The best theatres in San Francisco play significant roles in expanding the city’s performing arts scene. You’ll find a good mix of Broadway and off-Broadway productions in historic theatres, many of which date back to the Roaring Twenties. These venues are also some of the city’s most photographed spots, thanks to their majestic facades and halls.

    If you’re a movie fan, San Francisco has a great selection of independent cinemas showcasing double features of indie and noir classics. Of course, there’s always a Hollywood blockbuster screening in just about any movie theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whether you’re in the mood for a provocative play or a classic production, San Francisco has a theatre to suit your mood.

    1

    War Memorial Opera House

    A historical enclave of arts and creativity

    The War Memorial Opera House is a historical performance venue in San Francisco. It's home to both the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet, both of which perform regularly throughout the year. It occupies a 1930s building, built in a beaux-arts/classical revival style.

    The opera house can seat 3,126 people, with an additional 200 standing positions. The San Francisco Opera performs both classic and contemporary productions, while the San Francisco Ballet is particularly famous for being one of the best in the world. This was the first professional ballet company in the US, so you’ll be sure to enjoy world-class performances at the War Memorial Opera House.

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    Location: 301 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Open: Most shows start at 7.30 pm

    Phone: +1 415-621-6600

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    photo by Sanfranman59 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

    Home of the San Francisco Symphony

    The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall is a massive concert hall that's part of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. It’s the home of the award-winning San Francisco Symphony, which was founded in 1911.

    Fans of classical music will find plenty of entertainment at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. Performances tend to last between 90 minutes and 2 hours, though an intermission often takes place in the middle of the show. The concert hall has movable panels to adjust the orchestra size and audience capacity. Along with the 2,743-seat hall, the building has rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, and a music library.

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    Location: 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Open: Box office: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 6 pm (most shows start at 7.30 pm)

    Phone: +1 209-481-6259

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    photo by FASTILY (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    3

    The Castro Theatre

    Catch an indie film in a historic movie palace

    The Castro Theatre is a San Francisco cinema with gorgeous architecture, luxurious surroundings, and a regular schedule of the latest indie films. Since 1922, it has hosted many world film festivals and gala tributes to legendary movie stars. On non-event days, the cinema provides a refined and outstanding film experience, with the ability to present everything from 4K movies to silent films.

    Some of the many events that take place at The Castro Theatre include the San Francisco Film Noir Festival, SF IndieFest, the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the Shock It to Me! Classic Horror Film Festival.

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    Location: 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

    Phone: +1 415-621-6120

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    photo by Mike McBey (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Orpheum Theatre

    An ornate landmark in San Francisco

    The Orpheum Theatre is one of the best places to enjoy Broadway productions in San Francisco. The cathedral-like building dates back to 1926, featuring an ornate Plateresque façade. Inside, you’ll find a massive auditorium that can accommodate 2,197 people.

    Some of the many Broadway shows that have taken place at the theatre include Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Hamilton, and Bring It On: The Musical. The Orpheum Theatre has also hosted hundreds of vaudeville, silent films, and motion pictures since its opening. You can find this landmark theatre on Market Street, about a 5-minute walk from San Francisco City Hall.

    Location: 1192 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Phone: +1 888-746-1799

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    photo by Beyond My Ken (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    SFJAZZ Center

    A must-visit for jazz lovers

    SFJAZZ Center is a non-profit organisation and performance space for jazz in San Francisco. Established in 2013, it’s regarded as the USA’s first standalone venue for jazz performance and education. It’s most famous for producing the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival and SFJAZZ Summer Sessions.

    The 35,000-sq-ft venue consists of the Robert N. Miner Auditorium (where up to 700 people can enjoy live performances in a cosy setting), the 100-seat Joe Henderson Lab, and several practice rooms for aspiring jazz musicians. SFJAZZ Center offers a variety of programs, lectures, workshops, and courses for all ages and experience levels.

    Location: 201 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Phone: +1 415-788-7353

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    6

    Curran Theatre

    One of San Francisco’s oldest performing arts theatres

    The Curran Theatre stages a wide range of world-class performances in San Francisco. Established in 1922, the theatre has undergone major restoration over the years. Today, it seats up to 1,600 people looking to catch national runs of Broadway shows.

    The Curran has staged over 8,000 shows, including 5 years of Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic The Phantom of the Opera. Other prominent productions that have taken place at this theatre include Wicked, Les Misérables, Jersey Boys, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The Curran lies in San Francisco’s Theater District, around a 15-minute walk east of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    Location: 445 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Phone: +1 415-358-1220

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    photo by Beyond My Ken (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    San Francisco Playhouse

    Enjoy intimate productions at Kensington Park Hotel

    San Francisco Playhouse is an off-Broadway theatre that showcases over 400 shows annually. Located on the 2nd floor of Kensington Park Hotel, this non-profit venue offers an intimate viewing experience at its 199-seat Mainstage theatre.

    Several world premieres have taken place at the playhouse, such as Grounded (2012), Ideation (2014), and Seared (2016). The San Francisco Playhouse is just a short walk from Union Square, where you can spend some time checking out the upscale shops or dining at excellent restaurants before or after a show.

    Location: 450 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

    Phone: +1 415-677-9596

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    8

    Brava Theater Center

    A performance venue for the underrepresented

    The Brava Theater showcases thought-provoking productions by underrepresented artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. It provides an affordable space for women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and people of colour to express their creativity in performing arts.

    The venue has a 360-seat main stage, a 60-seat stage that doubles as a rehearsal studio, a street-level cabaret space, and a lobby that also serves as a visual art gallery. The Brava Theater is also home to several alternative dance and theatre companies, including Cuicacalli Dance Company and Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience.

    Location: 2781 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

    Phone: +1 415-641-7657

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    9

    Balboa Theater

    An independent cinema showcasing indie and blockbuster movies

    Balboa Theater dates back to 1926, making it one of the oldest independent cinemas in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a great place for movie fans to catch not only the latest Hollywood blockbusters but also indie and classic noir films. It only has 2 screens, offering an intimate movie-viewing experience. You can catch second-run films at very reasonable prices.

    You can find the Balboa Theater on Balboa Street. It’s within a 20-minute walk of various San Francisco landmarks, including Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, and the USS San Francisco Memorial.

    Location: 3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

    Phone: +1 415-221-8184

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    photo by Eugene Kim (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    Magic Theatre

    A waterfront venue in Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

    The Magic Theatre is part of the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco. It was founded in 1967 and relocated to its current location in 1977. The season usually runs from October to June. Expect provocative plays by both established and upcoming playwrights in North America, such as Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Luis Alfaro.

    Among the many notable productions that have premiered here include Buried Child by Shepard and Bruja by Luis Alfaro. Internationally renowned actors like Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Sean Penn have also performed at the Magic Theatre.

    Location: Landmark Building D, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123, USA

    Phone: +1 415-441-8822

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    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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