I got a tour of the ACT’s new Strand Theater on Market Street with architects from Skidmore Owings and Merrill and historical architects Page and Turnbull.
The Strand was built in 1917 as one of many movie houses along that stretch of Market Street. It also briefly hosted live vaudeville shows. It’s had many owners and many names. In the 1950s the theater began showing triple bills which changed daily. In the 1970s, it focused on classic movies, including midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show. By the 1990s, it switched to porn movies and became a hangout for hookers and drug addicts. It closed in 2003.
In 2012, the American Conservatory Theater bought the Strand and began a $20 million renovation, taking the 800 seat historic movie house to an innovative space for live performances. The Strand now offers a 283 seat theater and “black box” performance/event space, plus a lobby/café with a 27 ft wide LED screen offering opportunities for visual art.
Every space in the Strand is designed to be flexible. The main theater can be transformed into a cabaret with table seating. The lobby can be used for performance and video art. The black box upstairs can host anything from interactive performances to a bar mitzvah.
Inside the theater has a clean, contemporary vibe, but the architects also carefully restored a few historic details. The pink-neon marquee sign hangs in the lobby. In the restroom waiting area downstairs, a 50s era clock hangs over a row of restored Art Deco seats. Even some graffiti from the theater's derelict days has been kept and framed.
ACT’s main stage is the Geary Theater off Union Square. The Strand provides a showcase ACT’s MFA and Young Conservatory productions, as well as offering Educational and Community programs. For more information on ACT and its programs, or to support them, go to http://www.act-sf.org/.
See new Strand at https://www.pinterest.com/cityexplorerSF/strand-theater-renovation/