Boxcar Theatre to Open New Location Later This Year
Boxcar Theatre has announced that it has signed a ten-year lease on a property at the confluence of San Francisco's Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods. Located at 644 Broadway, the 9050 sq. ft. space is almost three times the size of its former home in the Tenderloin. Boxcar plans to reopen The Speakeasy in late 2015 or early 2016 with three to four shows per week and an array of neo-vaudeville acts on other nights.
Before it closed in June of last year, the immersive theater experience about a Prohibition-era saloon ran for more than five months with continuously sold-out shows, earning widespread praise from both critics and audiences. Patrons were free to explore the authentically recreated nightclub, featuring a bar, casino and cabaret. "Impressively orchestrated" (San Francisco Bay Guardian), "everything I love about San Francisco" (The Bold Italic) and "the best bar in San Francisco" (SF Weekly) are some of the glowing reviews it received.
When The Speakeasy reopens it will accommodate up to 250 patrons a night in a newly remodeled club, formerly a movie theater tucked within the subterranean quarters below the now defunct Gold Mountain Restaurant. Before it housed one of the country's largest dim sum restaurants, 644 Broadway opened in 1906 as the Palace Theatre, later re-christened the Verdi Theatre, then in 1954 the World Theatre, screening mostly Chinese language films. After the entire building was torn down and rebuilt in the early 1980s, a smaller World Theatre reopened, screening films for another 15 years.
The property at 644 Broadway was subsequently acquired in 2013 by Cypress Properties Group. Boxcar follows China Live Ventures and the San Francisco Film Society in leasing space in the building.
The redesign of the basement theater is led by Marcy Wong/Donn Logan Architects, a firm noted for other high-profile theater projects including Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre and the Freight & Salvage. David Hecht, the lead architect for the entire 644 Broadway project, will oversee the designs to completion.
"Our move to the North Beach-Chinatown district will allow us to serve more people -- locals and tourists alike," says Nick A. Olivero, Artistic Director of Boxcar Theatre and creator of The Speakeasy. "We plan to make The Speakeasy a staple of San Francisco's nightlife and theater scene."
Joining Olivero in the remount of The Speakeasy are General Manager David Gluck and Operations Manager Geof Libby, both returning partners on the production. "We are raising $1.5 million to build our new venue," explains Gluck, "and an additional $750,000 to remount the production itself. It is a bold leap forward, but that is entirely consistent with the ambition Boxcar has demonstrated for years." The Speakeasy producers are beginning the process of hiring designers and casting the show as well as raising the funds needed to complete the $2.25 million project.