. Doll is listed for this address with his business as moving pictures. In 1915 the Poppy is mentioned by name with Phil. H. Doll as the proprietor. In the 1916 and 1917 directories the Poppy is listed but there's no listing for Mr. Doll.

It was the New Sixteenth Street Theatre from 1918 to 1920, the Rex from 1920 to 1926, the Gem Theatre from 1926 to 1930, the Gaiety from 1930 to 1933. It's been the Roxie from 1933 onward. A couple blocks east on 16th is another theatre once called the Sixteenth St., the Victoria.

A comp ticket for the Poppy. It was found in a wall during renovations the theatre was doing in 2020 to make its restrooms ADA compliant. Thanks to Lex Sloan for sharing it in a post on the BAHT Facebook page.


An article that appeared in Boxoffice on June 5, 1961 about the theatre's time as a German language house operated by Maury Schwarz. Thanks to Bob Ristelhueber for locating it for a post on the BAHT Facebook page.

Later in the 60s and into the 1970s the theatre was in a "shabby adult" phase. This ad appeared in the Q3 2011 issue of Marquee, the publication of the Theatre Historical Society.

A repertory policy started in 1976.

In early 2019 Lex Sloan was named executive director. See a February 2019 Hoodline story by David Elijah-Nahmod for details of her plans.

The theatre reopened in July 2021 after the Covid shutdown. See the 10 minute documentary "Local Theatre reopens after 434 Days Closed." It's on YouTube from Jump Cut. Thanks to Adam Paramore for spotting it.

Interior views: 

The lobby in 2021 after a remodel. Thanks to TJ Fisher for the photo, taken during a visit to the theatre after its post-Covid reopening. His photos were posted on the BAHT Facebook page.  

Another lobby view. Photo: TJ Fisher - June 2021

A look toward the screen in a photo from the Jack Tillmany collection. He comments on the "Roxie-O-Rama" 'scope presentation at the theatre: "No way they could make it one inch wider. I only saw five minutes of a revival of  'Trapeze' (1956) there once. Just as you see it here, the image was full screen, no top masking, so decided to leave.  But they do bring in the sides a foot or two for standard ratio."

 A photo that appeared with a February 2019 Hoodline story about the theatre by David Elijah-Nahmod. 

The auditorium in 2021. Photo: TJ Fisher. 

A 2022 photo from TJ Fisher appearing in a post on the BAHT Facebook page. Thanks, TJ!


An auditorium detail. Thanks to Gary Parks for his 2022 photo. He comments: "I'll venture that this arched ventilation grille, and its mate on the other side of the screen, date to the Twenties. Neither they, nor the angled walls they are on, appear in the blueprints of the theatre as first built."

Up in the booth:
The back of the booth. It's a 2022 photo by Gary Parks. He comments: 
"My thanks to Roxie Executive Director, Lex Sloan, for allowing me to go wild photographing lots of plaster details in this room--which was originally the top half of the ticket lobby and the facade entry arch--but is now the rear portion of the projection booth. Here, one can see part of the original entrance arch. Note the sockets for stud lighting--typical of nearly all nickelodeon fronts and lobbies."

A detail of the house left corner. Photo: Gary Parks - 2022


The house right side of the original entrance arch. Photo: Gary Parks - 2022. Thanks, Gary! 
More exterior views:

A c.1922 look west on 16th St. from Valencia. The Roxie is over on the left. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for the photo from his collection. Early views of the theatre are scarce.

 A detail from the photo above.  Gary Parks comments: "And the upper half of the original lobby survives today, above the present entry ceiling, and adjacent to the booth."

A view west on 16th in 1977. It's a photo in the San Francisco Public Library collection.

A 2010 photo by Thomas Hawk appearing with "Neon Dreams: 16 old theater marquees around the Bay Area," a February 2018 article on Curbed SF.  

A 2012 photo by Lynn Friedman appearing with "Neon Dreams: 16 old theater marquees around the Bay Area," a February 2018 article on Curbed SF.

A 2014 Chronicle photo appearing with "The big screen, no not your TV: over 100 years of San Francisco Theaters," a March 2016 SF Gate photo portfolio. 

A look up the vertical. Photo: Gary Parks 

Another signage detail. Photo: Gary Parks

A vertical shot from Bill Banning that appeared with "The big screen, no not your TV: over 100 years of San Francisco Theaters," a March 2016 SF Gate photo portfolio. 

A photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez that appeared with G. Allen Johnson's April 2021 Chronicle story "Several S.F. indie movie theaters ready to open for an uncertain summer."  The theatre was planning a May 21 opening.
Images from the theatre's plans in the Gary Parks collection:  
The architect's information from one of the sheets. The "A" is for Alfred.

At the top we have sections through the auditorium and the store spaces. At the bottom it's a transverse section and a facade elevation. 

The 16th St. facade. Gary comments: "From this drawing, which shows elevations of both the auditorium and the commercial space (two stores) next to it, you can see how well the space for the stores easily lent itself in recent years to becoming a second screen for the Roxie. And it's very clear how little the top half of the theatre's facade (and that of the stores, for that matter) has changed over the years."

A closer look at the theatre's facade.
On the left we're looking toward the auditorium with the booth front wall above and the standee rail on the main floor. Gary comments: "Quite a decent basement under the whole structure. Floorpans show metal panels in the sidewalk in front of the theatre and the stores, where cargo elevators were included."

A section view of the ticket lobby and projection booth. Gary comments: 
"Note the high ceiling and walls of the ticket lobby, trimmed by plaster ornament. Later, the little windowed wall separating this high area from the projection room was removed, and a dropped lobby ceiling extended out to the property line, also creating a floor for a much-enlarged projection room. It remains this way, and the plaster ornament, much seasoned by the passage of time, still survives in what is now the rear half of the projection room. 
"The back of the facade arch is also mostly intact and visible in this space—though concealed on the exterior. Jack Tillmany and I were interviewed in this room for a documentary on early San Francisco movie houses, which—as far as we know—never was completed or exhibited. But it was worth it to be able to spend some time in what has to be one of the most quaint projection booths in the whole city."

The floorplan of the auditorium with the store spaces at the right. Gary comments: "It's interesting to note that in these drawings there is no indication whatsoever of the present walls flanking the screen, which turn inwards a but, and are adorned with little ornamental vent grills of gilded plaster. The room as drawn is boxy and completely unadorned. I had thought that those little arches on either side of the screen looked more twenties than 'teens, and it looks like I was right."

A closer look at the theatre entrance and unisex restroom. Gary comments: "And here we see the theatre has one toilet. Sorry folks, those two other toilets in the back of the building serve the stores!"

The toilet facilities for the two retail spaces. Gary comments: "Not only did the theatre have only one toilet, but these two toilets which serve the stores are OUTSIDE in a concrete-floored back yard! Good thing they included drainage in the event of a clogged commode. Let us hope the stalls had doors. It’s also assumed that this situation was improved for both the theatre and the stores, long ago." 
Thanks, Gary!

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures pages on the Roxie and the Little Roxie. The Mission District Theatres album on the BAHT Facebook page has many more photos of the Roxie.

| back to top | San Francisco Theatres: by address and neighborhood | alphabetical list | list by architect | pre-1906 theatre list | home |  

No comments:

Post a Comment