KTVU and Chronicle cover Alexandria Theater; interest from Alamo Drafthouse?

Other media outlets in the city have covered the Alexandria Theater blight recently.

On Tuesday night, KTVU News aired a segment on the theater’s ongoing decay, showing reporter Katie Utehs easily walking through an unsecured alley door onto the property. Much of the segment is spent talking to a man who lives in the Alexandria’s back parking lot in a camper.

On Wednesday, the Chronicle published “Once-glamorous S.F. theater now neighborhood eyesore”, which included this encouraging quote from Mary Woods of the Planning Department: “The property is supposed to be maintained,” she said this week. “I think they have not been doing an adequate job, so our code enforcement section is working with them.”

Also this week, Supervisor Eric Mar commented on our Facebook page about interest from Alamo Drafthouse in the Alexandria Theater property.

“Many months ago I connected the owners with reps from the Alamo Drafthouse & Cinema who contacted me. The owners took a long time responding but they are in communication,” Mar wrote.

Alamo Drafthouse is known for giving new life to old theaters, and for providing a unique combination of theater and restaurant, showing first-run & independent films and special programming events with an extensive menu.

Founded in 1997, the chain has resurrected old theaters in Texas, Virginia, Michigan, Kansas, Colorado and soon, in our own Mission District.

The Mission District location is slated to open in Fall 2014 in the historic New Mission theater at 2550 Mission, and “will feature five screens of new release movies, independent and repertory films as well as the Alamo’s unique signature programming” according to their website.

“A movie theater by fans, for fans… The Alamo is not your everday, average movie theater,” according to CEO & Founder Tim League.

You may recall their video that went viral a couple of years ago which features a voicemail they received after a patron was kicked out during one of their screenings in Austin because she violated the no texting / no talking rule during a show.

Many residents have expressed concerns about trying to open a theater in the Alexandria again, but perhaps a formula like the Alamo Drafthouse could make it a viable option.

On May 19th, Supervisor Eric Mar, members of the Planning Department and other representatives from the neighborhood will conduct a walkthrough of the Alexandria Theater property with management.

One goal of the walkthrough is to determine if the owners are in violation of their entitlement agreement in which they are required to adequately maintain the property. If the ownership group is found to be in violation, the Planning Department could take actions which would significantly decrease the value of their property.

Whether they are in violation is hardly up for debate. All you have to do is look at the 90+ day old graffiti on the building, note the unsafe conditions around the exterior, and examine the historic murals inside which from photo evidence from 2012, we know is already damaged if not irreparably.

The question is will the city give them several more chances by “working with them” to try and correct issues, allowing this game to continue? Or will the city finally lay down the law and make the owners suffer financial consequences for their past decade of negligence?

It’s no secret what the neighborhood wants.

Sarah B.


  1. From the Chronicle article:

    Who’s responsible: Ronald Yu, project sponsor for owner Alexandria Enterprises, LLC: (415) 793-2722, ronald.g.yu@gmail.com.

    Complaints can be left on the city’s 24-hour code enforcement hotline: (415) 575-6863.

    I have a feeling that man’s mailbox is about to be inundated…

  2. The Alamo Drafthouse being interested in our theater is AMAZING news. They have a great reputation and really care about their theaters and the theater experience. You can bet they will restore the crown jewel of the Richmond to its former glory. I’ve been buzzing in Eric Mar’s ear for a long time trying to get him in contact with the Alamo Drafthouse ever since I heard about the New Mission, I guess it finally worked 🙂

    To anyone that’s not too sure about this I highly reccomend you visit the New Parkway Theater in Oakland or the Sundance Kabuki Theater in Japantown for a taste of what the Alamo Drafthouse can bring to our neighborhood. You won’t be dissapointed. Under the Drafthouse’s management the Alexandria could become a magnet for new businesses in our neighborhood, an attraction that can bring people from outside the Richmond to spend money on Geary street and help fill our empty storefronts. Get ready folks, this could be the start of a new era in our neighborhood!

