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SF’s El Rey Theatre, home of the first Gap, granted landmark status

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Onetime movie house turned Pentecostal church makes a comeback

Ingleside’s El Rey Theatre, an Art Deco treasure at 1970 Ocean Avenue, was awarded landmark status by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Opening in 1931, the 1,800-seat space was designed by Timothy Pflueger, who helmed such iconic structures as the Castro Theatre, 450 Sutter, and the Pacific Telephone Building at 140 New Montgomery.

When it opened, the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “richly decorative,” with a “gallery of mirrors” in the lobby. What’s more, the theater was home of the very first Gap, located in the building’s retail space in 1967.

Photo via The Gap/Facebook

After business slowed down, the Voice of the Pentecost church purchased the movie house in 1977. It operated as a church until it was bought by investors two years ago.

According to Hoodline, “The landmarking process was steered by community members who worked with the San Francisco Planning Department, Art Deco Society, and Historic Preservation Consultant Christopher VerPlank.”

Three diamond tiling outside the former theater.
Three diamond tiling outside the former theater.
Photo by throgers

As for what’s next, that remains a mystery. According to a January article in the Chronicle, the interiors, which now include broken plaster and water damage, will be rehabbed.

“Looking forward to working with the property owner and neighbors on developing a plan to bring arts and culture back into this remarkable space,” said Supervisor Norman Yee.

Ideally, El Rey will remain a movie theater or museum of some sort. Realistically, like Russian Hill’s Alhambra Theater (also a Pflueger) and Cow Hollow’s Metro Theater, it could very well turn into another upscale gym.

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