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San Francisco Landmark #215: Victoria Theater 14 June 2003
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San Francisco Landmark #215
Victoria Theater
2961 16th Street Between Mission and South Van Ness
Built 1908

The five hundred seat Victoria Theater was built in 1908 as a vaudeville house named Brown's Opera House by Edmund Joseph Brown, grandfather of Jerry Brown, who was twice governor of California..

Within a few decades, vaudeville was on its last legs, but Brown's Opera House, a true San Franciscan, had the talent to reinvent herself in response to changes in taste and technology and the fortunes of her neighborhood.

During the depression in the 1930's, Brown's Opera House changed its name to the 16th Street Theater, showed second run movies at half-price (a nickel), and handed out depression glassware to attract patrons.

In the 1950's, another name change - to El Teatro Victoria - and movies in Spanish.

In the liberated 1960s, when other movie houses were being demolished or getting out of show business and settling into drab lives as chain stores or gyms, Victoria changed her name to the Follies Burlesque, and as a burlesque house, she strutted her stuff and played hostess to Blaze Starr. Tempest Storm, and Virginia "Ding Dong" Bell until 1970 when she took some well-earned time off for recuperation and a facelift.

Two years later, restored and refurbished, she was once again Victoria, and today she is the oldest operating theatre in San Francisco. In her long history she has presented Mae West, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Irwin, Donald O'Conner, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Current Victoria presentations are eclectic, usually edgy, and include locally produced original plays, concerts, film festivals (the theatre has 16mm and 35mm capability), musicals, and international performing companies.

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