The Story of Frank Lee and How He Became Lee Neighborhood Theaters

Some people are destined to have a lifetime love affair with movies and that is very true in the case of Frank Lee. Lee had always been enamored with the silver screen and began working in the entertainment industry when he was just 11 years old back in 1964. Thanks to his business acumen and also‚ his background in the entertainment business‚ Frank eventually struck out on his own in 1987‚ establishing his own company‚ Lee Neighborhood Theaters.

Frank Lee still runs the whole show show today with the help of his lovely wife‚ Lida. From their humble beginnings in 1987‚ they have grown the business into the largest independent theater operators in San Francisco and are also one of the biggest Asian–run entertainment businesses in the Bay Area.

Today‚ five decades after Frank Lee made his start in the industry‚ Lee Neighborhood Theaters operates 3 theater venues – the 4 Star Theater‚ The Marina and The Presidio.

The 4 Star

The 4 Star‚ located at 2200 Clement Street at 23rd Avenue‚ San Francisco‚ CA‚ was first opened in 1913. At this time the theater was the “La Bonita” until it was rechristened to 4 Star in 1946.

This historic theater was closed for ten years until Frank and Lida reopened the theater in 1992‚ and investing heavily in it to turn it around and making it the first theater under the control of his fledgling company. Since then‚ 4 Star has been busy serving the local community with a carefully curated selection of the best European‚ Asian‚ and American art films in the industry.

The Marina

The Marina was first established in 1928 as a movie house for second–run films. By the early 60s‚ it had been renamed to Cinema 21 and re–purposed into a theater for first–run movies. However‚ as it is common with old theaters‚ stiff competition lead to the Marina’s closure in 2001.

In 2008 the Marina theater‚ now under Lee Neighborhood Theaters successfully reopened. This feat was accomplished with help and support of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (SFNTF) and the Marina Merchants Association (MMA)‚ as well as several concerned citizens‚ who protested the theater being torn down in favor of opening of a Walgreens store at the same location. Several extended negotiations later‚ an agreement was reached. Walgreens agreed to give up almost half the space for Frank and Lee Neighborhood Theaters to rebuild the historic theater

The Presidio

The Presidio was initially born as “El Presidio” in 1937. However‚ in 1953‚ it was renamed to just “Presidio”.

Presidio was originally a movie house for last–runs. From there‚ it went on to showcasing promos and eventually‚ first–runs.

In 2003‚ with the help of the landlord‚ Deerfield Realty and Patricia Vahey‚ it was renovated into a 4 screen multiplex property with a seating capacity of over 500. As a part of Frank’s desire to give back to the industry that he loves and owes his success to; the Presidio regularly screens documentaries and independent films‚ many from talented new film–makers. In addition to these art house films the Presidio also screens the usual roster of newly released mainstream Hollywood and international blockbusters.