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Rafael Film Center

Photo from the Scott Neff collection.
California Film Institute
1118 Fourth St
San Rafael CA 94901
(415) 454-1222

Visit Website
Record #9865  
 Opened: 1918
Capacity: 544 seats
Architect(s): Francis Hatch Kimball; S Charles Lee
Architectural Style(s): Art Deco
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Orpheus
 Previously operated by: Blumenfeld Theatres, Cinerama Theatres

Information for this tour was contributed by William French Jr.

The auditorium was built behind an existing building and the western side of the building was converted into the lobby. The bay and bow widows on the facade were removed and the marquee put in place. It seated 1300 people and had a $15,000 organ.

There was a fire in 1937 that was reported as gutting the auditorium, which simply was not true. When the building was rehabbed in the late 1990s, many of the original details (pre-1930s), including wallpaper and paintings, were found intact, but sadly most of it was removed (after being photographed) so the building could be retrofitted. It was during this remodeling that the balcony was removed and the eastern most part of the original building was demolished. A new auditorium was built where the balcony once was. Half of the original building that houses the lobby was demolished and the new building built in its place has an auditorium on the second floor. In effect, the Rafael has been permanently turned into a triplex.

In 1926, more than a decade before the fire, the theatre was enlarged and could seat 1600 and a large stage and screen were added.

After the 1937 fire, S. Charles Lee was hired to draw up plans for the art deco remodeling. There is a wonderful drawing that he did of a proposed facade that was never built. The remodeled theatre was used as a second run screen after the El Camino was built, and in the 1960s showed Disney films exclusively.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

July 2014 photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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1998 photos from the William French Jr collection.

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Building after const...

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Looking east

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Back of theatre

1997 photos from the William French Jr collection.

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Shortly after demoli...

Photos from the Scott Neff collection.

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Photos from the William French Jr collection.

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1940s view looking w...

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1960s view looking e...

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Orpheus Theatre phot...

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The building that is...

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Theatre building sho...

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Looking west on Four...

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Looking East c. 1920

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Last featured 8/10/2014. Last edited 8/10/2014.

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