Designed by master architect Timothy Pflueger and opened in 1931, the 1,800-seat El Rey Theater at 1970 Ocean Avenue was shuttered and sold to Voice of Pentecost in 1977, which then converted the 35,000-square-foot building into a church and small Pentecostal school.
Mortgaged to pay for upgrades to the building and finance a science fiction film described by the church’s pastor as “the Ten Commandments meets Star Wars,” the never-completed film, which was to be shot on a rented Treasure Island soundstage, effectively bankrupted the church. And the theater building was quietly foreclosed upon at the end of 2015, with the buyers paying $1.06 million in cash on the steps of City Hall.
Never historically protected as a church cannot be forcibly landmarked in California, San Francisco’s Planning Department recently compiled a landmark designation report for the now investor-owned building. And next week, San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission is slated to adopt the report and formally initiate landmark proceedings for the former El Rey Theater which is still occupied by the church.
The El Rey’s new owners, Ricci Ventures LLC and Greenpoint Land Co., are aware of the City’s report and proceedings. And as a related aside, the Gap’s first store was located in one of theater’s five shuttered retail spaces, opening at 1950 Ocean Avenue in 1969:
We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.