Opened: This Outer Sunset district theatre opened in 1926 as the Parkview, a project for Ward Cox and George Hustin. The construction was announced December 12, 1925 and
it was running in May 1926. The location is between 46th and 47th Avenues. Thanks to Doug Depue for this photo of the theatre and the adjoining Cine Cafe. It was a post on the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered.
Architect: Edward A. Eames. A set of the original blueprints is in the Gary Parks collection. See eleven images from them down at the bottom of the page.
It was renamed the Sunset in 1937. It became an art venue as the Surf beginning July 24, 1957 after a remodel by owner Isabella Strohmeyer. Mel Novikoff took over a couple years later and continued that programming model for decades.
His Surf Theatres group also operated the Clay,
Lumiere, Castro and Surf Interplayers with a mix of foreign films, specialty releases and revival/repertory policies. He also briefly operated the Bridge, Stage Door and Cannery theatres.
A 1963 Surf program. Thanks to Matías Antonio Bombal for sharing this image of the cover on the BAHT Facebook page.
"Loved that theater and its little café!" -- Marco Place
"And those wonderful Dutch orange chocolate bars they sold in the lobby. My mother took me to see a double bill of 'Forbidden Games' and 'Bicycle Thief' back in 1963 when I was 8 years old and I remember it as if it was yesterday." -- Ethan Nielson
"The trek out there on the N Judah primed you to enjoy whatever miracle you were going to see. And they were miracles." -- Charlie Cockey
The Surf in the Movies: It's the theater where Woody Allen watches "Casablanca" at the beginning of "Play It Again, Sam" (Paramount, 1972). Herbert Ross directed. Dianne Keaton co-starred.
Outside in front of the Surf Cafe.
Michael Blythe notes:
"The main offices for the Surf Theatres chain were kitty corner across the street from the Clay Theatre!"
More exterior views:
A 60s view of the Surf by Greg Gaar that appears with the Ocean Beach Bulletin article. Kevin Walsh commented: "Actually, no later than 1962, judging by the yellow 1956-issue license plate on the car at the right. In 1963, everyone was issued new black plates." One source dates the photo as 1964. A version of it is in the San Francisco Public Library collection.
A Jack Tillmany photo taken in the 70s that appears on the Western Neighborhoods page about the theatre. The photo also is on the Growing up in SF's Western Neighborhoods Facebook page. The photo is also with Woody LaBounty's Ocean Beach Bulletin article on the Surf.
A 70s shot of theatre operator Mel Novikoff in front of the building. It's a photo from a Surf Theatres Archives scrapbook. It was probably used as a publicity shot as "Surf Theatre" is stamped on the back.
A detail from the photo with Mel from the Surf Archives. The posters in the cases are for "The Story of Adele H" (1975) and "Amarcord" (1973).
An 80s look at the Surf by Jim Cassedy appearing with the Western Neighborhoods page on the theatre.
Thanks to Gregory Kiner for a 2015 look at the famous art house, sadly now a church. He posted the view on San Francisco Remembered as a comment to a post of a 70s view of the theatre.
Details from the set of prints in the Gary Parks collection:
Facade details. That's the boxoffice in the lower left. Gary comments: "The facade is drawn as it was built, except for the very significant difference of the lack of the Mission style outline of the top cornice. Here, it's square. I think the decision to change it to the Mission shape was a good one."
A look toward the proscenium. Gary comments: "A pretty plain proscenium at the get-go…and NO organ chambers! Must have had a tiny Photoplayer down front, or a piano." It's noted on the drawing that there was no screen. It was to be a painted area on the plaster back wall.
A section through the unexciting back of the auditorium. The booth is seen in the upper right.
A detail of the plaster ornament on the side wall.
A plan of the front of the auditorium showing the stage and orchestra pit.
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