History Theater – Win Some, Lose Some (and Then Some)
I am sad to report that the Cine Latino Ribity has been painted over.
Before (via Plug1)
Ah, yes, the Mission is such a better place with that field of brown paint — easier to capture that Detroit-like feeling.
So after a little scrounging on the internets, we learn that Cine Latino was originally called the Wigwam when it opened in 1913. The name changed to the New Rialto (1930-1947), then the Crown (1947-1974), and then Cine Latino until it shut down in 1990.
(Click to enlarge any of the multipanel shots.)
The Cine Latino neon is stunning, as are the windows in the original Wigwam.
And here’s an amazing history of the origins of the Wigwam (search for Joe Bauer).
My maternal Grandfather, Joe Bauer, tacked up the sign for the Hotel Burbank (sunk all his dough into it) on April 17th, 1906. On April 18th the earthquake didn’t get him but the fire did. He had four $5 gold pieces left.
With one $5 gold piece he bought, along with two partners, a teepee-shaped tent that they set up in GG Park and charged 5c a show for any entertainment they could bring in. They called it The Wigwam. GG Park had 10,000+ refugees from the quake/fire camped out there and they had nothing to divert them from their misery until the Wigwam came along.
This venture was successful and Joe Bauer bought out his partners and put up a bigger tent, another Wigwam “Theater”. This was even more successful and he then found land in the Mission and put up the first Wigwam Theater, built entirely of wood. Later, in about 1913, he put up the building that stands there now. He was a successful vaudeville theater operator and I have letters from the likes of Sid Grauman (Grauman’s Chinese in L.A.)and other west coast theater magnates asking JB to join their chain. He never did.
One of the vaudevillians he gave a break to was a young kid by the name of Asa Yolson who made something of a name for himself later by the name of Al Jolson. Jolson always played the Wigwam when he was in town. I have old registers with Jolson’s signature when he signed for his pay as all who played the Wigwam were required to do.
Looking north on Mission towards the Rialto (aka Wigwan/Cine Latino) and the New Mission Theater, in 1933:
and in 1944:
Other theaters, in kinder days:
Tower Theater (2457 Mission, 20th/21st)
El Capitan (2353 Mission, between 19th and 20th)
Grand Theater (2665 Mission, between 22nd and 23rd)
And one more theater on Mission that didn’t make it — the Lyceum, between 29th and 30th. Hmm, that intersection sounds rather familiar — as it’s the location of our favorite Safeway.
Compare this picture from the Bernal History Project:
to today from Google Maps:
“Dell’s Do Nuts” is now El Gran Taco Loco, and the building just to the right of the Lyceum sign is still there (with another taqueria…)
Here’s the 1913-1915 edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the Lyceum, as well as the west side of Mission between 29th and 30th.
Hey, a bowling alley with a bar! That would be useful. And the 3300 Club was a saloon back then too. Looks like there was a hardware store in or near Cole’s.
Anyway, two great resources for old theaters are this list of post-1906 San Francisco theaters, and the Cinema Treasures website. Also, the San Francisco neighborhood editions of the Arcadia Publishing ‘Images of America’ books have amazing photos. They’re in just about every bookstore in the city, as well as on Amazon, etc. The Bernal Heights edition is great, (though I was a little disappointed in the Mission edition — too many grade school class photos).
Sources for all images are in the links — SFLib, American Classic Images, Jack Tillmany and the Bernal History Project folks. and of course Flickr users. And Sparkletack has more historical references that you can shake a stick at.
Wow, this article got rather long. Congratulations if you made it this far — I honestly only intended to show the Ribity before/after, and then one thing led to another. Damn internets.
But the real question, which I leave to you readers, is why are there 5 huge theaters on Mission that are sitting there rotting? You can certainly make the argument that the Safeway is an improvement over what certainly would be a partially lettered Lyceum sign with a broken ediface. Climbing centers, gyms, housing — why can’t we have nice things?