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Picture Paradise

Castro
Movie Palace: The Castro Theatre's dramatic art deco interior is the most impressive in town.

SF Is Celluloid Central For Movie-Goers

SAN FRANCISCO is rivalled only by Boston in the percentage of adult movie-goers in the City (and beats Beantown handily in overall numbers), making it arguably the movie-going capital of the United States. From the latest Hollywood blockbuster booming at you in digital stereo surround-sound in your local high-tech multiplex to found footage montages spliced together by some maverick moviemaker and put to a soundtrack of Swiss yodeling, San Francisco movie presenters offer the widest imaginable spectrum of subjects on celluloid or videotape.

In the first SF LIVE Movie Theatre Report, we look at downtown and district theatres dealing mostly with mainstream Hollywood features, and at the rich vein of exhibitors specializing in international and independent releases, as well as the independent houses, colleges, international cultural institutions, and museums and art centers.

Downtown

St. Francis I & II
Don't let the cruddy neighborhood (Market betw. 5th and 6th) deny you one of the best movie bargains in town. The St. Francis two theatres specialize in early release and second-run action, horror and comedy double features ("No love stories!," the owner stresses), such as Fled coupled with Goldeneye or Mission Impossible with The Nutty Professor. The real news is the $3.50 bargain rate before 5:00pm. The St. Francis has also revived the tradition of Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings on Fridays and Saturdays. The interior is very clean, if a bit threadbare. Concession stand prices match the tickets (extra large soft drink $1.75, hot dogs $2.00, extra large popcorn $4.25), and there are enough Mortal Kombat, Vindicators and Sidearms video games to train the U.S. 6th Army. Up to 5:00pm $3.50, children $3:50, gen. adm. $6:00, 965 Market St. 362-4822. IS

District

Alhambra Theatre
Built in 1926 for local theater barons, the Nasser Bothers, the Alhambra was specially constructed by Timothy Pflueger (who also designed the Castro Theater) in a beautifully ornate Moorish style, with a high domed ceiling illuminated in red and elaborate painted designs in the lobby. Large (cap. 1153), with backward-leaning seats for maximum leg-room and a good size screen (15' x 30'), the Alhambra specializes in Disney films. At the concession stand, try a special drink called POG (passion fruit, orange and guava). Street parking is difficult in this area, and the valet service out front can set you back $5 and up. The neighborhood has lots of shops and a variety of restaurants. Up to 3:30pm $4, srs. & u-12 $4, gen. adm. $7.50, 2330 Polk St., 775-2137. MS

AMC Kabuki 8
The Kabuki claims to have sold a quarter of all movie tickets bought in SF last year. After previous incarnations as a kabuki venue (its original function), a casino and a rock club, the theatre was bought by AMC and converted into a cinema in 1986. The large capacity and state of the art equipment have made it the logical host for the SF International and the Asian American film festivals. The eight theaters range in capacity from 728 down to 115. You may want to avoid the smallest spaces (7 and 8) if big screens are important to you. For the main stage, the designers went all out, with a THX sound system custom-designed by Lucasfilm. The Kabuki has three typical concession stands and a cafe that sells espresso drinks and fancy desserts. Prices are reasonable (small coke and popcorn about $4.00, latte $2.29). Parking garages beneath the theater and in Japantown charge only .50 for three hours with validation. 11:00am-2:30pm $4.75, 4:00-6:00pm & 10:00am Wed $3.75, srs. & children $3.75, gen. adm. $7.50, 1881 Post St., 931-9800. JW

Balboa Theatre
The City's most westerly movie house specializes in bargain-priced second-run double features (recent pairings: Mission: Impossible/Striptease, Twister/Arrival), although the average wait is only four to six weeks after first release. The Balboa is at the hub of a lively enclave of stores, ethnic restaurants and cafes almost within sight of the Pacific Ocean in the Outer Richmond District. The original space has been split into two small theatres (247 and 330 seats), each with a screen as wide as the room. The seats offer great back support, allowing relaxation without slumping. If you don't mind the trip to the edge of town, this is one of the best places to enjoy the deliciously guilty pleasure of a movie on a weekday afternoon. Walk around the corner onto 38th Avenue and check out the Hollywood icon-inspired mural (Marilyn, Fred and Ginger, Mark Bros et al) on the Fun House, which forms the west wall of the theatre. Up to 5:00pm Mon-Fri, 4:00pm Sat & 2:00pm Sun & holidays $3.50, children $3.50, gen. adm. $5.50, 3630 Balboa St., 221-8184. IS