  3. And don’t forget to email the address that Cath posted if you support this plan and let the owners know IT IS TIME TO SELL.

  4. If NIMBYs can stop a theater from being reopened as… a theater, then we’ve lost all hope.

  5. But, doesn’t the Alamo Drafthouse interfere with Eric Mar’s proposed legislation to not allow businesses with 11 or more stores in the US to open up shop here:


    Looks like he is pro graffiti, slum neighborhood because he doesn’t want any national shops to open at all. Sorry, I’d rather take any viable business than the empty vacant store fronts that dot the city. You have to be realistic.

  6. @5 that’s the definition of chain store under the CURRENT law. But thanks for playing.

  7. @7 You know Eric and the other Stupidvisor never met a business suffocating law that they don’t like. So you can say whatever you want but he only got on the stick after people started complaining to the press.

  8. Way to go throwing shade at well respected business, Mar. The neighborhood would be lucky to have them move in, get with the program!

  9. I think there are some important distinctions to draw between the New Mission theater project and this building. Alamo decided to locate there because the area was becoming a really popular destination. I’m doubtful that Alamo will be as willing to risk money and time into restoring this theater. There needs to be a stronger draw to the area. For the Mission it was not just their strong cultural identity, but also all the new housing being added.

    I’m not necessarily saying that we need to densify the Geary corridor, but with the ongoing housing crisis and Geary BRT looking more likely, it’s a discussion we need to be having. 6 story buildings would be appropriate for Geary if they included nice storefronts and money for transit along the corridor.

  10. Joel, what “strong cultural identity” is in the mission? White people eating “ethnic” comfort food? I agree that the Aves don’t yet have the throngs of self-centered, millennials with disposable income to make it profitable. However, I am one who will fight to preserve the the authentic culture of our neighborhood so it’s never white-washed with parklets and unjustifiably expensive food.

  11. Hazbeen, I think the Mission’s thriving Latino population would take offense for not recognizing them. Gentrification isn’t a binary condition.

    You’ve implicitly made the argument that adding housing inherently destroys culture. I think the opposite is actually true: adding housing reduces the chances that an existing population will be displaced. As a lifelong Sunset resident, I’d encourage you to reconsider the way you’re framing this issue. I’d much rather we allow new residents to move in and coexist with us than attempt to exclude them – that just seems like a losing battle.

  12. This is not a gentrification issue. This is a displacement issue. This is an issue about privilege.

    Mar is, and has been keeping big box retailers from developing in the neighborhood to keep the local economy suppressed (re: old Walgreens, Alexandria, etc.). He then moves in smaller businesses that cater to the whimsy of his target voting demographic (“progressives” and die-hard liberals, transplants, etc.) to re-create the San Francisco they imagine it should be, rather than the San Francisco that is. These smaller businesses don’t have the economies of scale large enterprise have, so they end up charging more for their goods and services (that, or they keep prices jacked up to maintain a luxury image to keep the poors out).

    This then further reinforces their progressive fantasy of a Western Paris by the Bay, replete with cute little cafes, sidewalk seating, boutiques, and so on. To maintain this white-washed image, the higher prices charged by these venues conveniently outprice the Asian/Russian immigrant and aging Irish populations. In the long run, your 1BR apartment with a family of 4 from Southeast Asia is going to get priced out of the neighborhood, and some pseudo-progressive millenial with a liberal arts degree will move in and rally for more parklets to be put up.

    How many self-entitled idiots have loudly complained about the English illiteracy of old immigrant ladies who accidently get on the 31AX during the morning commute?

    How many first generation immigrants do you see at Simple Pleasures, and how many hipsters do you see frequenting Golden Chariot?


