Save the Arthouse

Last night I went to one of my 3 favorite art house theatres in SF. The Landmark theatre has indie punk kids selling you popcorn and posters about Peaches Christ (Drag Queen Extraordinaire) up on the walls and a pink lady’s bathroom, and from what I hear – an octogonal toilet for gents. It warms my heart and is within walking distance of my apartment. I brought my own snacks of tofu jerky and pinapple jelly candy into the theatre. It’s a weird taste combination but better than you’d think.You feel almost college underground theatre critic black turtleneck and clove cigarettes silly again.
Earlier in the year I watched Anna May Wong films while sipping sake and slouched in the seat of the Castro Theatre. Jon Jang performed an amazing live score that he had composed specifically for the screening of Picadilly during the SFIAAFF. Black & White films while under the influnce of Sake is *always* a very good thing. You can’t do that at the Metreon, folks.
This past weekend I was yon at the 4 Star Theatre for the Asian American Film fest, catching Conduct Zero. Gotta love that friends in the community can be personally and directly be responsible for bringing in foreign films (Korean, specifically) for the event.
It’s fairly criminal that Art House theatres are on the verge of extinction with the 4 Star’s impending shutdown in May.
In which case, we consider what we need to do to save the arthouse.

It’s been a Richmond District landmark for a century, but on May 9, 2005, the 4 Star movie theater is set to join the Alexandria, Regency, Royal and a laundry list of other neighborhood movie theaters by shutting its doors for good.
Frank Lee, who since 1992 has owned the eclectic theater, which specializes in art-house, foreign and particularly Asian films, has been informed by the property’s owner, the Canaan Lutheran Church, that he must vacate the premises when his lease runs out. The church plans to renovate the 4 Star and occupy the building, at 2200 Clement St., which it purchased in 2001.
Lee, however, isn’t going quietly. With strong backing from the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, he is attempting to save the theater by exerting community pressure on the church. To that end, he has begun an online campaign at “The Alexandria’s gone, so we are the only ones left in this Inner Richmond area,” Lee said. “The Coronet’s on the move. The Vogue is on the move. So this entire west side of San Francisco, aside from the Balboa, will be gone.

3 Comments so far

  1. Kevin (unregistered) on August 17th, 2004 @ 9:27 am

    You know, I was waiting for the N the other day and someone had a local ballot initiative they wanted me to sign that would do something like earmark X% of the hotel tax for a non-profit to be chartered by the city designed to promote and preserve single-screen theaters…
    Here is an article about it:

  2. Nicole Lee (unregistered) on August 18th, 2004 @ 6:23 am

    I finally had a chance to go to the 4star today to watch Lost in Time, a HK flick as part of the Asian Film Festival. And I gotta say that it would be a total tragedy if this place disappears.. there are few places that would host such a festival, for one thing. Plus I bet the surrounding businesses would take a hit from the lack of the theatre crowd (I ended up spending close to an hour at the opposing boba shop waiting for the movie to start). I enjoyed the movie quite a bit too.
    I signed the petition to save the place, and I hope more of you take the time to visit the place to sign the petition (Or at least, visit it before it disappears). And while you’re there, check out the festival. It’s good stuff. I’m going again tomorrow to check out another HK flick, and a South Korean one.
    Save the 4star!

  3. (unregistered) on August 20th, 2004 @ 11:03 am

    The closure of the Alexandria came as abig surprise — I found out about it a few weeks after it happened by walking past and seeing grafitti coverings its doors (it has since been cleaned up a bit.) I miss seeing the glow of its pink neon in the nighttime fog, and miss having a first-run movie theater I could walk to (rather than being forced into a long 38 Geary ride. And now, I may lose the 4 Star too, and be forced downtwon for all my movie going.
    Thanks for getting the word out on this.

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