Cinema 21
One of two affiliated movie theatres (along with the Presidio) in the heart of the Marina's yuppie enclave, Cinema 21 still has a pipe organ from its inception in the mid-'20s, out of use for three years now, but the operators hope to find someone to play it again soon. The 665 seats, all rocking, are arranged in stadium-type and balcony seating, the large screen (45' x 30') is crisply lit, with great color tones and definition, and the equipment is by THX and Dolby. Concession items are rivalled only by airport food in price, with sodas starting at $2.50 for a small (and they mean small), and a large popcorn a whopping $4.25. The staff seems particularly efficient and courteous. The Marina is merciless to free parking-seekers, and there are several pay lots within a few blocks of the theatre. Up to 4:00pm (2:00pm weekends & holidays) $4.50, srs. & children $4.50, gen. adm. $7.50, 2141 Chestnut St., 777-FILM. AY

Cineplex Odeon Cinema Northpoint
One of the largest theatres in the City (cap. 982) showing first-run Hollywood features on one of the biggest screens (19' x 50'). Built in the 1970s, it highlights all the terrible color combinations and architectural designs of that decade. The good news is that the restrooms are as big as Texas. There are video games in the lobby and an electronic fortune-teller if you're feeling lucky. The proximity of Fisherman's Wharf means parking is among the worst in this City, but the theater offers 3 hours of free validated parking a 1/2-block north on Powell (keep your ticket stub) Mon-Sat after 6:00pm and all day Sun and holidays. Up to 6:00pm $4.25, srs & u-11 $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50. 2290 Powell St., 989-6060. MS

Empire 3
The theatre is currently undergoing some reconstruction, but the management wishes to stress that there is no inconvenience to the public. Otherwise, they declined to provide further details on the theatre at this time. 85 West Portal Ave., 777-FILM.

Presidio Apart
From its stylish Art Deco design, the Presidio shares many features with its "sister theatre," the Century 21, coming in somewhat smaller with 601 seats, two-thirds of them rockers. 2340 Chestnut St., 777-FILM. AY

Regency I
It's worth getting to The Regency early to relax in the ambience of its ornate Victorian lounge. The theater is housed in an old Scottish Rite Temple built in 1909, and it's easy to believe that only the interior paint (now a garish green and blue in some areas) has changed since then. The huge Czechoslovakian chandeliers were definitely part of the theater's earlier incarnation. The Regency seats 786, its screen is large (about 80'x30'), the picture quality especially sharp and clean, and there's a Dolby digital sound system. The concession stand offers some unique items - dried apricots, freshly baked cookies, Spinelli's coffee - along with the traditional popcorn, soft drinks and candy selection. Prices are reasonable (coffee $1.00, small popcorn/drink combo $4.00. Customers can park at the Holiday Inn or Quality Inn nearby on Van Ness ($3.00 with a concession stand stamp). First show $4.00, children & srs. $4.00, gen. adm. $7.50. 1320 Van Ness Ave., 885-6773. JW

Regency II
Located one flight up in what used to be a ballroom dance hall, the Regency II is an odd mix of '60s chrome in the lobby and neoclassical columns in the auditorium. The concession area is small, but the theater seats 582, and the screen is only slightly smaller than in the Regency I. Picture quality and sound are clear, and the seats are comfortable, but the theater was too cold when I visited. In general, the space was clean but the bathroom could have used a good mop. The parking arrangements and concession stand fare are the same as for the Regency 1. First two shows $4.00, children & srs. $4, gen. adm. $7.50, 1268 Sutter St., 776-8054. JW

Royal Theatre
Built in 1916 and not yet sliced up into a multiplex, the Royal has the faded glamour of an old movie palace, with purple walls, sparkling stars, deep red carpets and roomy, well padded seats. The 20' x 44' screen is great for first-run action movies in Cinemascope like The Rock - you can examine every crease on Sean Connery's face! The large waiting area in the ladies' room will give you plenty time to check yourself out in the mirror while you wait for one of only four stalls to free up. Parking can be pretty discouraging around the theatre, so leave early and avoid breaking up your relationship fast by being late and driving around at break-neck speed looking for a parking spot. The Royal offers 3 hours of parking for $3 at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn at Van Ness and Pine. Matinees, srs. & children $4, gen. adm. $7.50, 1529 Polk St., 474-0353. MS

