Palm Theater

1705 Palm Avenue,
San Mateo, CA 94402

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Showing 26 - 50 of 88 comments

lvmstar on July 18, 2005 at 10:16 am

I believe the family has some shots of the pile of rubble taken last Monday or Tuesday, we’ll try to get them online soon. We were just discussing the many memories of the family yesterday. Also, we will try to get some family photos from the 50’s & 60’s of the family working there up soon.

FJennings on July 18, 2005 at 10:05 am

The Palm is VERY much gone. I drove by yesterday, hoping to get a photo of the scar in the ground that once was a theater, but the entire lot is now a graded field of fresh soil. Stacked near what used to be the entrance, is a pile of very large steel I beams.

Fast work men!

FJennings on July 13, 2005 at 6:46 pm

MagicLantern and Ivmstar thank you for those thoughts. They were great. Sad to see history, however minor, shipped off to the landfill. Hope the neighors are pleased with their new apartment complex. Like the SF Bay Area really needs another crappy apartment building.

Did anyone get a shot of the wall murals? The times I ventured into the place, it was so dark inside I couldn’t make out what they were.

Oh, and Ivmstar – tell your husband to visit the Stanford theater on University Ave in Palo Alto if he wants to once again smell that theater smell. It’s GREAT!

FJennings on July 13, 2005 at 6:37 pm

Here’s a link to a not so great shot I found online of the etched mirror behind the counter: View link

Here’s a link to a night shot of the Palm, also found online: View link

Thanks to the anonymous photographer who took these shots.

lvmstar on July 13, 2005 at 11:24 am

Well, it’s a very sad day for the Sullivan Family. My husband’s grandfather had owned and operated The Palm way back before it became an adult theater. I often see pictures and hear great stories of how all the children worked and played there over the years. Sadly, we were not able to get there in time to get one last glimpse of the beauty it was. Though I believe some family members had been there over the last year. My husband always talks about how he remembered the smell, sounds, and especially the etched mirrors & phone booth from his childhood. If anyone has more pics or info on where some of these memorabilia ended up, please let me know.

MagicLantern on July 12, 2005 at 12:02 am

A Survivor’s Story.

I first found the Palm as all good neighborhood theatres should be found: completely by accident. A couple of years ago, visiting the Bay Area, on an unscheduled pit stop, the way to the freeway was lost and in a bid to find it, a corner was turned and BAM came the Palm, looming in the windshield and seen briefly in the rear-view mirror before the brakes were smashed and the car parked – all the better to see you, my dear. Having found out about the final evening of the Palm on this very site, I went to the final evening of The Palm with my girlfriend, having made friends with the guy behind the counter – likely the friendly fellow people initially encountered when they entered; he’d been working there and the Burbank since 1991 – and knowing that the final evening of screenings would be important indeed, seeing as this was the last neighborhood theatre converted to straight porn left in California (there’s still the Tomkat in West Hollywood), however. Initially the manager was standoffish but was very kind when he discovered our intentions to document the Palm’s last night were pure; we got some shots of the projection booth, and many of the lobby interiors – except for the interior of the theatre itself, which was simply too dark and the house lights weren’t due up until midnight. We’d have to leave early, so we never got those shots; possibly the former manager or the other employees took some after the videos ended.

I recorded the final schedule off the answering machine, as well as tape-recording 45 minutes worth of sounds during one of the screenings. The regulars were truly, sincerely sad that this era was ending – it had caught them too suddenly to bring in prints of things like “Deep Throat” or “Behind the Green Door” – yet there was a celebratory air as people filtered through the theatre and the employees took our photographs and vice-versa. I even brought my raincoat in honor of the occasion, and was photographed in it. Yes, at one point, my girlfriend was prodded by a man sitting behind us – she promptly told him off and that was that – and couples who came in either had people approach and sexualize them, or tell them in no uncertain terms to buzz off. I find going to pornographic theatres a rather furtive, taxing affair – despite my stylish and sartorial exterior, I know I’m a square but I don’t care who gives me stares. Having someone masturbating near oneself during a film is a weird experience, to say the absolute least (despite our over-sexualized society, sex in an adult theatre becomes a discomfiting situation due to its immediate reality). That said, the patrons were generally respectful of our personal space, which took off some of the edge. There were swingers doing unspeakable things in the partition behind the screen. A faint mist descended from the cloud cover, making the neon spelling out P-A-L-M even more aethereal. It’s always sad when a theatre dies – this one, despite what the realists say in this newspaper or that, was no exception – and on driving away, there was a feeling not unlike spending an afternoon with a relative one knows is terminally, irrevocably ill.

FJennings on July 11, 2005 at 3:42 pm

Actually, I drove by on Sunday and there was one etched panel still on the facade, but it looked like it had been damaged when they tried to remove it, so they left it be. From the look of the rubble, it seemed like the Palm was a well build structure, with reinforced concrete walls.

I agree with lanajean; I know that progress is important, and not everything needs to be saved, but it’s sad to see simpler times bulldozed over.

