982 Market St San Francisco
86 years of changes and it’s not over yet.
If you believe that historic buildings have soul, then you have been surrounded by it at The Warfield theatre in San Francisco. This grand dame of a theatre opened May 13, 1922. It was built by showman and theatre chain owner Marcus Loew, who named the showplace after his old friend David Warfield, a native San Franciscan who began as an usher and grew to be one of the greatest silent film actors of his time. The Warfield was built as a vaudeville and movie palace. Originally called Loew’s Warfield, it became the 300th theater in mogul Marcus Loew’s growing theater chain.
The interior is movie palace ornate. The lobby features marble, guilt and chandeliers, and opens to a grand staircase to the balcony. The main theater features a lyrical mural above the proscenium arch painted by Albert Herter. The mural contains images of floating matadors and their senoritas, as well as the dismembered head of their animal victim. Vaudeville shows typically had many acts, and it’s reflected by the 20 dressing rooms in the back stage area.
All of the big names in entertainment played on The Warfield’s stage, including Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Chaplin. Even then there were some “dog” shows with the likes of Rin Tin Tin.
New Life came to the Warfield in 1979 when Bob Dylan played a two-week run of shows. The venerable hall has been rocking ever since.
In keeping with it’s illustrious past, “everyone” has played The Warfield. The entertainment in the 1980’s ranged from bands such as The Clash, Grateful Dead and U2, to theatrical productions such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Cantonese Opera from China.
The one constant for the past 25 years has been the variety of live shows. The Jerry Garcia Band became the beloved “house band” until Garcia’s death in 1995. Prince, David Bowie and the Shaolin Monks of China have graced The Warfield stage. Scenes from the movie The Doors were filmed at The Warfield and many corporate events have been hosted there.
In 2005, Atlanta developer David Addington purchased the building (offices included) for $12 million dollars. It was speculated at the time of purchase that Addington would invite a new tenant to produce shows in The Warfield theatre once the lease ran out in 2008. The new leaseholder is AEG Live, who hosted their first shows in September of this year.
The Warfield, and all of its varied public events has been a beloved San Francisco institution for 86 years with Goldenvoice’s new chapter having just begun. The soul of the building ripens with each passing year.
The Warfield is operated by Goldenvoice, a division of AEG Live. AEG Live, the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, is dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring for a variety of programming, and multi-media production. Goldenvoice hosts the most critically acclaimed music festivals in the U.S. Goldenvoice created and operates the award winning annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, as well as Stagecoach: California’s Country Music Festival. AEG Live, the nation’s second-largest concert promotion and touring company, is comprised of special event, broadcast and exhibition divisions, fourteen regional offices, and numerous state-of-the-art venues nationwide. AEG Live has an international reach with regional and local presence in New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Seattle, South Florida, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, London and Sweden.