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Best (Now Defunct) Movie Theater Architecture San Francisco 2000 - The Alhambra

The Alhambra dates back to the days when every movie theater had to have an overarching architectural theme -- be it Mayan, Hawaiian, or, in the case of Oakland's Paramount, pure, unadulterated deco. (The Chinese and Egyptian theaters down in Hollywood are prime examples of the genre.) Here the inspiration is Moorish, specifically as interpreted at the 14th-century Granadan palace of the title. The detailing is beautiful yet stalwart, as befits a citadel built for invading kings from across the Straits of Gibraltar. Six beveled medieval windows surmounted with intricate leaf motifs overlook Polk Street. Epic, spired vestibules in ornamental masonwork flank either end of the theater proper. Above them, two gorgeously carved minarets with spires in gold and lapis soar heavenward. The same lapis dominates the vertical, two-story Alhambra sign that -- once upon a time -- glowed with the promise of cinematic delights to come. Too bad they're turning the whole thing into another high-class fat farm.

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