United Artists Alexandria Theatre
Another grand old movie palace (built in 1923) which has been divided into three separate screens. Two upstairs theaters seat 252 and 268 (screen size in both is 12' x 25'), and the downstairs theatre seats 550 (screen size 15' x 48') amid beautiful old murals. Some interior renovation is currently underway to improve wheelchair access. A concession stand novelty is a kid's pack (soda, popcorn and toy surprise) for $3. Candy is sold in bulk for $7 per lb. Parking is not too bad in the Richmond District, and the theater has a $3 parking lot next door. Up to 6:00pm $4.50, srs. & children $4.50, gen. adm. $7.50, 5400 Geary Blvd., 752-5100. MS

United Artists Coronet Theatre
Built in the pre-World War II era and seating up to 1,230 people, the Coronet has a large screen and specializes in big action pictures (the g-force from the sound system will pin you to the back of your seat). The interior decor is purple and green decor with murals of kings and queens (hence the name). The spacious seating means you won't be pressed into the shape of a human accordion during the movie. Concession stand items are pretty pricey (nachos $3.25, hot dogs $2.25, sodas $2.25), so you can treat your date to dinner. Good deals include assorted candy in bulk at $1.75 per1/4 lb and a free box of Hot Tamales if you buy a large popcorn and two soft drinks. Street parking is not bad by SF standards, or you can use the parking lot next to the theater for $3.00. Up to 4:00pm $4.50, srs. & children $4, gen. adm. $7.50, 3575 Geary Blvd., 752-4400. MS

United Artists Galaxy
An exciting, modern facade, with four-story glass walls encloses an airy, spacious lobby. Movies meant to be played big are not minimized here, and even the smaller theatres won't remind you of a sports bar's big-screen TV. The picture quality is first-rate. It always seems a little warm in Galaxy theatres, and I'm particularly grateful for the rush of cool air when I leave. The ushers look distracted and seem perturbed by questions. Concession prices are typically exorbitant, but there are a few unusual goodies like fill-it-yourself bags of jelly beans and hot tamales. For street parking, you might try the fairly well-lit alleys in adjacent blocks. Reduced rate parking is available with validation at the Cathedral Hill Hotel and the Quality Inn on Van Ness, and weekends and holidays at the 1375 Sutter Place Garage. Up to 6:00pm $4, srs. & children $4, gen. adm. $7.50, 1285 Sutter St., 474-8700. RB

United Artists Metro
UA was thinking of converting large spaces like the Metro and the Coronet into multiplexes, but the success of Star Wars convinced the movie giant that there was still a market for large houses. The two-level auditorium (cap. 856) was built in the 1930s as a playhouse. The footlights still work, and an old backdrop painted with a park scene still adorns the back wall behind the screen. Among the theater's faded grandeur are original murals of burnished gold fairies dancing in willowy tree branches. The paintings have survived better than some of the carpeting and seats. The Metro has one large screen and is equipped with Dolby digital sound (Dolby eliminates static and digital recordings produce a precise, clear sound). There is no air conditioning, but the large space keeps the temperature comfortable. The concession stand offers standard movie fare. Parking is available at the 2001 Union garage ($5 with theater validation). Up to 6:00pm $4.50, children & srs. $4.00, gen. adm. $7.50. 2055 Union St., 931-1685. JW

International

Bridge Theatre
Cozy and comfortable, the Bridge exudes low-key art house charm. Equipped with a single wide screen, an excellent sound system and a groovy balcony, the theatre is an underrated neighborhood treasure. The tiny lobby is a charming place to sip gourmet coffee and chat while you wait. The seats are old and semi-comfortable with average leg room (basketball players will feel cramped). Parking is tolerable - be persistent and you will prevail. First show daily $4.25, srs. & children $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, 3010 Geary Blvd., 751-3212. BP

