Well, maybe not a diamond, but certainly a gem compared to mainstream movie theaters.
While San Francisco does have several other awesome independent theaters, i.e. the Roxie, the Bridge and The Red Vic, there are none further west than Haight street, and if you want to have a slower, more relaxed experience than the human autobahns of Haight and the Mission district, the Balboa Theater will surely serve your needs.
The Balboa theater only has two screens, meaning that there are limited crowds compared to multi-plex cinemas such as the AMC on Van Ness, which has upwards of 15 screens. The Balboa Theater offers shorter lines, good seats (its never so full that you have to sit in the very front or back) , and if you need to use the bathroom during the movie, you might make it back to your seat before the closing credits.
Opened on February 7th 1926, the original owner, Samuel H. Levin, sought to make the theater more oriented towards the family. The theater’s website links to the Western Neighborhoods Project, a site dedicated to the history of certain San Francisco neighborhoods. The site quotes Mr. Levin saying,
“In building theaters nearest the home, it is my aim to provide entertainment for them of a standard worthy of family patronage. In the New Balboa, as in all my theaters, I seek to supply the comforts and intimate surroundings associated with the higher ideals of home life”.
These ideals seem to be upheld to this today, accounting for the fun and accommodating vibe that can be felt when inside the theater.
Part of this vibe certainly has to do with the friendly staff at the Balboa Theater. Right when I walked in the door, I met Omar (right). Omar has been working at the theater for two years now, and he agreed that the easy going and friendly atmosphere in the theater were a factor in his decidion to want a job there. He explained that because every employee is required to learn and perform a myriad of tasks on any given day-from loading film onto the projection reels to sweeping floors-a close knit sense of community is shared between them. This picture was actually taken in the projection room, and if you look closely you can see a movie actually playing in the background.
At $9.00, a ticket at the Balboa theater is about $1.00-1.50 cheaper than the average movie ticket. If you’re an early bird, a ticket to the first showing of each film costs only $6.50, every day. Even if it weren’t such a bargain, the Balboa Theater would still be an awesome and fun place to catch a flick. And if you’re a USF student, don’t be lazy; the theater is just a quick free ride away on the 31.