The Roxie Theater respectfully acknowledges our cinema is located in Yelamu, also known as San Francisco, on the unceded, traditional Tribal lands of the Ramaytush & Muwekma Ohlone people. We are grateful to work on this land.
The Roxie is one of the oldest continuously operated cinemas in the United States, with its history tracing back to the early 1900s.
We continue to shine in our community as a beacon of unwavering independence, originality, and integrity. Guided from the start by crazy visionaries who pursued dreams over profit, we strive to keep the weird and wonderful alive in our little corner of San Francisco.
Our History – excerpts from The Roxie Newsletter of 1979:
Phillip H. Doll decided to take his profits from the jewelry biz and plow them into the motion picture biz. In the 1913-1914 city directory under “Motion Picture Theaters”, there is a listing for “Doll, Phillip” and in the 1914-1915 city directory, the Poppy Theater is listed. The Poppy Theater persevered through the 1916 city directory, and then became the New Sixteenth Street Theater in the 1917-1918 directory. Phillip Doll, meanwhile, seems to have lost his shirt, and vanishes entirely (possibly in response to overwhelming demands from his creditors) until 1920, when he cautiously reappears in the residential listings as “P.H. Doll”.
Likewise, the New Sixteenth Street Theater vanished from the city directory, perhaps in response to the influenza epidemic of 1918-19. The theater reappeared in 1920 as the Rex Theater, and remained the Rex through 1925. Then it was the Gem Theater until 1929 and was the Gaiety Theater until 1933. In 1934, it reappeared as The Roxie Theater, “Roxie” being a rip-off of the palatial Roxy Theater in New York City, which had opened in 1927. Also, about 1934, the Roxie got a bit of a facelift, including the installation of the unusual marquee which has no place for the titles of the films playing.
1913 – 1916
1916 – 1920
The New 16th Street
1920 – 1926
1926 – 1930
1930 – 1933
1933 – Present
In the thirties, The Roxie remained a neighborhood house, never listing its programs in the newspapers since neighborhood people simply dropped by to see what was on. In the forties and early fifties, The Roxie showed second and third runs of Hollywood films, and, in the late fifties and early sixties, showed German-language cinema. By 1968 it was programmed as a porn house, and in 1975, a Russian-American group took over The Roxie, repainted the façade, and showed Russian-language movies.
In March 1976, community leaders Robert Christopher Evans, Dick Gaikowski, Peter Moore, and Tom Mayer took over operations, remodeled it, and transitioned the programming to one devoted to the presentation of art and independent cinema, a focus that has continued to this day.
Bill Banning joined the cinema in 1984, and would go on to serve as owner, and then Director of Programming for the next 25 years. He established the theatrical distribution entity, Roxie Releasing, the profits of which he plowed into the construction of a second screen for the cinema (The Little Roxie) that opened in 2003. In 2005, The Roxie was integrated onto the campus of New College of California. Under the guidance of its first executive director, Alan Holt, The Roxie obtained a long-sought-after status as a stand-alone non-profit 501c3 in 2009.
With the arrival of Isabel Fondevila in 2013 (now Director of Programming), and today’s Executive Director Lex Sloan in 2015, The Roxie began to fully leverage its non-profit status to become a significant recipient of Federal & State grants, including the National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and San Francisco Grants for The Arts. The funding has allowed for a deeper commitment to the tradition of The Roxie as a community institution that facilitates space for people of all ages and backgrounds to gather, connect and learn about the world and one another in an accessible and inclusive environment.
Help us keep the lights shining bright for another 100 years!
We invite you to celebrate the spirit and resiliency of The Roxie by joining our Forever Roxie campaign. For over one hundred years, we’ve kept independent cinema an integral part of our little corner of the Mission District, and with your help, we’ll keep it going for over a hundred more. No matter the size of your donation, you will have an impact!
Curious to know more about the history of The Roxie Theater and other cinemas in San Francisco?