About the Book

Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres celebrates twentieth century movie theatres and moviegoing through lush full-color fine art photographs, and personal essays that offer both scholarly and literary appeal. R.A. McBride’s vivid portraits of San Francisco movie theatres, including the Castro, New Mission, and Balboa to name a few, illuminate the role of the movie house as a great social nexus. McBride has gained rare access to the interiors of closed theatres, picturing them empty and allowing the grandeur of the architecture to take center stage. Casting the theatres as characters within the city's cultural landscape, scholars and film exhibitors such as Rebecca Solnit, Eddie Muller, Chi-hui Yang, and Gary Meyer, among others, uncover a spectacular variety of forgotten or never-before revealed histories. As society retreats from public life into the anonymity of multiplexes and personal entertainment technologies our moviegoing heritage becomes an ever more significant and inspiring source of ideas for new communal cinematic experiences. San Francisco is particularly fortunate to be one of the world’s most vital moviegoing cities and to still have so many of its historic movie theatres. By drawing a continuum from past to present, Left in the Dark offers hope that even as these gorgeous historic theatres crumble, the spirit of Cinema thrives.

10 x 8 cardstock cover
59 photographs
168 pages
11 chapters


A million thanks to Nicole Allensworth, Biagio Azzarelli, Bill Basquin, Ariella Ben-Dov, Donna Joy Brodman, Mary Brown, Christian Bruno, Elise Cannon, Joel Chaban, Neva Chonin, CinemaTreasures.org, the City and County of San Francisco, Nick Eisenman, Linda Ferrer, Foreign Cinema, Lawrence Freundlich, Mark Ganter, Jerry and Leah Garchik, Gilbert Guerrero, Randy Heyman, Shari Kizirian, William Limann, Peter Maravelis, Ron Merk and the Metro theatre Center Foundation, Anita Monga, Peter Moore, Elena Anne Motlow for her editorial assistance, Monica Nolan, Elizabeth Pepin, Erik Petersen, Kathleen Quillian, Carol Rossi, San Francisco Architectural Heritage, the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, San Francisco Performing Arts Library, the amazing librarians at the San Francisco Public Library and History Center, Amy Strathern, James Trevors, Jim Van Buskirk, architectural historian Chris VerPlanck, Lewis Watts, Jennifer Worley, Julie Ann Yuen.

Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres would not have been possible without the generosity of theatre expert, Jack Tillmany. His book, Theatres of San Francisco (Arcadia Publishing 2005) is cited in almost every chapter and served as an essential guide throughout our project.

We are deeply grateful to the following theatre companies, owners, and managers:© Central California Theaters Company Inc., Mr. Don Nasser, President; the Landmark Theaters including Bridge, Clay, and Lumiere; Gary Meyer and Roger Paul of the Balboa Theater; Claudia Lehan of the Red Vic Movie House; Cathie Anderson of Brava Theater; Frank Lee and Lee Neighborhood Theaters including the Presidio, 4 Star, and Marina Theaters; Bill Banning of the Roxie Cinema; Anita and Robert Correa of the Victoria Theater; Michael Wilkinson and Alfonso Felder of the Vogue Theater; Ken Montero and George Kaskanlian Jr. of the Great Star Theater.

Left in the Dark was partially funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission.