This painting of the Alexandria Theater really depresses us

"Alexandria" by Kim Cogan

“Alexandria” by Kim Cogan

As if passing by the living and breathing decay of the old Alexandria Theater on the corner of 18th Avenue and Geary all the time weren’t bad enough, now a local artist has decided to capture its essence in an oil painting.

Artist Kim Cogan recently put a limited run of prints of his “Alexandria” painting up for sale online.

Sized at 20″ x 17″, this keepsake can hang on your wall to remind you of decaying architecture and Richmond District blight. A bargain at just $75!

But all joking aside, we get what Cogan is going for here, and it is nicely painted. It just makes us really depressed about what could have been for the theater, and is a painful reminder that things can move much, much too slowly in this city when it comes to needed change.

“The painting was intended to be a bit of a conversation starter. This theater closed in 2004 and has remained dormant ever since. Why have older movie theaters closed and the property gone to waste?” Cogan wrote about the piece.

“I would pass by daily and observed it slowly decaying. It doesn’t make sense to me letting the property go to waste especially as real estate in the city is hitting an all time high.”

In fairness to the new owners, they’ve done a good job of keeping the building’s exterior clean and free of graffiti. Here’s hoping that something actually happens there soon; it will be 2 years in July since the property was sold.

Sarah B.

The Alexandria Theater, circa 1922. Courtesy of opensfhistory.com

The Alexandria Theater, circa 1922. Courtesy of opensfhistory.com


  1. Thank you for calling attention to this ongoing and exasperating issue for many of us in the neighborhood. The Alexandria Theater remains a historical centerpiece/icon of our Richmond district situated on an economically viable corridor. Yet, years of community feedback on its redevelopment/restoration has essentially fallen on deaf ears and nothing has changed. Sad and very frustrating indeed. Where are our supervisor and business leaders when we need them? Perhaps it’s going to take a grass roots neighborhood movement to see real change. If so, let’s organize and move things forward!

  2. I so agree, Richmond Neighbor. I am appalled by its deteriorated appearance. A big loss to the neighborhood too. Some nearby businesses also look run down. So depressing and maddening.

  3. What kills me about the situation is the economics behind the demise of the theater. The Alexandria was NOT loosing money when it closed. But since the property was controlled by a monopolistic money chain they figured out that if they closed it and forced everyone to go across town to see first run movies, they could make larger profits. It took 50 years but the movie folks managed to get around the SCOTUS 1948 United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 US 131 Decree.
    I know that a lot of the economic issues are due to changes in technology like TV and the Internet. But, I bet if local movie houses were truly independent, like the balboa, many more would have survived.
    Some, not all, of the blame goes to the city government. If they had just said no to multi screen movie houses then most of the neighborhood theaters would still be around. The choice for the move makers and distributors would have been to live with the neighborhood theaters or abandon the San Francisco market. They would not have as we all know.
    Too bad for the young kids. A neighborhood theater experience as part of growing up was a great one and one that cannot be duplicated by a shoebox multiplex or over the internet.

  4. Cogan is my fav SF artist… has been since he was in school. As much as I will miss this theater… I applaud Cogan’s amazing representation of the loss of a community centerpiece in our Outer Richmond. The last double-feature I went to was Last Samurai followed by The Butterfly Effect… a totally awesome 5 hours to spend at the Alexandria.
    Being a few blocks from the Balboa Theater is amazing. I will greatly miss the Alexandria as I do the Coronet (where Star Wars was test screened <— like ya didnt know).

  5. Interesting, but depressing, painting. I like that it seems like you are looking at the building from inside another, with rain on the window. That said, this building – right around the corner from me – really makes me sad. It closed within weeks of my moving into the neighborhood 12 years ago, and it is sad it remains in such a dilapidated state.

  6. I second everything already said and am glad to do so. I actually do like the look of dreary things and appreciate the artist’s talent, but the work this time happens to be personal as well.

    Last scuttlebutt I heard was about trying to turn it into a parking garage.

  7. But…but eric mar showed up with a news crew and made sure he was seen looking all concerned.

    Shouldn’t that have been enough to make everything all right?

  8. One would think with all the very high income folks buying into the neighborhood that a few of them could not come up with a pot of money to seed a not-for-profit to buy and restore the old theater. Given the land on the parking lot, I suspect that there would be a formula that could provide some housing that would subsidize the ticket gate on a restored Alexandria for an indefinite time. The issue is community support and fundraising for the capital expense to make it happen.

    Too bad we do not have anyone like David and Lucile Packard who purchased and restored the Stanford Theater in our neighborhood and set it up as a not-for-profit.

  9. Sad that the Richmond District community hasn’t been able, after all these years, to shame this development into action. The Alexandria is one of the Richmond’s funky architectural monuments. Why is this huge space being wasted?! It’s a crime and a rapidly deteriorating. Brakes my heart.

  10. An interesting example of the lack of leadership Eric Mar has provided for our district in the last 8 years…..

  11. Very austere in the 1922 photo before the metal sign. Notice also the bus-ready light rail tracks.

  12. gotta thank mahr for 8 years of twiddling his thumbs and worrying about your kid’s happy meals

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