Projects> Portola: Avenue theater

This San Francisco theater was built in 1927 and closed in 1984. The sign and marquee became a hotel for pigeons until 2017. Then the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the SF Shines program provided a grant for a restoration of the exterior of the facade, neon sign and marquee. The restoration project of this neighborhood gem was spearheaded by Luke Spray of the Portola Neighborhood Association.

Photo: Luke Spray 2017, Avenue Theater, San Francisco, CA

The neon restoration was done by Jim Rizzo and his team at Neon Works, Oakland, CA. Amy Palms, Libby Cahill, and Dan Kuppe did the tube bending. Greg King did the historical detective work and devised a strategy to recreate the sign’s original mechanisms for the flashing animation. The restored neon glow has helped to revitalize the neighborhood and has attracted storefront tenants to this long-empty building.

Photo: Randall Ann Homan 2017, Avenue Theater, San Francisco, CA

For the re-lighting ceremony, the late San Francisco Mayor, Ed Lee, led the countdown to flip the switch at twilight. It was a community celebration attended by hundreds of neighbors, complete with live music and free popcorn.

SF Neon was asked to design a small neon sign reading "The Ave" for the front of the theater marquee. It is fascinating to see how sign designers in the past have given some flair to the word "the". We found some great examples of a "fancy the" that inspired our lettering design for the "The Ave" neon sign.

Photo: Al Barna 2017, Avenue Theater, San Francisco, CA

Photo: Al Barna 2017, Avenue Theater, San Francisco, CA

Photos: Crossroads by Kate Widdows, The Empress by Al Barna, the Gangway by Mark Carrodus.