Arts & Culture

Top 5 Bay Area Movie Theaters

October 5, 2011 10:29 AM

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Sometimes, you just want to forget your troubles, turn off the lights and stare at a screen for a couple of hours. It’s called escapism and it’s the American dream. Here’s our list for the best spots to pop some popcorn and zone out to the blockbusters, the indie films and the classics of the silver screen. Silence your cell phones, folks. It’s the Top Five Bay Area Movie Theaters.


Sundance Kabuki Cinema

1881 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 929-4650

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

3630 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 221-8184

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

429 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-6120

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

1901 Junipero Serra Boulevard
Daly City, CA 94014
(650) 994-2488

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.


Paramount Theater

2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 465-6400

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!

View Comments
  • bikeczar

    Really? What about the FOX? What about the Grand Lake? what about the Orinda?

  • Proofreader

    Daly City. Not Daily. Has the writer actually been to the Bay Area?

  • tn

    Hey Article Writer: It’s “its” and “it’s” like you wrote in the first sentence of the Sundance Kabuki! Didn’t your English teacher learn you nothing? (“It’s” means “It is” and is NOT correctly used in your article. Go get yourself a tutor or copy editor next time)

    • Eduardo Ruffat

      tn, your teacher did not learn you enough! it”s is a possesive, and it is used correctly.
      Eduardo, and I learned this in another country.

      • A little smarter than Eduardo

        wrong. `it’s’ is a contraction. `its’ is the possessive form.

  • JaneQPublic

    Better yet, FIRE the article writer and HIRE ME! I KNOW how to correctly speak, spell and write English.

    • Jenufa

      No, you do not: you’ve split an infinitive.

  • Carol

    WHAT ABOUT THE STANFORD THEATR in Palo Alto????E!!! I don’t think he is from the Bay Area either. The Stanford Theatre is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!

  • Ezra

    Leaving the Alameda theatre off this list is a shame. Especially when some mess like the Daly City Cinemark is on there.

  • Lisa Stevens

    How about the Millbrace Theater? Its right near the BART train or the Fox Theater on Burlingame Avenue

  • w jacbs

    roxie or red vic

  • Red Victor

    Article should be re-titled “5 Bay Area Movie Theaters”

  • Carl Casey

    None of these theatres compare to the Stanford Theatre.

  • Gryphonisle

    Daily City? Every day, or just a city on weekends?

  • carlos

    the millbrae theater i hear was cool but they took that down like everything else in millbrae and put up condos…boring we need more small time movie screens like the ones that used to be in millbrae

  • Wendy

    I think it’s pretty tacky to tell people the easiest place to rip off a theater by sneaking into another auditorium.

  • Jay Peterson

    Multiplex theaters should have never been on this list

  • John J

    I love the Victoria Theatre. It is a multi purpose theater – movies and live acts. Built in 1908, it is the oldest still operating theater in SF. Originally a Vaudville and then a Burlesque house featuring artists like Mae West.

  • Go Movies

    Nice info. In my opinion a film is not a martial arts film just because it has a couple of martial arts in it.

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