Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Arts + Culture Resurrecting the mighty Alhambra

Resurrecting the mighty Alhambra

For one night only, The Alhambra Project revisits the Russian Hill cinema-turned-gym's silver screen splendor

-

SCREEN GRABS Designed inside and out by Timothy Pfleuger (who also created fellow art deco movie palaces the Castro and Paramount, among other Bay Area landmarks), the Alhambra Theater opened on upper Polk St. in 1926.

Its original splendors had long been covered up by generic multiplex “modernization” when a 1988 return to single-screen status excavated the stunning pseudo-Moorish decor underneath. Unfortunately, programming poorly suited to the neighborhood (there were rumors Disney’s hefty restoration “donation” unduly influenced bookings) resulted in the Alhambra’s demise as an entertainment venue after seventy years, in 1996.

For those who treasured its remarkable decor, the eventual takeover by gym chain Crunch was actually good news: As the interior was unprotected by local preservation laws, nearly any other business would most likely have stripped the Alhambra’s ornate, so-recently-restored beauties in order to subdivide the space into offices and storefronts. Instead, design integrity was mostly preserved (even including a movie screen that now showed DVDs) for a new “audience” of aerobics-class attendees and weight-trainers.

Long something of a young-professional neighborhood, Russian Hill hasn’t changed as drastically as the Mission or some other areas, but it too now seems largely inhabited by tech-sector newbies — as do the Alhambra Crunch facilities’ workout spaces.

The old Alhambra interior, photo via cinematreasures.org
The old Alhambra interior, photo via cinematreasures.org

Throwing a spotlight on both an under-appreciated gem of local architectural history and the rapidly evolving community around it, local artists Lynn Marie Kirby and Christoph Steger’s one-night only event The Alhambra Project, Fri/30, invites visitors to take part in a multimedia mix of cultural commentaries.

On the evening’s menu are an “exercise class” of moves borrowed from classic film clips, video animation based on the Islamic design “exotica” that shaped the original Alhambra in Spain (and Pfleuger’s Jazz Age homage), recorded interviews with neighborhood residents, textual contributions from Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan, special mobile app-guided area tours, and more.

If like many San Franciscans you’ve been to the Castro a million times, Oakland’s Paramount a few, but never inside the Alhambra, here’s your chance to see one of the Bay Area’s least-sung but most beautiful architectural jewels—for free, with no gym membership required this night only.

THE ALHAMBRA PROJECT
Fri/30, 7-10 pm, free.
Alhambra Theater/Crunch Gym
2330 Polk, SF.
thealhambraproject.com

More by this author

Screen Grabs: A fantastical hybrid from Ivory Coast in ‘Night of the Kings,’ more

While the increased demand for streaming content hasn’t greatly diversified the mainstream—Amazon Prime Video just announced a severe curtailing in its documentary...

Screen Grabs: Complex webs of crime—and sometimes punishment

Silk Road tells a sordid tale of drugs and the Internet. Plus: Mafia King, Test Pattern, and a very Wrong Turn

Screen Grabs: Elders on the move, in love and crisis

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play a couple navigating dementia in 'Supernova'; 'Nomadland' shows Frances McDormand weathering poverty

Screen Grabs: A rousing celebration of Black History Month

SF Urban Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, an Edward Owens showcase—plus a new release with LaKeith Stanfield as a Panther plant.

Screen Grabs: American dreams, American screams

'Happy Cleaners' and Sundance stand-out 'Minari' question mobility narratives, while 'Sator' charts a path to spectral horror.

Most read

Supes reject condos where seniors were evicted

Crucial vote sends a message that a building cleared by the Ellis Act will never get a lucrative permit.

Good Taste: Toto’s Pizza returns to SF after decades, Lazy Susan turns the tables

Plus California Mochi lives on, Awesome Bars satisfy that craving, perfect farmer's market picks, more food news

Big new cuts at City College

ESL, Disabled Programming, and other classes (and faculty) will be terminated after this spring.

In a year of protest and change, YBCA 100 highlights vital activist-artists

The annual list of honorees focuses on organizers, educators, and creators whose work reaches deep into community.

You might also likeRELATED