Castro Theatre
The City's premier venue for archival treasures, restorations of classics, rediscovered nuggets special re-releases and film festivals is also hands down the most beautiful in town, with art deco interior, nouveau friezes, ornate trim and a vaulted ceiling. The Castro's famed 20-ton Wurlitzer organ still rises for silent films or before and between showings on regular nights. The balcony gets a little warm when the house is packed, but high ceilings prevent suffocation. The Dolby system sometimes loses effect in the cavernous (1,500 seats) space. Staff is generally friendly without being obsequious, and usually quite knowledgeable about what's on the screen. First show $5:00, srs. & children $5:00, gen. adm. $7.50, 429 Castro St., 621-6120. RG

Clay Theatre
The Clay is a funky old-time cinema sanctuary. The theater's wooden floors, creaky lean-back chairs and lived-in lobby create a seasoned ambience. The combination of a wide screen, sloped floor and liberal leg room make most seats good ones. However, if you sit in the back third of the theater, be sure to bring your glasses and hearing aid; you will be a long way from the screen, and the sound system occasionally borders on muddy. The snack bar is limited, so save your appetite for one of the many good restaurants smack in the middle of the Upper Fillmore's yuppie heaven. A tough place in the parking stakes, especially on a weekend night. First show daily $4.25, srs. & children $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, 2261 Filmore St., 352-0810. BP

Embarcadero Center Cinema
With a selection of gourmet goodies that would make Wolfgang Puck drool, the snack bar alone is a reason to visit, with frozen rainforest sorbet to garlic popcorn. The lobby is spacious and inviting, and the cinema's five theaters are sparkling, state of the art spaces. Each screening room boasts booming high-tech sound and crystal clear projection equipment. The floor is nicely sloped, and seats are situated for maximum viewing pleasure. The bathrooms are the cleanest in town. Free validated parking is available Mon-Fri after 5:00pm and all day Sat & Sun in the basement garage. So, is there anything wrong with the Embarcadero Center Cinema? Yeah, the cheesy motel design motif. First show daily $4.25, srs. & children $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, One Embarcadero Center, 352-0810. BP

Four Star
The Four-Star is the procrastinator's last chance to catch movies after everyone else has seen them Its program of second-run, international and art films is particularly brave in a predominantly Chinese American neighborhood. The venue itself is sometimes chilly, clean but run-down and lacks personality. Film prints which have not seen too much wear and tear are adequately projected on two modest screens. Up to 2:30pm $4.50, srs. & children $4:00, gen. adm. $6:00, 2200 Clement St., 666-3488. RG

Gateway Cinema
Just a bon-bon's throw from San Francisco Bay, the Gateway is a lonely little hole in the wall, sitting quietly like a neglected step-child near the Embarcadero Cinema and easy to miss if you're not on the look-out. The concession stand in the claustrophobic lobby features a limited selection of munchies. Inside the single theater, redness rules: red walls, red floors and a red light on the medium-sized screen. The best seats are located from the middle forward. Despite its unassuming presence, the Gateway has a long tradition of showcasing cool international and independent films. Street parking is generally not too difficult, especially in the evenings, or try the Golden Gateway Garage. First show daily $4.25, srs. & students $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, 215 Jackson St., 352-0810. BP

Great Star
One of the last Hong Kong movie palaces left in the United States and SF's sole surviving authentic full-time Chinese movie theatre. This is the place where you could have seen the original version of Jackie Chan's recent hit Rumble in the Bronx when it came out on Chinese New Year's day 1995. It is troubling that non-Chinese film fans flock to places like the Roxie Cinema (which has probably done more than any other theatre on the West Coast to promote Hong Kong movies) and Berkeley's U.C. Theatre, while the Great Star, the longtime champion of the genre, has experienced cataclysmic attendance drops. 636 Jackson St., 982-6644 (recorded information in Chinese only). IS

Lumiere Theatre
The Lumiere is a charmless, no-frills foreign flick emporium. The formica-floored lobby is sterile and cold, and the bare bones concession stand features standard popcorn/milk dud fare. All three theaters are long, narrow and impersonal. Still, the Lumiere screens a fine selection of films and is actually not the worst place to see a movie, if you get the right seat. Sit too far away in the larger theaters and you'll feel like a peeping tom watching the film from across the street. In the smaller theater, half the seats are so close you'll need a chiropractor afterwards. Street parking is tough, so it pays to get there early. Reduced validated parking is available at the Holiday Inn on Van Ness at Pine. First show daily $4.25, srs. & children $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, 1572 California St., 885-3200. BP

