AKA: Fox Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA; Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Lansburgh, G. Albert, Architect (firm); Albert Herter (painter); Gustave Albert Lansburgh (architect)

Dates: constructed 1921-1922

total floor area: 20,000 sq. ft.

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982 Market Street
Tenderloin, San Francisco, CA 94102

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Building History

The theatre chain run by Marcus Loew (1870-1927) commissioned the San Francisco architect, G. Albert Lansburgh (1876-1969), to design the Warfield c. 1920. At about the same time, Lansburgh designed the Warfield and its neighbor, the Golden Gate Theatre (1921). The Warfield was constructed between 1921-1922, and opened on 05/13/1922. (Various dates for the theatre's opening night have appeared, including an erroneous 04/13/1922 on this site and 05/23/1922 on the very reliable Cinema Treasures.org site. Andrew Morrison, in his book, Theaters, ([New York: W.W. Norton and Company], p. 101), has the date as 05/13/1922, as does the Warfield's own web site.) The Warfield Theatre was named for the San Francisco-born stage actor, David Warfield (née Wohlfeld, 1866-1951), with whom Loew co-founded the People's Vaudeville Company in New York, NY, in 1905. From their headquarters in New York, Loew and Warfield built the exhibition chain that changed its name to "Loew's Consolidated Enterprises" in 1919. While live vaudeville acts were sometimes featured, the Warfield showed movies primarily from 1922-c. 1980.

Revered as a native son in CA, the actor David Warfield developed a strong following in San Francisco during the 1900s. An 1910 article appearing in the San Francisco Call, "Warfield WIll Be Gone a Long Time," the theare critic exulted: "San Francisco play goers are seeing David Warfield in the ripest development of his artistic powers. Distinguished as his artistic success has been and although he has player the role six seasons, he is never fully satisfied with this portrayal and he is constantly adding new touches and rounding and mellowing the role to a degree of perfection." (See "Warfield WIll Be Gone a Long Time," San Francisco Call, vol 107, no. 33, 01/02/1910, p. 26.)

The Fox West Coast Theatres chain leased office space for its executives on the 8th floor of the Warfield Office Building by 1937. Following the demolition of Thomas Lamb's grand Fox Theatre (1929) at 1350 Market, the Fox chain operated this theatre as the Fox Warfield into the late 1980s.

The San Francisco music promoter Bill Graham (1931-1991) utilized the Warfield as a multi-purpose venue beginning in 1979. Under the management of Bill Graham Presents (BGP) between 1979-2008, a wide variety of comedy and musical acts utilized the facility. BGP introduced rock concerts to the 57-year-old theatre in 1979, when Bob Dylan played a block of 14 shows between 11/01/1979 and 11/16/1979, and followed it up a year later with 12 shows between 11/09/1980 and 11/22/1980.The Grateful Dead played here 21 times between 1980 and 1983, including 15 shows in 1980 alone, Following Graham's premature death in a helicopter accident at age 60, BGP was taken over by media giant Clear Channel. Bill Graham Presents staged its last show in the Warfield on 05/19/2008, when the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh played at the historic theatre.

A subsidiary of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz's Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), Goldenvoice Presents, took over the management lease from BGP. It supervised a remodeling of the Warfield Theatre's interior between 05-09/2008, after which it reopened for the staging of concerts and other events.

In 2005, San Francisco broker and real estate investor David P. Addington purchased the entire Warfield Office Building and Theatre for $12 million. Addington's company Fair Market Properties LLC, experienced financial difficulties in 2012, forcing it to declare bankruptcy. This financial distress forced Addington to sell the Warfield Theatre portion of the property in 03/2013 to Sonoma-based A&C Ventures, for approximately $6.5 million. At the time of the purchase, A&C Ventures extended the contract of Goldenvoice Presents to manage theatre bookings.

Building Notes

According to David Naylor in his book American Picture Palaces, the Warfield originally seated 2,656 while Morrison had it at 2,655; the Cinema Treasures.com web site indicated a capacity of 2,657 in 2010. (See David Naylor, American Picture Palaces, [New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981], p. 62, 216.) Albert Herter (1871-1950), the son of the Christian Herter, co-owner of the famed New York furniture company, Herter Brothers, was a notable painter who executed the Spanish-themed murals in the auditorium of the Warfield.

With its seats removed, the theatre also was used periodically as a nightclub, when "Downtown" operated in the late 1980s.


The exhibitors, National General Cinemas, oversaw a renovation of the Warfield in 1969. The Mann exhibition chain ran it after National General in the 1970s. In 05/2008, the Denver-based railroad and entertainment mogul, Philip Anschutz (born 1939), and his company, AEG Live, took over management of the theatre from Bill Graham Presents (BGP). Anschutz completed a renovation of the Warfield in 2008. Prior to BGP, Mike Thomas managed the Warfield in the late 1970s.

PCAD id: 1434