It’s been over a year since the Beaux-Arts theater named after great 20th century producer Homer Curran nominally closed its doors. Owner Carole Shorenstein Hays promised a major overhaul of its classic interior by 2017.
The Curran, which opened in 1922, was much loved for its latter-day style. However, over the decades—somewhere in between Carol Channing coming here as a young girl and the first-ever previews of Wicked—it became rundown. Time took its toll. It needed a major refresh.
“The ceiling had never been cleaned in 94 years,” Gerry Tierney, associate principal at Perkins & Will, tells Curbed SF.
Tierney just spent 15 months trying to turn the clock back nine decades on the classic venue. Even the famed Curran chandelier wasn’t what it used to be.
“It was just this big, grungy, cobwebbed object hanging over everybody,” Tierney says.
“And not hung very well anymore either,” adds Cathy Simon, a consulting principal on the restoration.
Looking at the ceiling now, even Curran regulars would never recognize it.
“There’s a great sun, cornucopias with fruit pouring out, lions and angels and all kinds of olive branches, testaments to California as a glorious agricultural state,” Simon points out.
Almost none of which anybody could actually see before.
The famed murals have been refurbished, too. New York-based interior designer Brian Murphy updated the colors front and back to more vibrant incarnations of their old selves.
“We couldn’t believe it was the same space,” says Tierney. “We had to bring that back.”
Besides setting the bathrooms back and moving the bar up to the mezzanine, one of the biggest changes is one you can’t see: Unbelievably, the Curran was still operating all of these years on its original, 1922-era direct current electrical system.
The “museum piece” power supply have been replaced, as have what Tierney calls the “cutting edge 1918” bathrooms.
“It had become a gloomy place over the years,” Simon says. “And things had been added haphazardly all over the place.”
The building hadn’t received any significant updates since it hosted The Phantom of the Opera for five solid years in the 1990s. The addition of ADA-compliant bathrooms then crowded the lobby, making it appear closed off.
The Perkins + Will team watched the 1950 Oscar winner All About Eve, filmed at the Curran, and were shocked to see how much bigger and more accommodating the original design appeared by comparison.
The team labored to return the lobby and the rest of the theater to its original eminence. The chandelier even came down from the ceiling for the first time, to be rewired, re-lamped, and hung again with some extra wattage to show off the new interior.
Tonight the Curran hosts a screening of the Hollywood adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences. The rest of us will have to wait until it’s official January reopening to get an up-close look, so hopefully the photos have enough star power to tide you over.