Its funny how fast news travels these days. Ten years ago, a notice on the agenda of the San Francisco Historic Preservation Committee Meeting would have taken some time to propagate. Nowadays with the Twitter-connected universe, the news seemed to spread in seconds. We were planning on making a formal announcement of our intentions to embark on a massive historic renovation of the New Mission Theater when more of the advance legwork is done, but since the news has more or less broken, I wanted to fill everyone in on some of our plans.
First off, San Francisco is my favorite city in the world. My parents met there, I was born in Berkeley, and my wife was working in the city before I begged her to come help me start my first theater venture in Bakersfield, CA. There is no accident that the first theater outside of Austin that my wife and I will own and operate is in San Francisco.
An old college friend of mine put the bug in my ear about the availability of the Mission about a year ago. Shortly afterwards, when Alamo programmers Zack Carlson, Lars Nilsen and myself were in San Francisco on a recon mission, we first scoped out the theater and the neighborhood. A preservation non-profit that I oversee, the American Genre Film Archive, purchased the San Francisco holdings of the Tai Seng 35mm Film Archive (hundreds of 80s and 90s Hong Kong action and genre movies) that was going to be thrown away. We were there to inventory, box up and drive it back to Austin to our archive holdings. I immediately fell in love with the New Mission Theater, and we quickly set plans in motion to make a deal with the owner to renovate and restore the property.
We are planning on a full and complete historic renovation. Even though our plan is to subdivide the balconies into small boutique theaters, we will be doing it in such a way as to preserve nearly all of the amazing architectural details of the space. We would still preserve the massive downstairs screen and transform that space into a potential premiere venue with state of the art sound and picture. We have been working hand-in-hand with the both historic and neighborhood groups to make sure that our restoration plans meet with their approval. The great news is that the theater interior is largely in good shape. A large percentage of the interior details have been preserved and even most of the light fixtures are intact.
About a month ago, I took my camera and toured the interior and took a lot of photos. I’m not a professional photographer and there was almost no light, so these are a bit grainy, but I am sharing these photos
with you now to give you a sense of the grandeur that awaits with the New Mission Restoration. We still have many permitting and planning hurdles ahead of us, so we don’t have even a target date to get this done, but I promise I will be keeping everyone up to date on the progress. In the meantime, I invite everyone to become a fan of the Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission Facebook Page
. We will be posting our updates there about construction, details on the historic renovation, stories from the long and wonderful history of the New Mission that we are researching as well as proposed programming ideas.
Speaking of programming, our intention is to operate this much like our flagship Ritz Theater in Austin, Texas
. The Ritz was also a historic renovation, where we turned the defunct 1929 single-screen movie palace into a 2-screen Alamo Drafthouse venue. We will be featuring a mix of classic film programming, our unique alternative content and live events, foreign films, independent films as well as some studio films. Just like in Austin, we will be eager to partner with any and all film festivals and film appreciation groups who are interested and will be making the space available to neighborhood schools and community groups. We will be hiring a local San Francisco programming staff when we get closer to opening , so like-minded movie nerds please stay tuned, we will be hiring!
I am unbelievably excited about this project and I hope everyone in San Francisco is too. If you have specific suggestions, ideas or concerns for us about the project, please let us know on Facebook. We are always open to suggestions, especially from our (hopefully) new neighbors.