    When places like Cassava

  13. (cont.) open, everyone applauds their small business for innovation, neighborhood vibe, etc. When Safeway wants to expand, everyone hisses and boos. Nothing wrong with either venue, but some families can’t afford $7 for a serving of “Granola + Yoghurt + Fruits.”

    If you’re going, “Well they shouldn’t live here if they can’t afford it,” then you aren’t really a progressive liberal who embraces the City for all that it is. You’re just an elitist a-hole.

  14. Well said Drew. Cassava and probably the newest bakery/cafe that will sprout up next to Crown Hardware is really going to jack up prices in the neighborhood. But that’s what Eric Mar wants because these are the people who will support his pet projects (no cars, more parklets, more bike lanes, no parking etc.). I really hope Balboa doesn’t turn into a chi chi place but it looks that way.

    To add insult to injury, Cassava started off good enough but they jacked their prices and shrank their portions. How pretentious is this?

    By the way, there’s news on today’s Examiner that they are going to raze the Mel’s Drive in to make room for apts: http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/multi-story-residential-building-could-replace-sfs-last-original-mels-drive-in/Content?oid=2799412

  15. Having lived in Austin for 15 years and frequented the original Alamo Drafthouse many time (the original was forced to move locations a number of years ago). I loved the place. They are a lot like the New Parkway, except that you actually order your vittles and bevvies from your seat and their libation selection is greater.

    I doubt they will entertain the idea of taking over the Alexandria. As much as I love my neighborhood, the demographics of our neighborhood would likely make the project not all that lucrative for the Alamo Drafthouse. The SoMa and Mission Districts do have the audience that the Alamo caters too. Additionally, it is “cool” to go to these areas for those who live in other districts. Unfortunately, many people in the City do not view the Richmond this way.

    However, if the Alamo Drafthouse will take on the project, I will be first in line when it opens.

  16. I love the Alamo ! The best, every time in Austin ~ we try our best to get there. Really a treat .

  17. I love the Alexandria and would love to see it preserved but in its current state, I don’t know… Maybe someone would buy the historic interior elements and incorporate them into a different project? I was way more hopeful about the project last year and the year before that, and the year before that…

    I’ve also wondered why a college/university (USF maybe?) doesn’t buy it and turn it into an arts center for the school and greater community. Might be cool. They could invite local public schools to share the space for events like school plays, concerts, stuff like that.

  18. This idea is a pipe dream distraction by a supervisor (Mar) who is feeling the heat. There is a reason why the theater closed down in the first place. Given the way people get their movie entertainment these days (at home), a theater will not work unless it is in an area with a denser population. Getting the BRT onto Geary and encouraging the building of more housing in the neighborhood is important for local businesses and residents. Whether this gets accomplished or not, it will be too late to save the Alexandria. We need a supervisor that can work creatively with businesses and government, not one that creates phony issues like chain store restrictions.

  19. Being a native of San Francisco, Drew, your words are greatly appreciated and it is good to know that residents like you are out there!

    Have any of you considered that we already have two wonderful theaters in the Outer Richmond in the 4 Star and the Balboa theater?!?!

    I don’t think another theater is the answer. The answer lies in creating something that the whole community can benefit from not just those with the money, the latest app, the youth, or the English language skills.

    What has happened in the Mission is truly sad and I hope not what people want for the Richmond District as a whole Inner or Outer. People, this is like Shawcroft’s macrame monster hanging in all its heavily soot laden glory in the Embarcadero Station. It used to be a vibrant orangeish color, but now it is as dark as the underground tunnels Bart and MUNI move through. I think it should continue to hang, cleaned or not. It has become a part of that station the same way the Alexandria is a part of the Outer Richmond, but we need not trade either in for something newer and brighter just to avoid the reality that we all don’t like confronting the fact that things even ourselves get old and still need to be appreciated.

