History

The Roxie is the oldest continuously operated cinema in the United States, and the second oldest in the world!

Opening its doors in 1909, the Roxie, over the course of 106 years, has been home to virtually every aspect of cinema. 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.

The view in 1919 from our front door.

The view in 1919 looking east from our front door.

16th and Valencia Streets 1927, this is on 16th Street looking west, the Roxie is on the left

16th and Valencia Streets in 1927. We’re the little building on the left just by the second power pole.

The Roxie first opened as the C. H. Brown Theater in 1909, and was owned and operated as the Poppy Theater from 1912 to 1916 by Philip H. Doll, a local jeweler and watchmaker.

The 300-seat theater was renovated in 1933, changed its name to The Roxie, and added its unusual marquee with neon sign but no place for movie titles. In 2003, a 49-seat theater dubbed the Little Roxie opened two doors from the main theater.

Names for the theater:

  • The Poppy 1912-1916
  • The New 16th Street 1916-1920
  • The Rex 1920-1926
  • The Gem 1926-1930
  • The Gaiety 1930-1933
  • The Roxie 1933–present

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.

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 films.  By the mid-sixties, the Roxie had been passed by, another victim of television and changing neighborhoods.  Then it was porno from 1968 to 1975.  In late 1975, a Russian-American group took over the Roxie, repainted the façade, and showed Russian-language movies for a couple of months.

On 3 March 1976, the Roxie Cinema was born.  Over the last three years, the Roxie has taken over a small but important niche in the Bay Area cinema scene, premiering films such as THE LIFE AND DEATH OF FRIDA KAHLO, Werner Herzog’s EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL and FATA MORGANA, REBELLION IN PATAGONIA, Fernando Arrabal’s GUERNICA, Rosa von Praunheim’s IT IS NOT THE HOMOSEXUAL WHO IS PERVERSE, BUT THE SITUATION IN WHICH HE LIVES, THE LAST RESORT, THE OPIUM WARLORDS, Sam Fuller’s DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET, Robert Kramer’s SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN PORTUGAL, Reinhard Hauff’s THE BRUTALIZATION OF FRANZ BLUM, Jean-Marie Straub’s THE BRIDGEROOM, THE COMEDIENNE AND THE PIMP, Josef von Sternberg’s ANATHAN, THE LAST CAUSE, POPE JOAN, Jean Cocteau’s LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES and THE PHANTOM BARON, David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD, IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END, THE TRUTH ABOUT DE-EVOLUTION, Luis Bunel’s L’AGE d’OR and ILLUSION TRAVELS BY STREETCAR, CONTROLLING INTEREST, A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE, HOMEBOYS, RED DIRT, Curt McDowell’s THUNDERCRACK!, George Kuchar’s THE DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE and SYMPATHY FOR A SINNER, Allan Moyle’s THE RUBBER GUN, EUGENE DEBS, PEOPLES’ WALL, SONG OF THE CANARY, MASADA MIGHT FALL AGAIN, FESTIVAL OF BARDS, Vito Russo’s THE CELLULOID CLOSET, THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, SHOWBOAT 1988-THE REMAKE, Ronald Chase’s LULU, Roberto Rosellini’s THE MIRCALE and THE HUMAN VOICE, and DOWNPOUR, and hosting filmmakers such as Paul Schrader, James Broughton, Curt McDowell, Rosa von Praunheim, Yvette Biro and Allan Moyle.

The Roxie received 501c3 non-profit status in 2009, and has doubled-down on its iron-willed dedication to showcase the coolest/weirdest/most-thought provoking films of the past, present and future.