San Francisco’s Best Independent Theatres

David L. Garcia
Staff Writer

Going to the movies, especially as a college student, can feel like a waste of time. You pay twelve bucks to get in, and dish out another ten for popcorn and soda. There’s no guarantee you’ll like the movie, and there’s always a chance you’ll be stuck in the theater with one of those people who yells at the screen.  If you’re willing to go through the trouble of going to a movie, at least mix it up a little. Free yourself from AMC and head to one of these unique SF theaters. 

Sundance Kabuki Cinema 

1881 Post St.

Guys, we need to face the facts. There are times when dinner and a movie simply isn’t going to cut it, but you can at least head to Japantown if you want to play it safe. The Sundance Kabuki doesn’t have the flashy neon signs or cutesy box offices like some of the theaters on this list, but it’s still leagues better than the Van Ness AMC.  A bonus is that it’s just a couple blocks away from the ramen shops and sushi bars on Bush and Post. The theater shows mainstream films in addition to a decent amount of low-budget indie flicks (just in case you want your date to meet your inner film snob). It’s definitely not cheap, but you do get to pick your seats.

Roxie Theater 

3117 16th St.

With its deep blue façade and neon red sign, The Roxie is as cute as a button. Located in the heart of the Mission, this theater is a lot like the people moving to San Francisco: attractive, hip, and full of wide-eyed enthusiasm. The theater only shows two films a week, and they tend to be the kind of small-scale indie films San Franciscans can’t seem to get enough of. Check out the The Roxie’s children’s program, Roxie Kids, which showcases movies that are probably better suited for hipster parents than Spiderman-loving youths. Still, the theater provides an important outlet for films that aren’t getting coverage elsewhere. Plus, a ticket is only ten bucks.

Balboa Theater

3630 Balboa St.

If The Roxie is a yuppie hipster, then Balboa Theater is the wise older brother. It ditched The Mission for The Richmond, but had the sense to keep the neon sign which pierces through the Ocean Beach fog like a cinematic lighthouse. The theater is out of the way for most San Franciscans, but it’s just a quick jaunt down the 31 Muni from USF and, unlike the Roxie, it showcases movies people actually want to see. You can even head over in January to catch the Oscar nominees. The theater also shows some of the best classic films in the city. “Halloween” and “Vertigo” will be on the marquee in October.

Presidio Theatre 

2340 Chestnut St.

The Presidio gets a lot of flack, mainly because some of the four screens are cramped and small. Still, there’s something about that sea green neon sign and those red and blue marquee letters. It also has a great location in the middle of the Marina, surrounded by the shops and restaurants and within walking distance of The Palace of Fine Arts. I suggest finding out which theater you’re going to be in beforehand. Theater 1 is the largest and most comfortable. The Presidio shows a variety of films, so there’s bound to be something to pique your interest.


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