    Yours in Time,

    Mr. Foggy

  20. If anything I think that the Alamo taking over the Alexandria could actually help protect the 4Star and Balboa by raising awareness of our smaller theaters and establishing the Richmond as a cinema destination, a neighborhood that exists as an alternative to the multiplex. I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not, but neighborhood theaters have being going dark all over the city in the last few years.

    Flyers, posters and cross promotions between the three theaters could help all three coexist. There’s no reason these theaters should be competing with each other. Having a successful cinematic anchor in the neighborhood can help keep the smaller Balboa and 4Star from the same fate as the Bridge, Lumiere, or ya know, the Alexandria.

    I too am nervous about a “mission-ification” of the Richmond, my home and favorite place in the city. I don’t think that’s what anyone around here wants. But a parklet or a fancy movie theater isn’t the end of the world. A parklet is a public seating area, not a harbinger of doom. Anyone can sit there, no purchase from its supporting business necessary. Take a break while pushing your stroller, let your kid draw with chalk. That’s why its there. And a theater is there to relax and watch a movie. That’s for everyone, not for some new class of hipster/techie/yuppie. Movies are for everybody. And personally, I like seeing movies here in the hood, rather than having to go downtown, and so for me the more theaters, the more movies. I suggest you all relax and watch a movie.

  21. The Alamo is a distraction. Making a phone call means nothing. Even if pigs did fly and Alamo decided it would take the space, it will be at least 3 years until it would open.

    Take it down. It’s past it’s useful life. Build housing.

    And while we are talking about the glorious Mr Mar, the anti chain laws are killing the Richmond’s retail scene. Why do I have to go to the Marina or downtown to go to popular retail stores that I like to shop at. To me it is anti-American to restrict free market choices to what the people in an area want to shop at.

  22. Outer Richmond is not cool – and it is seems to be getting less so through many initiatives that our Supervisor Mar sponsors. Grocery Outlet? Massage parlors for face slapping? More discount stores? We have very view interesting businesses like on upper Clement or Height, or upper Irving; almost no greenery, it is dirty. We have only few nice street cafes to spend time admiring the street life, not to mention there is little to admire with all the garbage and Alexandria. Instead a row upon row of ‘ethnic” groceries and eateries and empty front stores. How many Russian dellies with 3 day old salad Olive and ‘kasha’ does this neighborhood need? I know a lot of people resent changes happening in this city; it is gentrification, and it is a bad thing. But that is the reality of things, and no amount of social engineering is going to stop it, it would only make it worse. So we can either benefit from the latest ‘boom” by bringing in businesses where many people would want to shop and eat when visiting the parks and the Ocean beach, or become the city dump for things and businesses that other hoods spit out.

  23. Agreed with Franz, it is time to focus on solving what our City really needs which is more housing. Tear down the Alexandria and build condos with mixed use space on the street level. The Alexandria might have been preserved and restored years ago, but that time has long passed. If anything the Coronet theater was a much more impressive theater using advanced digital technology/sound, lush interior architecture, and cinematic significance that even famous filmmaker George Lucas praised. Yet, despite all of these qualities the Coronet was utterly demolished and rebuilt to serve the greater needs of the community. In comparison the Alexandria was not as impressive on all fronts. Also it rarely had lines around the block, but the Coronet did on a greater frequency too. Bear in mind with newer more convenient technical advancements in home entertainment and affordability of scale, more theaters are struggling to stay afloat. Does anyone recall what happened to all of our foreign cinemas during the 90s? Almost all were driven out of business due to decreased sales and most closed down during the VHS to DVD wars. So why again should the Alexandria a previously insolvent theater with far less architectural significance be preserved?

  24. @drew
    Hey there, being mean to millennials and liberal arts grads won’t solve any problems. What’s wrong with young people wanting to be a part of the life of the community? Just some young people are recent transplants to the region doesn’t mean they are any less of a part of the community. Creating a decisive attitude doesn’t help us move forward.
    It’s pretty easy to blame newcomers for rising rents and gentrification, but the reality is that most of the problems in our community are a cumulation of stubborn housing policies and other nimby attitudes. A lot of it has to do with people resisting change instead of working with it.