Opera Plaza Cinemas
Tucked away from the urban edge of Van Ness Avenue, the Opera Plaza Cinemas are a cozy refuge from the everyday urban angst outside. However, when it comes to movie theater screens, size does matter, and with about 35 seats and a dinky screen, two of the four theaters are so puny (the smallest in the City), you might feel ripped off. In other words, the Opera Plaza is not a great place to watch a Fellini retrospective or other visually stunning films. However it is a delightful, clean and friendly place to watch intimate flicks. Parking in the building's garage costs $1.50 for every 20 minutes, but it's usually not too tough to find street parking. First show daily $4.25, srs. & children $4.25, gen. adm. $7.50, 601 Van Ness Ave., 352-0810. BP

Red Vic Movie House
Not as funky as its previous incarnation (although the home-baked cookies and popcorn with yeast supplement made the transition), but still about the most laid back, intimate (143 seats) theatre in town. Foam padded "couches" in the middle of the room are fun for couples and groups. The screen is definitely on the small side, and the picture quality can vary with the relative obscurity or rarity of the films. A great off-beat program, such as '70s blaxploitation flicks, punk documentaries, second-runs, animated features, maverick directors' series and other arcana. Wed, Sat & Sun 2:00pm matinee $4:00, srs. & children $3:00, gen. adm. $6:00, 1727 Haight St., 668-3994. RG

Roxie
Savvy film buffs flock to the Roxie Cinema for an eclectic program and special-interest film festivals.

Roxie Cinema
The Roxie's adventurous programming trades in '50s and '60s camp, retrospectives, local features, "forgotten" films, and other obscura. The no-frills interior falls somewhere between "functional" and "bleak." The screen is smallish, but there isn't a bad seat in the house, and be prepared for the chill if the house is not full. Both sound and picture quality are sometimes sacrifices of an eclectic schedule like the Roxie's. You won't want to linger long in the closet-size bathrooms. The snack bar has a few stand-outs, such as gourmet chocolates by Cloud Nine, popcorn with yeast, home-made brownies and coffee by Cafe Malvina of North Beach. First show Wed & weekends $4:00, srs. & children $3:00, gen. adm. $6:00, 3117 16th St., 863-1087. RG

United Artists Vogue
Nicknamed "The Vague" for its arbitrary booking policies, the Vogue might screen anything from Hellraiser 4 to Smoke, and often gets off-beat films other venues in the Richmond District won't touch. The art deco exterior has remained virtually untouched since 1911, and the '60s interior has a quirky charm, slightly dingy but always clean. A concession stand with no coffee seems an oddity in a theatre which often shows "high-brow" films, but is in keeping with the Vogue's unpredictable personality. Up to 6:00pm $4.50, srs. & children $4:00, gen. adm. $7.50. RG

Museums, Art Centers

Asian Art Museum/M.H. de Young Museum - Trustees Auditorium
If it weren't for the magnificence of the cathedral ceilings and exhibits inside, and the courtyard pond full of lily pads, swaying palms, green grass and the smell of eucalyptus in the air outside, you'd think you were in your high school auditorium. The decor of this large (390 capacity) screening room is plain and sterile, with a stage for lectures and uncomfortable, brown upholstered seats. But once the lights go down, you are lost in the dark, eyes fixed on the huge, looming screen. Film programs are in conjunction with exhibitions. Free with gen. adm. Wed-Sun 10:00am-4:45pm (-8:45pm first Wed of month), gen. adm. $6, srs. $4, 12-17 $3, u-12 free, Golden Gate Park, 750-3600. CP

Center for the Arts Screening Room
A small, intimate, square room with purple ground lights illuminating all four futuristic, metallic walls and casting a low glow around the room. The 85 reddish, cushioned seats are exceptionally comfy, and audiences sit very close to the medium-sized screen enjoying great picture quality and sound. Program changes in conjunction with current exhibitions. Free with gen. adm., Tues-Sun 11:00-6:00pm (-8:00pm one night per month - call for details), gen adm. $4, srs. & students $2 (srs. Thur 11:00am-3:00pm free), members & u-16 free, 701 Mission St., 978-2782. CP

