Rejuvenated Presidio Theatre Combines Classic Beauty and Contemporary Function

09/18/2019

Redesigned with Dancers in Mind

San Francisco, September 17, 2019—Representatives of the newly refurbished Presidio Theatre treated members of the media to a tour of the theater and its impressive improvements. Situated in San Francisco's historic Presidio, after being closed and deteriorating for 24 years the remodeled 600-seat theater adds a beautiful and highly functional venue to meet the Bay Area's growing need for performance space. "The need for the Presidio Theatre comes at a great time in the Bay Area," said Presidio Theatre Executive Director Robert Martin, "San Francisco's performing arts community and audiences—among the world's most active and avid—have long needed a venue this size, and we look forward to welcoming artists, organizations and the public to this dynamic new space." Intended as a venue for a wide variety of performing arts, the new theater's first modern dance performance will be ODC/Dance, performing Path of Miracles on October 11.

With dancers in mind, a 1500 square foot rehearsal studio includes a portable ballet barre, mirrored walls, and sprung floor. Dressing rooms, the rehearsal studio, greenroom, restrooms, and storage for costumes and scenery were added by digging a basement under the existing theater, a delicate operation that required first supporting the building on posts. Sixteen feet were added to the depth of the stage by disconnecting the multi-ton proscenium arch and rolling it forward on wheels toward the audience seating. And while the style of the original seating was retained, Margaret Haas expressed her confidence that the new seats are much more comfortable than the original seats made for military audiences.

Section of the lobby and Evans and Brown mural
Section of the lobby and Evans and Brown mural

The renovations are the result of a gift from the Margaret E. Haas Fund in collaboration with the Presidio Trust to restore and expand the facility and return it to the community for a wide variety of uses including live music, theater, dance, film, lectures and events.

Vacant since 1995, Presidio Theatre was part of the Presidio military base, built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and first opened in 1939. It is part of the Presidio's National Historic Landmark. ​In addition to showing movies, it presented live performances by entertainment luminaries, including Bob Hope and Jack Benny. In its new reincarnation, the Presidio Theatre is a 600-seat proscenium theatre with state-of the art technical equipment, a pavilion and courtyard for events, ADA compliant access, a Myers sound system, and other amenities.

The redesign, retaining the original Art Deco styling with added contemporary features, was accomplished by the architectural firm Hornberger and Worstell. Architect Mark Hornberger, President of the firm, described the design as "related to history, but of our era." The result is a classic style with clean and smooth lines.

Architect Mark Hornberger
Architect Mark Hornberger

Hornberger explained that the renovation included improving the acoustics of the hall by gradually slanting the walls, throwing the sound from the stage to the back of the audience. Standing in the last row, it was possible to hear Hornberger perfectly well while he spoke from the stage in a normal speaking voice.

The theater will open to the public with a ticketed celebration on Saturday, September 21, at 7:00 pm. A free public open house with entertainment and tours will be held on Sunday, September 22, from Noon to 5:00 pm. For more information see https://www.presidiotheatre.org/.

Note: Presidio Theatre is not to be confused with the movie theater of the same name on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. Executive Director Martin said he does not know how the two venues came to be known by the same name, but he is trying to work out a resolution.