Sunday, September 24


"The most anticipated movie experience in Northern California..."

That's how the the new Century 9 theatre is promoting its grand opening at the Westfield mall this week. I'm sorry, but uh-uh. Perhaps I live in some kind of bubble of isolation from the "real world", but I know of no moviegoer who is desperately wishing that a brand new downtown multiplex would be opened by the notoriously cookie-cutter Century Theatres company. There may be nostalgia for Market Street moviegoing days of yore, but I severely doubt a 'plex on the fifth floor of a mall is going to fill the void left by the shuttering of the Strand, St. Francis, etc. I suspect it's the folks behind the promotion that are living in a bubble; of course Century 9 is their "most anticipated" movie experience, as they're the ones whose job it is to anticipate it.

This is not to say I think the theatre (on the former Emporium site) won't be a success. I have every expectation that it will be suitably comfortable and the marketing muscle behind its film selections strong enough to attract customers, hopefully mostly away from their televisions or from the soul-suckingly bland Metreon megaplex a block over. I just doubt that, of the people who feel underserved and dissatisfied by Frisco filmgoing options, any of them are going to see this new venture as the solution to their complaints. It looks like the Century 9 is going to employ a booking strategy more similar to that of the 20-screen ultraplex opened this summer in downtown Redwood City than to the 20-screener in Daly City, in that alongside big studio fare like The Guardian it will show the aesthetically safest of so-called "indie" films (Keeping Mum and the U.S. Versus John Lennon are among the titles opening there this Friday; I've seen neither) in association with the CinéArts brand. Ah, yes, CinéArts: the company that identifies itself with classic movie posters from the likes of Metropolis and La Dolce Vita but rarely shows films even half as interesting or challenging, much less the genuine article. Not that I always require a challenging cinematic diet, but if I want to see something entertaining but only truly "offbeat" to the unadventurous, like Factotum or Little Miss Sunshine, I'll go to a single-screen theatre with some history like the Clay, or a truly independent neighborhood theatre like the Balboa. Is there anything that will play the Century 9 that wouldn't have played at another, less purely corporate, theatre if this one didn't exist?

As it turns out, maybe so, if only for one day. This Thursday, September 28, each of the nine screens will display a 35mm print of a different Frisco-shot, well I hesitate to use the word "classic" because some of these films aren't quite there yet. The list, in chronological order: the Maltese Falcon (1941), It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), Bullitt (1968), What's Up, Doc? (1972), 48 Hours (1982), the Presidio (1988), Basic Instinct (1992), the Rock (1996) and the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003). Five dollars will get you in to see one of, or as many of these films as you can fit into a day of viewing, starting from 11AM and ending at 10PM. In other words, they're encouraging theatre-hopping! Some of these selections are semi-regular staples of Frisco's established repertory houses, but others are quite rarely shown on 35mm (for example, it took a year for the Balboa to source a print of What's Up Doc for their excellent Frisco-centric film series this past April). I hope to be there, watching the one film on the list I've still never seen (anyone care to guess which in the comments section?) and probably at least peeking in on some of the others. I'll report back if the theatre's vibe is much different from what I'm expecting.

So that could be a fun day, but here are, in no particular order, ten cinematic opportunities on the horizon that from where I sit are far more deserving of being called "the most anticipated movie experience in Northern California":

1. The Mill Valley Film Festival, October 5-15.

2. The Janus Films tribute series November at the Balboa- if it's the same titles as those playing the upcoming New York Film Festival sidebar it will be the repertory film event of the year. And I wouldn't put it past Gary Meyer to arrange for even more titles.

3. The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's fall schedule, which includes the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and other Halloween-ish selections in October and a Silent Hitchcock event in November.

4. David Cronenberg's the Fly and other special events at the Parkway Speakeasy Theatre, and presumably the Cerrito Speakeasy Theatre too once it opens. Somehow I don't think the Century 9 is going to be serving beer. Or pasta, salads, sandwiches, etc.

5. The new SF Cinematheque calendar, including appearances by Gunvor Nelson November 12 and Nathaniel Dorsky December 10.

6. The Stanford Theatre's focus on 20th Century Fox this fall. I don't know what's expected beyond October 8th (when a Joseph Manciewicz double-bill plays), but it's sure to entice. With events in Thailand demonstrating how important the constitutional monarch still is to political stability in that country, it's certainly an interesting time to take a look at a Hollywood musical still banned there, the King and I (playing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

7. The Exploratorium's fall film schedule at the McBean Theatre: an October 21 shorts program including Multiple Sidosis by Sid Lavarents, documentaries on Harry Partch and Lightnin' Hopkins in November, and even more events in December, particularly a program on the 10th with films by Oskar Fischinger, D.A. Pennebaker, etc.

8. Citizen Kane and other 1940s classics playing this week at the Lark.

9. The programs showing this fall at the very antithesis of the corporate multiplex: Artists' Television Access. In addition to Craig Baldwin's Other Cinema Saturday series (nights with Patrick Macias and with Rick Prelinger look to be highlights), there's also non-traditional musical accompaniment to silent films like, on October 5, the Man Who Laughs (recently referenced in De Palma's the Black Dahlia), and the Passion of Joan of Arc October 6.

10. Countless other options already mentioned in other recent posts on this site: here and here particularly.

I don't know about you all, but Brian's commentary on the Century 9 opening was MY most anticipated movie experience of the year.

B.: "I suspect it's the folks behind the promotion that are living in a bubble; of course Century 9 is their "most anticipated" movie experience, as they're the ones whose job it is to anticipate it. "

Do you have copyright on this or can we all use at appropriate moments? I love that. Perfectly stated.