Exploratorium - McBean Theater
An intimate, industrial-looking room with a low, metallic ceiling, gray walls and basic black chairs. Larry Shaw, who has been building exhibits at the Exploratorium for 23 years, uses the facility's satellite receiver to view comets on the screen, or pulls information off the Internet for viewers. The room could also be mistaken for the backstage of a theater, with wires dangling and film and lighting equipment exposed. The Mcbean screens films in conjunction with activities and exhibits, and hosts various local organizations such as the American Film Institute, Bay Area animators and computer graphic artists working in multimedia and virtual reality. Free with gen. adm., 10:00am-6:00pm daily (-9:30pm Wed), members & u-3 free, 3-5 yrs. $2.50, 6-17 yrs. & disabled $5, srs. & students $7, gen. adm. $9 (no one refused for lack of funds), Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon St., 561-0360. CP

New Main Library - Koret Auditorium
A small, intimate, square room with purple ground, Koret Auditorium's state-of-the-art computerized multimedia presentations and recording facilities make this hi-tech, yet intimate, 247-seat theatre suitable for live performances and lectures as well as film. The August program is partly inspired by - what else? - the Olympics. Films like Americans on Everest, A League of Their Own, Tokyo Olympiad and Vive Le Tour are compiled in a series called "To Conquer Fear: The Body, Mind and Soul of Athletes." Aug 1-29, Thurs, noon, free, Main Library, Civic Center, 557-4853. Up to 5:00pm Mon-Fri, 4:00pm Sat & 2:00pm Sun & holidays $3.50, children $3.50, gen. adm. $5.50, 3630 38th Ave., 221-8184. CP

SF MoMA
SFMoMA's own theater.

SF Museum of Modern Art - Phyllis Wattis Theater
Stark, sleek and cool, just like you'd imagine a screening room in a modern museum to be. The walls are made of an unusual gray, square, cement brick, the equipment is state of the art, and up to 300 people can sit in a comfortable atmosphere. Films are programmed in conjunction with exhibitions. Free with gen. adm., Tues-Sun 11:00am-6:00pm (Thur -9:00pm), gen adm. $7, srs. & students $3.50, half-price Thur 6-9:00pm, members, u-13 & first Thur of month free, SF MOMA, 151 3rd St., 357-4000. CP

Colleges

SFSU - McKenna Theatre
The largest (cap. 700) multi-purpose theatre on the SF State University campus shows 35mm first-run films during the academic year. The space is comfortably modern, with a dramatic semicircular arching roof, slightly graded seating and a stereo sound. The standard size screen can be automatically raised or lowered. There is no concession stand. Street parking. Gen. adm. $6, students/seniors $4, School of Creative Arts Bldg., 1600 Holloway Ave., 338-2467. JM (Wendy Pappas, Facilities Manager)

UCSF - Cole Hall Cinema
This 300-capacity theatre/lecture hall has shown first-run, feature-length 16mm films (recently, Braveheart, The American President and Toy Story) during the academic calendar since 1960. UCSF students comprise half of the audience, with faculty, staff and unaffiliated neighbors making up the rest. The comfortable seating is nicely tiered to allow a good view of the 20' x 15' screen, which can be automatically lowered or raised for entertainment or lecture use (the seats have attached put-away desks). The theatre has a basic utilitarian design, simple stereo sound system, adequate ventilation system, and no heating. Concession goodies are low-priced (small popcorn $1.50, large $2.00, sodas and candy .75 cents) Evening street parking is possible, otherwise garage parking across the street costs $3-4. UCSF students $2.50, faculty, staff & outside students $3, gen. adm. $3.50, UCSF Medical Sciences Bldg., 513 Parnassus Ave.JM

Diego Rivera Theatre
The official City College campus theatre holds about 320 and is a multi-purpose theatre. Film screenings make up a small portion of the program, which is mainly devoted to theatre, dance and music. There is a stereo sound system, no heating, and good vision from anywhere in theatre. Evening parking is fair to good, depending on school sessions. The Lobby of the theatre houses a magnificent Diego Rivera mural measuring 22 x 7 meters. Installed in 1961, the plaster fresco was originally commissioned to be part of an "Art in Action" exhibit at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. The lobby also houses Dudley Carter's wood sculpture, Goddess of the Forest (1940). JM

