Sundance Kabuki Cinema
With fancy snacks, it’s own cocktail bar and a sleek, modern, green building, this cineplex is the most popular spot in town, and winner of San Francisco Magazine’s Reader’s Choice for best theater. Most of the films shown here lean towards the artsy and independent, and there’s valiated parking IN the building. The only caveat? The seats are assigned. That’s right. You are actually stuck in 13G. It’s weird and slightly exciting, especially when you watch rookies struggling with this unusual concept. Bonus: It’s super easy to pay for one movie and sneak into a second.
The Balboa Theater
Out in the middle of nowhere, this theater has indie films in tiny screening rooms. But the best part is, no one’s ever there! EVER. Surrounding the theater are some of the best, off-the-beaten path restaurants in San Francisco. The theater even sweetly tells you where to go . Across town, you’ll find the same vibe at Landmark’s Lumiere.
The Castro Theatre
One of the world’s great movie palaces, the historic and stunning Castro Theater is a worth repeated visits for the stunning ceiling alone. But add the fact that this treasure shows vintage classics, cult films and themed nights, and the Castro Theater becomes pretty much the greatest place on Earth. Parking is tough, the snacks are standard, but there’s a Walgreens across the street. Sneaking in your Skittles is a small price to pay for THE best place to see The Godfather, Casablanca and Goonies.
Cinemark 20 Daly City
Huge! Massive! Giant: That’s what you get at Cinemark 20. Know what else you get? Free parking, 20 screening rooms and the best, over-cooked Kettle Corn you’ll ever have. The best times to go, if you can swing it, are mid-day, mid-week. Die-hard movie lovers can hang out here all day, taking in every single big-budget Hollywood movie at once.
Home to much more than movies, the Paramount is an art deco palace. Winner of the East Bay Express’ Best Moviegoing Experience, the Paramount kicks up classics like King Kong and ET with games, cocktails and a Mighty Wurlitzer organ.
Runners Up: All of the Landmark Theaters, where the language of film is universal. These independent movies will make you feel smarter than everyone else at cocktail parties. Plus, fancy cookies are generally available and there’s a reason these movies win Oscars. Fancy films are good!