Super post. Everytime I read your blog I wish that someone was blogging for PDX what you do for Frisco. And if someone is I wish someone else would tell me about it.

Oh, and I'm going to guess that you haven't seen...hmm...The Presidio yet?
What I'm anticipating: the Taiwan Film Festival at the PFA, apparently so super-secret it's not on their calendar. Some screenings at Stanford as well, though for some sad reason Dust in the Wind is only showing in Utah.
Thanks all.

First of all, I should note that the Examiner's article from yesterday on the Century 9 pointed me to a gala benefit for the Zoo there tomorrow night. But they also mentioned Vertigo and Dirty Harry among the Frisco-set films playing Thursday. I'm skeptical of practically everything I read in that newspaper though. Even the Sudoku. (especially now that Jeffrey Anderson's arthouse column seems to have been discontinued).

CC, thanks for noting the Taiwan film festival, which I didn't know about before publishing this post. Weird that the PFA doesn't have the info on its website; do they think it would divert attention from its Mechanical Age series and the Magic Lantern show playing at the museum theatre this Saturday?

Looks like the full Fox program at the Stanford Theatre is now up. Lots of great stuff, nothing precode unfortunately. But plenty of films by John Ford, Henry King, Rouben Mamoulian, and even a title each from Preston Sturges and Alfred Hitchcock (as well as John Brahm's remake of Hitch's the Lodger, which I've been wanting to see for ages).

Oh, and I've seen the Presidio; I saw it when it was new, while I was in high school and was in a major Sean Connery appreciation phase. It's definitely my least favorite of the eight titles I have seen, though, so good guess. But try again.
Im going to Guess Bullit, only becasue i have not seen it either...

By the way did you hear about the member ticket sales meltdown at the Mill Valley this year... if you want some inside scoop let me know... I get all the dirt... Really unbelievable stuff...
Sorry, Scott, but no. Here's a hint: it's one of the few films playing tomorrow that could reasonably fit on tonight's animal-themed program (including Winged Migration, Grizzly Man, etc.)

I finally saw Bullitt for the first time at the Balboa about a year ago on a double bill with Point Blank. Bullitt was actually a little better than I expected, though not nearly as good as its billmate.

Speaking of the Balboa, I just recieved word from a trusted source that in fact the Janus series will NOT be playing there after all, but instead will be at the PFA and the Rafael. There goes my savings on transportation costs and time. I guess I'll have to pick and choose which titles to make my way over to see, instead of gorging myself at my neighborhood theatre like I'd hoped to.

As for Mill Valley ticketing, I was aware from the festival website that the tickets weren't able to be sold as soon as expected, but I didn't realize there was unbelievable "dirt" to be dished about the situation.
The thing is, the Janus Films website still lists Frisco, Berkeley and San Rafael, as seperate stops for the travelling series. I wonder if there's any chance another venue in town might book some or all of the films?
I wouldn't be too hard on CineArts--they're just like Landmark except without the same presence in the market, so their programming's going to look more like Embarcadero's and less like the one-week-and-it's-gone Lumiere programming. And I'll still take LMS & Factotum over yet another screen of Flyboys or The Covenant.
Oh, and of course, thanks for the handy listings of new screening lists. I've already referred a few friends to your site -- 1-stop shopping, so to speak.
Archiveguy, thanks for spreading the word about the site.

I wouldn't be as harsh on CinéArts if it weren't for the hyperbole of the hype around the mall unveiling. Plus, though I have my issues with Landmark and am no big fan of going to the Embarcadero, I suspect its success allows Landmark to maintain the booking flexibility that helps single-screen theatres like the Bridge and the Clay open. I'm a little nervous that the opening of three CinéArts screens fairly near the Embarcadero might threaten that equilibrium.

And I just now learned that the best single-screen theatre showing the worst films in town, the Metro, finally closed last week. Such a shame, as it's a great building and boasts the largest screen in the city limits. And I can't help but wonder if the six more screens of Hollywood product Century's bringing was the final nail in the coffin.

So the Century 9 is really going to have earn my goodwill. Which I'm perfectly willing to let it do, but I suspect it will be an uphill battle.
I finally checked out the new Century 9 last night at an advance screening of "The Departed" and think it's a fire hazard just waiting to happen. Those faux-leather seats aren't going to last very long and, though the stadium seating is welcome, the overall design is ridiculous.
Can I quote you on that, Michael?

How was the Departed?
Quote away! I loved "The Departed"! Bostonian testosterone-charged masculine-baiting humor that actually had me laughing outloud at several points.

One cop talking to the other: "She tells me if I work hard all month I'll get a blowjob at the end of the month...."

Second cop: "Your mother is a wonderful woman."

I'm always leery when a Japanese film is remade for Hollywood purposes but Scorsese has done an excellent job of making "Infernal Affairs" more comprehensible.
As promised here's a friendly reminder that on November 15th, I'll be hosting an Alfred Hitchcock Blog-A-Thon. Glad you're taking part!
Thanks for the reminder, Squish! There's a double-bill of Blackmail and the Maxman coming to Fremont shortly before the Blog-A-Thon. If I can make it over there, I'll write it up as my contribution.

Michael, I saw the Departed this weekend myself and found it more satisfying than the Hong Kong original in many ways, to my surprise. I've never been over the moon for Scorsese but to me this felt about as good as any of his best work. I was particularly taken with the editing of certain sequences.
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