Independents

Artists Television Access
ATA is the complete antithesis of the modern multiplex. You step inside a dingy Mission District Victorian storefront, pull back an improvised curtain, fumble in the dark for a seat that's not broken (they're the ones taped with the stuff the cops use at crime scenes) and sit back to watch a screen suspended halfway up the wall of someone's former back parlour. No subject is too obscure for ATA in its quest to redefine eclecticism; Inside Romanian Experimental Video, 100 Curious Videos, A Pimp's Christmas Carol, Dreadful Pleasures: A Tribute To 1970s XXX Cinema - they've all made it onto recent programs. ATA also offers low-cost workshops in video editing, sound, lighting, storyboarding, hands-on camera and other aspects of production. 992 Valencia St., 824-3890. IS

Casting Couch Micro Theatre
Merging the exclusivity of a privaxte screening room and digital audio/video and multimedia technology, the Casting Couch seats 46 in the comfort of a living room-like theatre. Viewers lounge on sofas and armchairs, and are served refreshments like imported mineral waters, gourmet organic popcorns, juices, herbal teas and candy. The large screen can be turned into a computer screen for presentations. There aren't many films shown at the Casting Couch which you won't find in a well-stocked video store, but it's not every night you can throw open your private cinema to 40-odd of your closest friends. Voted by Lick Wilmerding High School students the best place to make out. 950 Battery St., 986-7001. IS

Variety Club Preview Room
This is the premier film preview facility in the City, and the theatre where the local press corps watches previews of upcoming new releases. It is an intimate (50 seats), well-appointed, private theatre with deep, plush seats, 16mm and 35mm capability and a commitment to good projection as an art. An adjoining reception room, bar setup and small food preparation area make it a perfect venue for a seminar, reception - or film buff's party. 582 Market St., Suite 101, 781-3893. IS

Cultural Institutions

Alliance Francaise
The French Film Club's 75-seat theatre regularly screens some of the most significant French films by the most important directors seen in any of the City's commercial international movie theatres. The entire French oeuvre is represented here in features and documentaries, often screened together in imaginative, demonstrative groupings. Programs resume in September with Diabolo Menthe (Peppermint Soda, Diane Kurys, 1978), Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games, René Clement, 1952), Zazie Dans le Métro (Louis Malle, 1960) and Les 400 Coups (The 400 Blows, Francois Truffaut, 1959). Gen. adm. $5, members free, 1345 Bush St., 775-7755. IS

Goethe Institute
Stick around long enough, and the entire history of German film will be screened in this pleasant, if institutional, 208-seat theatre: '50s "feel good" movies, screen adaptations of operas, obscure Nazi propaganda clips - filmic esoterica coexist with generous samples by the best known modern German directors. In October, the Goethe Institute will show filmed works by German choreographer Pina Bausch, coinciding with the first performances of her new piece in U.C. Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. In November, the Institute will join forces with the Roxie Cinema for a Wim Wenders film and video retrospective, including early German TV productions and other rarely screened titles. Next January will see a reprise of "Berlin And Beyond," a festival of new films from Germany, Austria and France. 530 Bush St., 391-0370. IS

Istituto Italiano di Cultura
Italy's cultural outpost in San Francisco will present a series of screenings every Tuesday this month from its immense collection of operas on video, each preceded with a lecture by North Bay Opera conductor, Philip Kuttner. Aug 6, Bizet's Carmen (1984), Placido Domingo & Julia Migenes-Johnson, dir. Francesco Rosi, French w/ English subtitles; Aug 13, Verdi's La Traviata (1982), Placido Domingo & Teresa Stratas, dir. Franco Zeffirelli, Italian w/ English subtitles; Aug 20, Verdi's Nabucco at the Verona Amphitheater (1981), Renato Bruson & Ghena Dimitrova, cond. Maurizio Arena, Italian w/ English subtitles; Aug 27, Rossini's Il Barbiere de Siviglia at the NY City Opera (1976), Beverly Sills & Alan Titus, cond. Sarah Caldwell, Italian w/ English subtitles. All screenings 6:30pm, free. Thru Aug 9, the Institute is also presenting "New Italian Comedy," an anthology of the best - and some rarely seen - films by Massimo Troisi, Roberto Begnini, Lina Wertmüller, Francesco Nuti and others. Call for details. 425 Bush St., Suite 301, 788-7142. IS


Contributing Writers: Rob Blackwelder, Rafer Guzman, Brendan Peterson, Melissa Sattley, Ian Sclater, Janet Weeks, Amy Yarbrough. Coordinator: Brenna Wardell.

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From the August 1996 issue of SF Live

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