San Francisco has been the setting of many films and the main subject for some. It’s easy to incorporate the Bay Area into so many films. Not only does it lie close to Hollywood, but it also has a vibrant film-centric culture, one that includes some of the best and most fascinating movie theaters you can find anywhere. This means that in this age of “Netflix and chill,” there are still cinemas out there that are worth getting off the couch for.
If you’re in San Francisco and want to catch a film in a theater with a vibe like no other, these are the best and most fascinating movie houses in town.
2550 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
The Alamo Drafthouse on Mission Street is a fairly new movie house that opened in 2015, but it’s set in a place where an old-time cinema, the New Mission Theater, used to stand. The great thing about the Alamo Drafthouse is that its owners took painstaking effort to restore the theater to its 1930s glory. One unique perk: the cinema staff will take your orders and deliver your food as you watch, so there’s no need to leave your seat to grab a bite. If you truly want customer service that goes the extra mile, then this is the cinema to visit.
135 4th Street, Suite 3000, San Francisco, CA
As the only remaining theater from the Sony Metreon franchise (now owned by multinational movie theater chain, AMC), the Metreon 16 continues to stick to what it’s good at, which is 3D IMAX. And therein lies its appeal. For those who want to watch the latest blockbuster with the added detail, dimension, and excitement that 3D IMAX offers, the Metreon 16 provide an experience like no other.
3630 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA
The Balboa Theater almost closed its doors in 2013, but thanks to a massive fundraising effort on Kickstarter that same year, the owners raised enough money to convert from film projection to digital, which allowed the venue to keep up with the movie industry’s changing formats. Now, Balboa Theater provides moviegoers with the best of the old and the new, from its design aesthetic to the movies it screens. The theater’s offerings include recent releases, second-runs, and classic double features.
429 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA
As one of the oldest theaters in the US, the Castro Theatre has been in business since 1922. It was designated by the City of San Francisco as Registered Landmark Number 100 in 1977 and now operates more as a repertory house than cinema. However, it remains a favorite for hosting star-studded red carpet premieres and indie film festivals. It also holds special screenings of cult or classic movies. The theater’s interior design is a mix of art deco, Spanish, and Asian styles, complemented by classical murals and decades-old film posters, making the Castro Theatre a truly standout venue.
3200 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA
The Grand Lake Theater is another 1920s-era treasure that has managed to stand the test of time. A major renovation during the 1980s gave it a new lease on life. It now has three screening rooms after starting with just one. The third screening room has a regal, Egyptian-style décor unmatched by today’s contemporary movie houses.
2200 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA
Far from being an authentic glitzy and glamorous “four-star theater,” the 4-Star Theatre has threatened to close its doors so many times that few now believe it will ever happen. A survivor in every sense of the word, the venue has multiple screens that show mostly art house and foreign films that fall within the category of “alternative world cinema.” It has also managed to carve a niche market by being the only cinema that still hosts first-run Asian films in all of San Francisco.
1 Tamal Vista Boulevard, Corte Madera, CA
From having only one screen and a parking lot riddled with potholes, the Century Cinema in Corte Madera has a lot of shortcomings for a movie theater in this day and age. However, it has one thing going for it – it is THX sound-certified by Lucasfilm, the iconic production company behind the “Star Wars” film franchise. Despite its rickety state, the cinema’s superior sound system continues to attract the most discerning cinephiles. In fact, word has it that it is one of Steven Spielberg’s favorite movie houses.
If you want to live in a city with history and heart, make San Francisco your first choice. In the communities of Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, the Marina, Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, Sea Cliff, or South Beach, Nina Hatvany and the rest of Team Hatvany will show you homes that you’ll fall in love with. Get in touch with the #1 Team in San Francisco real estate for the last two consecutive years. Call Team Hatvany at 415.710.6462 or email nina(at)ninahatvany(dotted)com.