CineArts at the Empire

85 W. Portal Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94127

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Cinemark

Architects: William I. Garren, Irving F. Morrow, Bernard G. Nobler

Styles: Moorish

Previous Names: Portal Theatre, West Portal Theatre, Empire Cinema

Nearby Theaters

Empire Theatre, San Francisco

Built in the Moorish style, the Portal Theatre was opened December 26, 1925. Renamed Empire Cinema it reopened October 1, 1936. On June 26, 1974 it was divided into three screens. On September 12, 2003 it was renamed CineArts at the Empire. It was closed permanently in January 2021 and Cinemark stripped the theatre of all its equipment. The theatre was purchased by a new owner in October 2021 with plans to reopen after renovations, hopefully as a movie theatre.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on February 10, 2021 at 9:02 am

Cinemark has marked this as Permanently Closed on their website. Not surprising as Regal was building a 12-plex not far from here to replace their aging UA Stonestown Twin.

terrywade on February 11, 2021 at 9:09 am

Lets hope they don’t bulldoze the Empire for more SF condos! May be time for the Vouge/Balboa Theatre group to get involved and save It. Take out the dumpy small twin loge theatres and make the place one large event/movie event space!

terrywade on February 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm

Rumor is in the neighborhood is that It may become a new sports gym like they did the Blumenfeld Alhambra Theatre on Polk St in SF now a fancy gym or the UA Metro Theatre on Union ST another expensive gym built inside a former movie theatre. They kept the neon marquee up outside at both of these former SF movie cinemas. The West Portal area that the Empire Theatre has been for many years has no nice large sports gym and is in a good money area. We hope It still remains a movie theatre in some way!

stevenj on February 14, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Here is the SFGate story on the Empire’s closing:


stevenj on February 14, 2021 at 12:52 pm

And a follow up story Feb 12, 2021:

Empire West Portal

curmudgeon on February 27, 2021 at 4:28 am

Sadly, looking at the photo’s listed here, I’d say this is no loss. Scope image letterboxed to a 1.85 screen, off-centre seating, no masking, no showmanship. Exactly the lack of care and presentation that has cheapened movie-going to the point of no-return.

dallasmovietheaters on June 30, 2021 at 3:19 am

CinéArts at the Empire

terrywade on March 14, 2023 at 12:35 am

Now word on the street is the two new young guys that bought the former Empire Theatre in SF will try to turn the building into condos. I don’t think the city permits or neighborhood groups will not let this happen. The cinema just sits there with graffiti. Turn the place into one single event space for music shows, comedy club or rental entertainment with drinks and food. Take out the wall in the former loge area and make one large seating area. The new owners need to try to keep this cinema as is with a deco remodel and try to get permits and funding to build above like in NY on air space not condos but a movie themed motel. The pricy area has no motels or hotels. Parking can be rough.

terrywade on June 9, 2023 at 10:00 pm

Looks like the lobby part is open now for some sort of kid camp.

thomdlt296 on December 6, 2023 at 12:41 pm

I haven’t lived in San Francisco since 1993, but as ten year old, I remember watching the first re-release of Star Wars in 1979 in theater 1. My brother and I bought tickets for the first show, watched it through the credits, then stayed and watched it two more times. By the end of the third showing, I had a headache after nearly seven hours of nothing but popcorn and coke. … and probably at least one hot dog. The first trailer for “The Empire Strikes Back” was shown before each showing.

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