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Travel to San Francisco


Roxie Theater, San Francisco

1 May 2014

Neha Kale meets the people running historic independent movie theatres

Most of us have a friend with a knack for unearthing obscure, mind-bending movies, but for those of us who don’t, there’s always the Roxie. A long-time fixture of San Francisco’s graffiti-etched Mission District, the freewheeling picture house, which was founded by a disgraced watchmaker in 1909 and screened adult films in the late sixties, is a lesson in the art of cult. 

“We like to screen the coolest, weirdest stuff from the past, present and future,” laughs Mike Keegan, the Roxie’s programming director. “Since every movie you’ve ever wanted to see is basically available for free online, we want to make you feel like you’re going to the house of a friend who knows you and wants to show you something cool that they think you will like.” 

Although the Roxie’s shoestring selection of cinema treats is limited to candy, soda and popcorn, when it comes to audacious programming, the theatre punches above its weight. The cinema, which regularly hosts discussion panels and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, screened the world’s first film noir retrospective and early work by indie wunderkinds Joe Swanberg and Alex Ross Perry, along with art house gems such as Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s breakout crime drama Drive

Keegan, who’s a fan of old films that reflect a certain time and place, says that inventive cinema is only one element of a memorable Roxie screening. The theatre is equally notorious for parties and events that bring the city’s film community together and speak to the zeitgeist. 

“In a couple of weeks we’re showing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 35 mm, a documentary about outlaw motorcyclists in Baltimore and some Wes Anderson movies, with all-you-can-eat pizza,” Keegan says. “We once Skyped Roman Polanski from Paris during a screening. Ten years from now, there may only be a couple of cinemas in every city – an old movie palace, a nice multiplex and hopefully a scrappy, seat-of-the-pants organisation like us.” 




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