American Zoetrope: 827 Folsom, San Francisco

Original ZoetropeI’ve developed an interest in spaces where a shit ton of creativity went down – then poof! – they’re gone. Maybe they moved, maybe the money ran dry or the place was overrun by cossacks, or hipsters or something. In the Bay Area there were hundreds of such places around the dot-com boom/bust, however, none have the provenance of say, 827 Folsom Street in San Francisco – the original site of American Zoetrope. The initial incarnation of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s Hollywood-north premise was something of a hippie haven and, predictably, crashed and burned before being reborn in its present (and better functioning) form in Northbeach’s Sentinel Building. SF Weekly’s Sherilyn Connelly wrote an interesting piece about 827 Folsom (apparently a “legendary gay bathhouse” prior to Coppola’s tenancy), in which she appropriately dubs the joint “The City’s First Dot-Com.”

It’s now a generic, post-gentrified SOMA something-or-other that, according to Google, boasts a business called “Fix Your iTunes.” Yep, the song does not remain the same. From Peter Biskind’s Easy Rides, Raging Bulls:

American Zoetrope at 827 Folsom, San Francisco, CA

Here’s a short doc that captures the site’s inception, planting a memorable flag for Northern California filmmakers, circa 1969.