Neon sign for Mission Street's Grand Theater lights up for the first time in decades

Neon sign for Mission Street's Grand Theater lights up for the first time in decadesPhoto via Google Street View
Jay Barmann
Published on March 13, 2023

Another of the towering, glowing neon signs leftover from the heyday of Mission Street's days as a hub of cinema has come back to life. It's the sign above the Grand Theater, which is now home to arts org Gray Area, at 2665 Mission Street (between 22nd and 23rd). 

As Mission Local tells us, while the marquee over the Grand Theater's entrance has been lit up and advertising Gray Area programming for a few years now, the neon sign had remained dark — and possibly hasn't been lit up since the last days of that former movie theater in the 1970s. Gray Area executive director Barry Threw tells Mission Local that getting the sign restored and relit was a goal for the organization's 15th anniversary, which just came in February.

"The re-ignition of this sign, we hope, is a small moment to be proud of San Francisco in a time when the city needs to get back on its feet," Threw tells the site.

Gray Area's reviving of the Grand Theater's neon comes seven years after Alamo Drafthouse renovated the New Mission Theater across the street and revived its extra-tall neon sign.

Fundraising for the project was done by crowdfunding, and Gray Area managed to raise $52,000 of its $60,000 goal.

Prior to Gray Area moving into the space, it had functioned as a dollar store, and was likely vacant for many years in the intervening decades. 

Gray Area took over the space in 2012 and, with the help of donors, has renovated the interior spaces to become "the heart of Gray Area’s events, education, incubation, and research initiatives fostering interdisciplinary artistic inquiry and creative civic engagement."

The theater went dark for two years during the pandemic, but came back to life during 2022.

Check out all of Gray Area's current and upcoming programming here.