Saturday, July 28, 2007


Thirty years ago, my friend Russell and I ventured across the Bay to San Francisco, where we rode a bus for miles--miles!--deep into the heart of the Terra they call Incognita, all so we could wait hours in line for a movie that in that innocent era was simply called "Star Wars".

The theater was the Coronet, and it was the only theater in the Bay Area showing the 70mm version. That made it Ground Zero for the fanatics. If you were watching the news back then and saw stories about the Star Wars phenomenon where they talked to fans waiting in line, odds are pretty good you saw the Coronet.

Over the years, I saw a dozen or so other movies there–some memorable (Fellowship of the Ring), some not so much (um…I forget). It wasn’t spectacular like the Paramount or ornate like the Alhambra, but it had a nice deco interior and it was a big single-screen theater where you felt like you were Watching A Movie.

Now I live in the neighborhood that seemed so foreign to me. Lucas has driven the Star Wars franchise into the ground with a prequel trilogy so bad it tarnishes the originals. And as of last Sunday morning, this is what was left of the Coronet.

It closed two years ago, as had most of the other single-screen theaters in San Francisco. I was sad at the time, got over it, moved on. The building stood empty, in limbo. Then a couple of weeks ago I rode by on the bus and saw that the sign was down and they had knocked down one of the walls, and it hit me all over again.

You live any place too long and this is what happens: the geography of your memory is dismantled piece by piece. You know it'll happen but that doesn't make it any easier. For me, the Coronet, was a big piece.

More pictures here.