Alamo Drafthouse Cinema founder takes us inside the New Mission Theater

For the past decade, the interior of the New Mission Theater could only be seen by curious developers and graffiti artists who could climb real high. Lucky for the rest of us, Tim League, the founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema released some photos from his last visit to the site.

Tim seems pretty stoked to work on this project, calling San Francisco his “favorite city in the world” and the place his parents met. He fully plans to restore the site to its historic architectural glory. I, personally, can’t wait to enjoy that historic architectural glory myself (with a pint and Back to the Future 2).

The rest of the photos can be seen here, and the Drafthouse blog.

[Alamo Drafthouse via Mission Loc@l]

15 Responses to “Alamo Drafthouse Cinema founder takes us inside the New Mission Theater”

  1. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    Kick. Ass.

  2. MrEricSir says:

    Does it really count as “restoring” if they’re turning it into a 5-screen theater?

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Absolutely. One of the main challenges in standing buildings archaeology is restoration to new roles whilst maintaining the original fabric as much as possible. The Fox Theatre in Oakland is nowadays held up as THE example of successful repurposing of a structure to a new/altered use. Even the the Alhambra theatre on Polk St is a pretty successful restoration/reuse example, and it is now a gym.

      At the other end of the spectrum are buildings like the Coliseum theatre on clement which was completely gutted, leaving only the facade intact, with condos built behind it.

      Simply put, if a historic building is to survive, it generally needs to find a new role. The question is to find a new role that preserves and maintains as much of the original fabric and, I would argue, “soul”, as possible.

      • soul says:

        good fucking answer.

      • Old Mission Neighbor says:


      • MrEricSir says:

        When you change the floorplan you’re altering the most fundamental aspect of the building.

        Not that I’m saying that makes it worse. And I’m not saying it’s a bad idea here either — looks like you get a shitty view from the current balcony.

        But it’s strange to me that the concept of “historical preservation” applies differently from one structure to the next. I hope the rules make enough of a distinction between what can be done to a run-down theater and, for example, Coit Tower.

        • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

          Well, yes, there are absolutely different levels of historic protection for different buildings. However, even considering that, adding internal walls, new projection spaces, etc is generally not considered as drastic (or irreversible) a change when compared to alterations that require significant demolition of internal features.

          For instance, take a peek inside the Cinema Latino across the street from the New Mission sometime. In that case the entire inside was gutted with the (abandoned) goal of turning it into a night club. Restoration from that state is impossible. Compare that to other single-screen theatres in the Bay Area that have been sympathetically converted to multi-screen uses, such as the Grand Lake in Oakland, or the late, lamented Alexandria on Geary and you can see that division into multiple screens absolutely need not be a death knell for the spirit and essence of a cinema.

        • El Jefe says:

          Straight from the Alamo Drafthouse website:

          “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.”

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Yup. Certainly sounds as if they intend to do it right. I hope that it works out that way.

  3. Wow, beautiful. Thanks! Always wondered what it looked like inside.

  4. Bob says:

    Sounds incredible. So great that they are going ahead with this project.

  5. Preems says:

    STOKED!!! One at least that gets saved from becoming a church (or becoming a nothing) Cool photos also..

  6. worried says:

    is anyone else concerned about the roxy?

  7. gfdsdsg says:

    ^^ what happened to The Roxie?

  8. Discipline says:

    Nothing, just hard times. Go there more often and buy beer.