Friday, June 22, 2012

The darkened screen (maybe) rises

I've written before about the New Mission theater, the deteriorating marquee of which is one of the most recognizable landmarks in my neighborhood, San Francisco's Mission district. On the left is a picture of that marquee in more vibrant times, advertising the opening of A Hard Day's Night. Below is the theater as I saw it last night, when it was opened to the public for the first time in over twenty years.

No, I wasn't sideways. Uploading photos is hard!

The occasion was a community meeting at which were discussed plans by Austin's Alamo Drafthouse to restore and convert the New Mission, which was built in 1916 as a single screen theater seating over two thousand, into a five screen theater with bar and restaurant facilities with a six hundred seat capacity. Presentations were made by Alamo's CEO Tim League, owner representative Victor Marquez, and a neighborhood activist who mentioned seeing "a lot of Bruce Lee movies" at the New Mission during his youth (and whose name, I'm very sorry to say, now eludes me, as I was too consumed with geeking out over the news to take notes).

The New Mission's designation as an historical landmark substantially limits the degree to which it can be altered by its owner, and so the restoration project is one that will focus on preserving and restoring as much of its interior details as possible, including the cleaning of some of its graffiti covered murals. As you can see from its current condition, that's going to be quite a task. Still, it was put forth that, depending on the speed of approval by the city's Planning Commission, work could be completed as early as late 2013. This would be great for the Mission, which used to be a destination point for the city's movie goers but hasn't had a functioning theater on its main drag for decades. It would also be great for me, because, hey, who doesn't want to be able to have a cold beer while watching a cool movie in a beautiful old movie house?

My apologies to those many of you who live outside the San Francisco Bay Area, for whom this post might seem a little too local. I just wanted to get the word out for those who were interested. Maybe, if this all comes to pass, we can have a beer and a movie next time you're in town.

(Archival photos: sfpl)


Lowdudgeon said...

You were sideways, weren't you?

I'm in a very similar state of happy anticipation myself: Alamo Drafthouse is planning to reopen a shuttered old movie house in MY neighborhood in New York as well! The Metro Twin on upper Broadway has been closed for about a decade. I always walk by and see the FOR LEASE sign and think, "Say, I sure wish someone would buy that and turn it into a movie theater instead of condos, but that can never happen."

Todd said...

I prefer to think that the whole environment went all ninety degree angle on me. Anyway, yes, this turn of events similarly marks the culmination of a long period of me thinking the same sort of things about the New Mission, which I pass by at least once a week. It's convinced me that I'm controlling the higher ups at Alamo Drafthouse with my mind.

Mr. Cavin said...

Hey, keep us posted. With links. I don't live anywhere near there, but I would definitely be willing to: contribute money, join a film club, etc., to make sure this actually happened (in NYC or the Mission, frankly). Maybe I would even buy a plane ticket to wherever. This method of restoring neighborhood cinema is definitely on my top shelf, and worthy of my donations. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Radio Schmaydio said...

Wow, to have the Alamo Drafthouse revive the New Mission would be an absolute dream come true.

Todd said...

I know, right?