Before I moved to San Francisco, I didn’t think I’d have a “favorite” movie theater apart from whichever one had the cheapest student tickets. After all, my college town didn’t have a ton of theaters that weren’t owned by giants like Regal or AMC. After being here just over six months, I’m still happy to catch a flick at one of the multiplexes, but I’ve fallen in love with three small theaters near me. If you’re looking to have a better movie experience in San Francisco, you should definitely try them out.
I’d never been to a Sundance cinema before I saw From Up on Poppy Hill at Kabuki, but I’ve been coming back ever since. Kabuki has super comfy seating with big armrests, and when you buy your ticket, you reserve a seat at the same time. That means no more trying to beat the crowd into the screening room because everyone has assigned seats anyway. They even have showings later at night that are 21+ only because you can buy alcohol. Haven’t taken advantage of that yet, so I can’t speak to the quality of the cocktails. Kabuki has multiple screens and shows blockbuster films, too.
New People Cinema
I’ve only been to New People a couple of times because their films are usually around for a day or two at most, and tickets sell out quickly. I caught Wolf Children there last year during the Japan Film Festival, and though I did have to get there early to make sure I got a seat, it was worth it. The chairs are comfortable, and since the New People building was built to showcase Japanese culture, they show anime and live action Japanese films. On the ground floor of the New People building, there’s also a cute little place called the Crown & Crumpet, which I recommend for chilling out over some tea.
I went to this great little indie theater for a midnight screening of Akira. The sound was a bit loud, but hey, the place was run by two people so late at night, so I didn’t mind too much. The seats at Clay are decent, but I think the nicest part of the experience was having the super nice concession guy tell us to wait a few minutes while he made fresh popcorn so we wouldn’t get the last dregs of the previous batch. I don’t know if this is unique to midnight showings or not, but we also didn’t get pelted with advertisements before the film started; they just ran a black and white movie with interesting music over the dialogue and some trippy visualizations. Clay does midnight showings of The Room (Spoons!) and Rocky Horror Picture Show regularly, so I’ll have to check those out. Oh, and they show stuff during the day, too.
Did you spot the pattern for these places yet? Well, I found them because I’ll jump at any chance to watch anime on the big screen. I rarely got to do that before moving here, and as an anime fan, it’s awesome to have so many opportunities now.
New People is the only place on this list with a focus on Japanese film. So, if you’re just looking to check out a current film in a great theater, I highly recommend Kabuki. If you want a quirkier indie place that mostly shows older stuff, definitely give the Clay Theater a try.