San Francisco’s new historic home for the performing arts
Once a movie theatre for members of the US Army and their families, the historic Presidio Theatre is now reborn as a home for dance, theatre, music, cinema and performing arts of all kinds.
Built in 1939 by the U.S. Army with WPA funding, the Presidio Theatre sat just around the corner from the parade grounds at the Main Post.
The original Spanish Colonial style architecture, with its wide arches and flat stucco surfaces, was meticulously maintained during the building’s later renovation.
The Presidio Theatre served as an entertainment hub for the military and their families for nearly six decades, screening movies and hosting live events or radio broadcasts.
“My father and I came here 45 years ago to watch Hal Holbrook do Mark Twain,” recalls Board Chair Peggy Haas. Notable performances also included Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Marlene Dietrich, and Loretta Young.
When the Army left the Presidio in 1994 and turned over the land to the National Park Service, the Presidio Theatre showed its last film, “Maverick,” on August 28 of that year. It was then left vacant for over twenty years. As one of the few non-residential buildings to retain its original floor plan and use through its life, the theatre was also one of the last on the Main Post to be rehabilitated.
Excavation under the building doubled usable space inside the Theatre, including large dressing rooms, a lower lobby, and rehearsal studio. Two new wings accommodate catering facilities, green room, and loading area surrounding an outdoor plaza. Through true feat of engineering, the proscenium arch was moved forward to increase stage depth and ramps coming off the stage into the house provide a link between performer and audience.
Made possible with a donation by the Margaret E. Haas Fund and in partnership with the Presidio Trust.
The Presidio Theatre reopened its doors to the public in September of 2019 and has since presented performing arts of all kinds, including Te Mana O Te Ra, Andrew Evans and The Children’s Theatre Association, pictured above. The Theatre is also available as a rental venue and has hosted events ranging from holiday parties to conferences and film screenings.