  25. There are tons of customers for the Alamo Drafthouse – with USF nearby there’s plenty of customers. I see them all over Clement St in the evenings.

    And one day maybe we’ll have a proper subway system in this city with a line that runs down Geary, when that happens there will be no problem having businesses.

    Unlike the Mission, I enjoy how our neighborhood allows so many varied types of small businesses to thrive side by side. I have no problem not having big box stores. I like that the old Walgreens is now going to be a sports center better than we needed a Petco. B&B, while a tad grumpy, has the BEST cat supply section of any pet place in town.

  26. @Derek Those places creep me out, the one on Balboa that took over Movie Crazzzz (which I miss very much) is super sinister feeling.

  27. The Alamo Draft House Theaters are really quite nice; they deploy a dinner/movie ambiance with good flicks/chow/beer. They draw a good demographic. That said, would Alamo really want to engage in the kind of cross-promotion with the Balboa and the 4 Star that was suggested up-thread? I don’t know, but I don’t imagine that would happen unless there was a film festival using shared theater space. What would this mean for the Balboa and 4Star. As it is, unless the proposed 200-seat theater slated to go into the Alexandria is VERY careful about creative programming and marketing, it may end up struggling. (note: Also, sometimes wonder how the 4 Star manages to stay afloat. I go there about once per month; I really like that place, but note that it is family owned and (mostly) family run – they’re good people. Note that the parking just down the street from the 4 Star is up for sale – it’s zoned for mixed use. I have a feeling that the 4 Star’s owners are not in it for the long haul. That’s just my gut – I hope they are. Very little has been done to improve the space. We’ll see.

    Also agree with up-thread comments about the evolving nature of the entertainment business.

    As for the onslaught of massage parlors – it’s outrageous. This isn’t about “free market” *anything*. Without disparaging all massage parlors – some are legitimate – there are WAY too many massage parlors that are advertising ridiculously low prices. We all know why that is, don’t we? It’s because they want to get the customer in the door and hope that s/he will pay for “extra services”. What bothers me even more when I walk by so many of these massage parlors is how many of the workers in those places have been tricked or manipulated or trafficked into working as a masseuse. Just imagine saving your money for a year in an overseas sweatshop that gets you a ticket to America, but when you get here you find out that there are add-ons that you weren’t told about – and that you still owe money for – and if you don’t pay up they will go after your relatives back home – and, oh, yeah, the “job” you were promised didn’t materialize, but “we do have a masseuse position open for you”. You get the picture. This is OUTRAGEOUS! Pragmatically, there will always be sex for sale. That said, I can’t believe that our public officials don’t know what is going on at many of these places and why they are not raided on a regular basis, with help offered to persons who are found to be manipulating or trafficking human beings. What really burns me up is that the slime that traffic human beings often have their victims so scared about what will happen to their family back home that it’s all-to-often difficult to get victims to talk. All that said, SOMETHING should be done! It’s just WRONG to let these fly-by-night sex-trafficking businesses continue. Mr. Mar?

  28. CORRECTION: I mean that help should be offered to the VICTIMS of trafficking, not the perpetrators. My bad.

  29. @eddie g I hear ya! Just out of curiosity I walked by ‘Warmer Massage’ and guess what? It’s STILL open!

    ‘Clement St. Service Center’ is now ‘Blue Sky Training School’ with absolutely NO idea *WHAT* training they provide.

    @ Phil mar is waaay too busy having his picture taken handing out proclamations and such. The latest being the one for Green Apple as noted on this very site.

    Yet he *DOES* have time stuff like this





  30. Any news on the City Inspection yesterday?

  31. @4thGenRichmond – Sorry, we haven’t heard anything definitive other than it did take place, and Channel 2 was there interviewing Supervisor Mar.

    Sarah B.

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