Though its name changed numerous times over the years, from the Columbia Theatre to the Wilkes, the Lurie, and then the Geary, its stature as the center of the city's cultural life never waned. The theater hosted some of the biggest stars of the day--Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Clark Gable, Ethel Barrymore, Boris Karloff, and Paul Robeson, to name a few.
In 1967, the theater became the home of the American Conservatory Theater. In the theater's inaugural season, it presented more than two dozen fully-staged productions. Among these were some of the most famous dramas and musicals in American history, including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Crucible.
In 1989, just hours before a performance, the Loma Prieta earthquake did significant damage to the theater, ripping an enormous hole in the ceiling and dumping tons of debris into the building's interior. San Franciscans rallied to rebuild the theater, raising $30 million for its restoration. Since it reopened, the theater continues to be one of the city's preeminent entertainment venues.
The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.