Lana on July 11, 2005 at 3:34 pm

Magic Lantern, as a female I was always too scared to go inside the theatre itself to peek at the historical building. I once walked in there with a girlfriend and saw the mirrors and the deco bathroom signs, and the old fashioned built in phone booth cubbyhole. We talked to the guy at the ticket counter inside, and there was a cool porthole style opening to another room, like a window behind him and it was pink and green also if I recall. But I never got any further, it was too seedy. I would love to see your photos of the inside of the theatre since I never got to.

Lana on July 11, 2005 at 3:27 pm

I guess what I saw getting wrecked wasn’t the Palm mirrors!! I am very happy to hear that!! I guess it must have been the twisted ruin of the locked cases that once held signs for coming attractions.

ANTKNEE on July 11, 2005 at 3:26 pm

Thanks for the photo DSTNE….funny, it’s not anything at all as I imagined it!

Lana on July 11, 2005 at 3:22 pm

I stood awestruck today as the wrecking ball hit the Palm Theatre over and over again. I was saddened that the mirrored palm facade was left intact for the wrecking ball to destroy. A pile of wooden rubble and the back wall was all that stood before I took off. It was so sad to see another of our historical structures die when there are so many empty apartments as it is. There is a hole there now, and it looks so strange to me. I imagine there will be a gaping ugly structure soon enough. I’m a ten year San Mateo and drove by this site every day, often on my bike. Patrons never bothered me and I always felt safe. There were even days when I would just park across the street to eat my lunch and look at the building, although I’d be the first to admit it has seen better days!! But I will miss that little bit of neon, that swirling front tile entrance, and the look of history on the horizon. Palm Theatre, rest in peace.

FJennings on July 11, 2005 at 3:10 pm

Here’s a link to a nice image of the Palm.

View link

FJennings on July 11, 2005 at 3:05 pm

July 11, 2005
RIP Palm Theater

ANTKNEE on July 10, 2005 at 5:48 am

Here’s a free online picture host that you can link to:

FJennings on July 10, 2005 at 4:32 am

I have a very nice B&W photo of the front of the Palm that I saved from the online version of the local paper. I’d post it here, but seems the Add Photo feature of this site has been broken for a long time. Give me the URL to another website and I’ll upload it there.

ANTKNEE on July 9, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Great! I was hoping that someone would catalog this theater. Will you be posting the pix on a website?

MagicLantern on July 9, 2005 at 8:42 pm

I was there with my photographer on the last night of business.

ANTKNEE on July 9, 2005 at 8:25 pm

Has anyone taken any pics, before or during the demolition?

FJennings on July 9, 2005 at 7:14 pm

Thanks Gary. Happy to hear that something will be saved from the place. It wasn’t the grandest of theaters, but it’s still sad to see these little, neighborhood places torn down. I recall driving by one night during a light rain, and the neon PALM sign looked magical. That lighted sign was the only bit of excitement in an otherwise bland row of cheap houses.

GaryParks on July 9, 2005 at 11:11 am

Just got a call not yet an hour ago from my friend who is both a theatre buff and in the antiques and architectural salvage business. He called me on his cell from the exterior of the Palm, as he had just come down from having been up on a rented boom in order to remove the neon and metal channel letters from the South side of the theatre’s sign tower. The letters came off successfully, though it was a hair-raising operation. The letters on the North side had earlier been removed by someone from Ohmega Salvage via a ladder placed on top of the entrance canopy. This person apparently thought it too risky to remove the letter “M,” which was unreachable, so there it sits. The successfully-removed complete name from the South side of the sign tower will be carefully restored—my friend is a perfectionist—and likely sold. He also salvaged the box office etched window. The etched palm branch mirror panels which framed the exterior poster cases were removed by the owner for donation to the local history museum. My friend has also rescued door signs from the restrooms and the lobby phone booth, as well as two display cases which had been stored behind the screen.

My friend has been told that the wrecking claw will begin its work on Monday the 11th.

“Sic transit gloria cinema San Mateo.”

FJennings on July 7, 2005 at 4:05 pm

Drove by today on my way to the market. A workman was outside, removing the etched palm panels. I guess the end is near.

FJennings on June 2, 2005 at 11:00 am

Yesterday I drove by the Palm. There is now a fence surrounding the entire theater; in readiness for its destruction. The neon PALM sign is still in place, as are the numerous etched glass palms panels that decorate the theater entrance. Hope someone saves those panels; they’re very attractive.

paulchace on June 2, 2005 at 10:11 am

One small correction: the figures etched in glass behind the concession counter were not the seven dwarves but kind of generic dwarf-like figures all engaged in making candy. I have some photos of the figures along with some shots of the marquee at night which I’d be happy to share.

MagicLantern on May 16, 2005 at 3:33 pm

They still had admission tickets for the Burbank on their final evening.

scottfavareille on May 16, 2005 at 1:38 pm

The Xanadu is in Oakland on 2nd and Broadway about a block from Jack London Square. Indeed it is still open & shows porn on 2 of its 3 theaters(the third has been turned into peep booths)—It was a mainstream sub-run house prior to going XXX in 1975(and was originally called Jack London Square Cinemas). The others that haven’t been torn down or turned into other uses are now “live sex show” houses ala The O'Farrell in San Francisco.

In the end, the Palm was operated by the same operators who operated the Burbank before its(forced) closing.