The Bay Area’s arts and culture scene has suffered another casualty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: the permanent closure of the West Portal CinéArts movie theater.
San Francisco’s CinéArts at the Empire was a beloved neighborhood venue. It opened as the Portal Theatre in 1925 and has been in operation ever since, renamed as the Empire in 1936. In 2003, under parent company Cinemark, it was rechristened CinéArts at the Empire. A representative for Cinemark said the decision to close the theater was made because the lease term was coming to an end.
“It adds to the symbiotic quality of the neighborhood,” said Maryo Mogannam, president of the San Francisco Council District Merchants Association and longtime business owner in West Portal. “Losing it I think is impactful and I would urge whoever it is who has authority to find a replacement theater operator whether it be independent or a large chain.”
The city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development is looking for a new tenant to occupy the Empire Theater, according to aides for Supervisor Myrna Melgar.
Bay Area movie theaters have struggled during the pandemic. Most have remained shut for indoor screenings over the past year, while some have accommodated outdoor screenings and events. CinéArts has been closed since the original shelter-in-place orders came down in March of last year.