At The New Parkway Theater, viewers nestle into love seats or lounge on cozy couches while munching on comfort food and popcorn, a weekend viewing party writ large. If its owners had their way, the biggest difference between a friend's house and their theater would be the size of the screen. Conceived as a community space, New Parkway's colorful cafe and couch-filled screening rooms encourage showgoers to make friends, sitting with strangers and striking up conversations with particularly interesting throw pillows. An ever-changing schedule reinforces the space's sense of discovery, constantly cycling through indie darlings, classic flicks, and second-run blockbusters.
The menu of comfort food comes out of the kitchen and straight to the seats, letting viewers chow down during flicks. Prepared with locally sourced ingredients, options include burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and spicy fries. Beer and wine selections all come from brewers and vintners within 100 miles of Oakland.
Did you know that, on average, 88% of the seats in a movie theater remain empty during a showing? According to the New York Times, this phenomenon really surprised Sean Wycliffe a few years back when he went to see the Oscar-winning film The King's Speech and shared the theater with only two other audience members. With all the focus on online video services, Sean realized movie theaters were being overlooked, and came up with a concept that could help movie houses fill their empty seats.
His brainchild became Dealflicks, a website that offers customers discounted tickets (sometimes with popcorn or soda) for same-day showings. Customers shop a selection of deals, each of which is specific to a particular film, theater, and showtime, and upon purchase, receive an email voucher they present at the theater's ticket counter. Dealflicks is partnered with theaters around the country, particularly independent and neighborhood venues, such as the treehouse of the enterprising kid down the street.
On a mild February day in 1926, San Francisco theater magnate Samuel H. Levin address an anxious crowd of cinemagoers at the opening of his newest movie house. Ever the family man, Levin saw himself as a man providing entertainment for all ages. "In the New Balboa, as in all my theaters," he said, "I seek to supply the comforts and intimate surroundings associated with the higher ideals of home life."
Nearly 100 years later, the lights of the Balboa Theatre's maquee still burn against the night sky, calling patrons into a cozy cinema suffuse with classic designs pulled from the Golden Age of Hollywood. However, these historical flourishes belie the modern innovations behind the scenes. The theatre was completely overhauled in 2011, with technicians retrofitting each auditorium with state-of-the-art digital sound and projection systems.
This technological refresher helps the Balboa continue its main mission: showcasing must-see movies. These often take the form of first-run blockbusters, but the Balboa doesn't simply mimic the faceless megaplexes. Family films, motion-picture classics, and buzzed-about documentaries all find a place on the theater's twin screens, celebrating both the film world's diversity and the Balboa's original purpose.
Erected in 1909, when the city's great earthquake and fire were still recent memories, the Roxie Theater is San Francisco's oldest continually operating movie theater. Its late-60s stint as an adult movie showroom is far behind the Roxie, and this vintage Mission District jewel, sporting a classic 1930s neon sign, now functions as a nonprofit operation. With programming predicated on celebrating the cinematic arts and its vibrant history, the theater works with many local film festivals, including Noisepop, Frameline and Indiefest. Other evenings feature writer and director talks, themed screenings and "Neighborhood Nightz," which showcases locally-made short films. Throughout the rest of the year, the Roxie screens art films, documentaries and rare treats that would be very hard to find anywhere else.