info on the loews warfield theater : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

need info on the warfield theater/fox warfield/loews warfield theater

-- William horn (, February 01, 2002


Well, what do you want to know about it? It was built in 1929 and it was torn down in 1963. It's location was near Civic Center where the Fox Plaza stands today. The architect was Thomas Lamb. William Fox was the guy who started movie theaters. It was originally named Capital Theater and then had the named changed. The reason they first wanted to call it capital theater is because the owners of the property wre capital company which was owned by A.P. Giannini who owned all the land around civic center. William Fox leased the theater for 6 million dollars for 25 years. I know a lot about this theater since I was in it for one thing but it all comes back in bits and pieces.

-- Harry Murphy (*), February 02, 2002.

This is in reply to answer given.The Warfield is at5th and market and still has shows to this day.

-- BIIL HORN (, February 03, 2002.

Sorry, I thought you were referring to the more Famous Fox Theater. Regarding the Fox Warfield Theater on 982 market street between 5th and 6th, sometime in the early 1960s, I saw a double feature in that movie theater. One of the movies was King Kong and the other one was a fantastic Western which I never saw again nor ever found out the name of but which was one of my very favorites. It opened up with a sheriff chasing down an outlaw on horseback at breakneck speed. The sheriff caught up to the outlaw and they had a struggle in which the the sheriff was killed. The outlaw took the sheriff's badge and identity and went into a town where the town then made him the new Sheriff. Later on his outlaw buddies came into this town but he had now reversed rolls and was true to his sheriff's identity and arrested or killed his outlaw buddies. I wish I could find out that name of that movie but apparently there were quite a number of outlaw becomes sheriff type movies at that period. You all got to remember that something like one out of every 4 or 5 movies during that period was a Western.-- Anyway, the Fox Warfield theater on 982 Market Street was first owned and built by Marcus Loew. Marcus Loew made it big with penny arcades and eventually owned hundreds of movie houses all over the country. And in 1920, he bought Metro Movie Company and then shortly thereafter bought the Goldwyn movie and the Mayer movie company to combine it into the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie company. Loew built the Loew-Warfield in about 1922. The Warfield part of the name came from his best friend, an actor by the name of David Warfield.--Now what happened was that William Fox, who also had made it big first with nickelodeon and then movie houses made it even bigger when he formed a silent movie company in about 1915. In 1928, he decided he didn't like the competition and wanted to completely monopolize the movie industry theaters and so he started buying out all the major movie theaters in the entire country including all the major movie theaters in San Francisco. Yes, he had that much money to spend. But the problem was that he had tons of money invested in the stock market at high margins and so when Black Monday came in 1929, he lost almost all the money he ever had. Though he tried to bouce back, he just couldn't and so he declared bankruptcy. Somehow a guy named Darryl F. Zanuck got the rights to Foxes films and created Twentieth Century Fox Films. I don't know all the business details. Later Zanuck had financial trouble and then sold the whole thing to Rupert Murdoc who also owns Fox Broadcasting. Oh, how I would love to meet Rupert Murdoc since we both have a very common legal problem regarding a swindler that both of us share except I don't have the hundred thousand dollars or more to pay lawyers to do anything about it and he could if he wanted to. But then again he's already tried to sue with no luck. I don't know for sure if Murdoc owns the Fox-Warfield today or if that division was sold to someone else. Remove * to email

-- Harry Murphy (, February 06, 2002.

One thing you should research is the original plan for the Warfield Theatre. It has been years since I looked up information on this building, but the scenario went something like this..... The Theatre, as the SF Flagship for MGM, was to have been much larger and much grander. If you stand in the auditorium and look from the stage to the back of the room you will see that it looks sort of "chopped off" as opposed to most of the truly large theatres of that era. It was choppped off. There was a dispute over the parcel of land they were planning to use which lay just behind the auditorium and was to have been the "back half" of the theatre. They were unable to obtain this land and had no other recourse but to build on what they had which meant it had far fewer seats than originally planned for. It may have accounted, however, for the fact that being a smaller auditorium meant lower overhead and possibly contributed to the fact it still exists.

There was also a lively speakeasy in the basement and under part of the sidewalk during prohibition. When I was a telephone repairman in San Francisco, I used to enjoy looking at the ornately painted deco designs that still existed as late as the early 1990's - and possibly still do - bearing mute testimony to the speakeasy portion, when my work called me down there. If you are interested in this, the people who ran the place as a rock venue were fairly friendly and might let you take a look. Ask them, it can't hurt.

I have a poster advertising Loew's Warfield - Mammoth Stage Revue - Fanchon & Marco's Follies of 1933 - and would be glad to take a digital photo of it and email it to you if you wish. It is my understanding that the "Follies Girls" were housed at the Warfield Hotel which is about a block behind the Theatre and is built from the same handsome brick. It wasn't uncommon for large theatres to have special hotels for their acts to stay in. The hotel is one of the worst dives in the Tenderloin today, however. Rumors of its being haunted are well known.

-- Bruce Paddock (, April 16, 2003.

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