SFIFF: International Film Festival changes venues, announces some programming

We’ve still got more than two weeks to go before the San Francisco International Film Festival announces this year’s program, but they’ve already fed us a few interesting tidbits about what we have to look forward to.

The biggest change: The festival won’t be in the Western Addition anymore. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last fall, Sundance sold the Kabuki multiplex–for a long time the festival’s primary home–to Carmike, a company that doesn’t strike me as festival-friendly. Besides, the ongoing CAAMfest moved out of the Kabuki this year.

Like CAAMfest, SFIFF is planting its flag in the Mission. Specifically, it will screen movies in four venues within blocks of each other: The New Mission, The Roxie, The Victoria, and The Gray Area (AKA The Grand). From a transportation point of view, this is a big improvement–at least for me. All four venues are in easy walking distance from the 16th St. or 24th St. BART stations (which are actually in close walking distance to each other). And even the Castro, where so many of the big events take place, is only about a 20-minute walk from festival center.

But one issue worries me. None of these Mission theaters can seat as many people as the Kabuki’s big auditorium. The New Mission’s own big auditorium is huge, but the emphasis on comfort and service reduced the seating capacity to 326. (On the other hand, comfort and service mean a lot when you’re seeing four or five movies a day.) There may be more sold-out shows.

I suspect that more of the big events will happen at the Castro.

And amongst those big Castro events will be this year’s Mel Novikoff Award presentation–which goes to a person or (in this case) institution who helps keep people aware of great cinema. This year’s winners: Janus Films and the Criterion Collection. These companies, which work very close with each other, deserve the Novikoff. Between them, they’ve made the works of Bergman, Kurosawa, Welles, and many other great filmmakers available to theatrical and home viewing.

Janus and Criterion will be honored on April 30, 3:00, with a screening of the Coen Brothers’ first feature, Blood Simple–newly restored by the two companies. The brothers will be there, as part of a panel to discuss the companies’ histories.

The Persistence of Vision Award will go to the British company Aardman Animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run.

Unfortunately for me (and other observant Jews), the festival runs from April 21 through May 5, coinciding almost exactly with the eight-day festival of Passover. I’ll have to miss the first two full days of the festival. And for the next six days after that, I’ll have to bring pretty much all my own food.

When your religion and your passion conflict, you have to work things out.

4 thoughts on “SFIFF: International Film Festival changes venues, announces some programming

  1. Sundance sold all their theaters (not just Kabuki) to Carmike last year and Carmike was acquired by AMC earlier this month. This deal makes AMC the largest theater chain in the US.


    Kabuki #1 seated about ~500 with the balcony open and my recollection was that the balcony was frequently closed. Excluding the Kabuki’s balcony, my guess is that the New Mission’s main auditorium is comparable to the Kabuki main auditorium.

    Kabuki/New People has better parking options then the theaters in the Mission.

    1. Really? Less than 500? It always looked to me like about 1000.

      AMC, eh? Isn’t their moto “Millions for the best equipment, but not a dime on people who know how to use it properly.”

      1. The Kabuki auditorium has Rows A through M and the widest rows are 30 seats across. The last two rows are missing the middle sections so say 13 rows x 25 seats/row = 325 plus however many seats are in the balcony.

        Cloverdale is playing in the #1 auditorium now so you can count them via the seat selection interface on the Kabuki website.

        1,000 seats is a big theater. According to Cinema Treasures, the Stanford Theater has a seating capacity of 1,175.

        I was just at the California Theater in San Jose this weekend and it has a seating capacity of 1,122.

        The ACT/Geary theater has a capacity of 1,022.

        Those three theaters seem much larger to me than the Kabuki #1.

        I thought the chain multiplex projection booths are automated with the spread of DCP. Everything is controlled via the internet by some faceless computer algorithm – SkyNet for cinephiles.

      2. You’re absolutely right about the Kabuki 1. Only 497 seats, including the balcony. Somehow, it looked larger to me.

        About automated booths: The Internet connection can only do so much. For a proper show, you still need someone who can maintain the projectors, adjust sound levels to match the number of people in the auditorium, remove the 3D lens, and make sure things work right. Or even cue the houselights. See this article from 2012: https://bayflicks.net/2012/03/22/watching-casablanca-digitally-projected-at-a-big-multiplex/

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