After Years of Disrepair, Construction Begins on Presidio Theatre

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The Presidio Theatre, before renovations (Courtesy of the Presidio Trust)

Twenty-three years after the lights dimmed for its final movie screening, the dormant Presidio Theatre is coming back to life as a state-of-the art multipurpose venue.

The Presidio Theatre officially broke ground on the renovation at a ceremony Wednesday morning, months after it was officially announced in June. The restoration will largely be funded by the Margaret E. Haas Fund.

The $30 million-revival of the theater, which will be one of the last buildings to be restored on the Presidio’s Main Post, will hearken back to the original Spanish neo-colonial architecture of the building when it was originally built in 1939.

“We're excited to put one of our historic sites back into service,” said Joshua Bagley, the head of real estate development for the Presidio Trust.

Structural additions, like two new pavilions, a landscaped courtyard and below-grade space on the theater's west side, will adhere closely to the building's established design and visual aesthetic. Others are largely for reasons of accessibility, such as seating and restrooms that are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

Archival photo of the Presidio Theatre in 1950
Archival photo of the Presidio Theatre in 1950 (Courtesy of the Presidio Trust)

The theater’s expansions will also move it forward towards becoming a retreat for dancers, playwrights and other creatives who may otherwise be priced out of staging events in San Francisco.


A new nonprofit will be in charge of operating and funding the theater, which, according to a document issued by the Presidio Trust, will generate revenue "through a combination of facility rental fees, ticket sales and fundraising."

In addition to the aesthetic enhancements, the Presidio Theatre’s stage will be expanded from a single-screen theater to a larger stage to accommodate full-scale productions. This stage expansion means less seating, but its affordability means a greater diversity of performing arts that the theater can host, according to Bagley.

“[The Presidio Theatre] will be an affordable rental venue to have a variety of performing arts -- theater, dance, musical performances, community events,” he said. “And we'll still have the ability to hold film screenings.”