Films are back where they belong on the big screen. The price ranges from “Demon Slayer” to “Nomadland”. In San Francisco, where most adults have received at least one COVID image and where there are many avid moviegoers, theater operators and fans alike are excited and hopeful.
Cinemas scheduled to reopen this month in San Francisco (with COVID security measures) include the Roxie Theater, Balboa Theater, Presidio Theater, and Marina Theater. These independently operated cinemas connect the Embarcadero Center Cinema and the more commercial locations Kabuki, Metreon and Century 9 in the slowly but steadily recovering screen scene.
One of the partially remodeled cinemas slated to reopen in the coming months is the Vogue Theater, slated for June 11th. the palatial Castro Theater, which will screen selections from the Frameline Film Festival in June; and the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s mission on July 23rd. The 4-star theater, Opera Plaza Cinema and Regal Stonestown are also due to reopen. The dates will be announced.
Streaming movies at home cannot be compared to sitting in a dark theater and entertaining and transporting stories on screen. The emotions are deeper, the landscape bigger, the cliff hangers more tense and the faces of the stars, whether Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, Mads Mikkelsen or Gunda, better.
Some have already returned to theaters, including film critic Jeffrey Anderson. He describes a press screening in March as a combination of fear and joy.
“I hadn’t seen the publicist or my coworkers in a year and it was strangely exciting,” says Anderson, whose reviews appear regularly in the Examiner. “I wanted to hug them all.”
“The theater was scary,” he adds, remembering the almost empty space and the long dormant feeling of the place. “It didn’t smell like popcorn and the posters hadn’t been changed in a year. But when the lights went out and the movie started, I was very excited. “
At a public screening at Tanforan in April, it was normal, says Anderson: “A live person behind a plastic sign scanned my digital ticket from my phone and people waited in line for food. Hand lotion dispensers were everywhere and the bathrooms were set up for social distancing. …
“I usually buy popcorn when I go to duds on Friday mornings that the critics aren’t showing, but I put my mask on and didn’t eat or drink. One day I would like to be able to enjoy popcorn with a movie again. “
The cinemas already open in San Francisco are AMC (Kabuki, Metreon) and Century (Century 9), which show films like “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “Nobody” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”.
The still closed Century 20 in Daly City is being rebuilt and is scheduled to reopen in June.
It is not often that a multi-screen, independent film theater shows independent films, but that is the case with Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema, which now offers Nomadland, Together Together and Oscar Nominated Shorts programs. (The 1995 opening series featured a French drama, a documentary, and a Parker Posey comedy.)
Paul Serwitz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Theaters, which also operates the Opera Plaza Cinema, which is still closed, explains the company’s cautious but steady approach to reopening:
“Although we are committed to serving the art house community, the reopening of other theaters such as the Opera Plaza is associated with an increased number of theater-goers to support these operations,” says Serwitz. “The only other theater in the Bay Area that we’ve reopened is Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, while the rest of our East Bay locations are waiting for stronger signs of theatrical release.
“However, we are confident that the slow but positive trends we are seeing will provide the spark for expansion soon.”
Serwitz adds that the Opera Plaza cinema will soon be undergoing “major renovations” but will likely not reopen until afterwards.
Bay Area moviegoers are among the country’s top viewers for independent films, and Roxie in the Mission is a premier indie venue. Virtual screenings were offered during the pandemic (a program to continue for viewers who do not want to return to theaters yet). However, coworkers and friends are thrilled with the reopening of the community-centric movie theater on May 21st.
“It was more than exhilarating to have tickets on sale for our first public show in over a year,” said Lex Sloan, executive director of Roxie. “When people bought tickets online, I was overwhelmed with hopes – not just for the Roxie, but for all of the wonderful independent cinemas in the Bay Area and for the filmmakers whose work we can’t wait to show.”
The Roxie’s opening film is selected from an audience poll that attracted more than 2,000 nominees.
“As a mission-driven community-based organization, it only feels right for our customers to bring our first film back,” says Sloan.
The finalists: “Cinema Paradiso”, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”, “Mulholland Drive” and “Vertigo”. Close behind were “Harold and Maude”, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Koyaanisqatsi”.
Sloan adds that Instagram subscription votes for local films like “Vampariah” and “Colma: The Musical” “surprised us”.
In addition, the Roxie will host live performances and questions and answers from artists.
Cinema SF’s Balboa Theater, which hosted fun outdoor activities during the pandemic, will reopen on May 14 with a weekend-long “Godzilla’s Monster Bash”. The organizers promise “10 classic Godzilla films, including a 60th anniversary show by Mothra, plus sellers, artists, raffle prizes and more.”
Frank Lee of the family owned Lee Neighborhood Theaters says the Presidio will reopen May 21st. the Marina Theater follows on May 28; and the reopening date of the 4 stars is to be determined.
“The encouragement from our members, sponsors, and community partners is why I have great hope that people will return to the cinema,” Sloan says. “Now, similar to the fresh batches of popcorn we’re going to pop, I can finally give it a try.”
Movies and TVSan Francisco
If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Learn more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/