Saturday, May 3, 2008

Marina Theatre

Yesterday was a day for watching superhero films. I went to the 7PM showing of Iron Man at the newly reopened Marina Theatre on Chestnut Street, and then to the 11PM showing of Big Man Japan as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. It's hard to picture two films tackling the subject of male power fantasy from more completely different angles. I enjoyed watching both and plan to write on them as soon as I have a chance.

But first, a few words on the Marina Theatre, which was opened in 1928 and showed second-run films for thirty-odd years before changing its name to the Cinema 21 and showing first-run engagements. It closed in 2001; the last film I saw there was Shadow of a Vampire and already I'd forgotten what the interior looked like until I peeked at this site. The new version of the Marina Theatre was designed to accommodate the Wallgreens pharmacy that has moved into a large portion of the ground floor. As the smaller of the two screens, both upstairs, is not quite ready for the public, Iron Man is only being shown in the larger, 250-seat theatre. It's probably now the "nicest" of the Lee Neighborhood Theatre screens, not quite as large as that of the Presidio's main house but in a symmetrical room that feels like it was built for showing movies.

Except for one drawback: the screen is a little low, and there's no way for people sitting on the left side of the theatre to exit without crossing in front of it. Which means that shadows of the heads tall people on a restroom run disturb the goal of immaculate projection. Also, for some reason all the house lights went up during the end credits. I know we don't want people tripping over each other as they head for the exits, but might it be possible to find an alternative solution? I like supporting a neighborhood theatre and not a downtown megaplex on the occasions when I want to see a screen-saturated Hollywood movie, but I'm not too crazy about having to strain to read the names of the people who worked on the film (a number of them Frisco Bay residents, as ILM worked on the Iron Man effects). After a while I got sick of it, and left like everybody else, thus missing a Samuel L. Jackson cameo I didn't realize was going to happen.

Iron Man is also playing at another Frisco neighborhood theatre, the Balboa, where tomorrow there will be prizes for people dressed up as their favorite Marvel villain. If only I had time to make that Taskmaster outfit I'd always dreamed of putting together when i was a kid...


  1. Taskmaster? So, you have the photographic reflexes too, I suppose? :D Glad to see HOFB 2.0 is back together, and better than ever.

  2. Thanks for your generally postive review of the new Marina Theater.

    I ran Saturday night's show. You may have seen me do a short introduction. I think the Lee's did the best they could given the space and budget they had to work with. The screen could have been higher, but that would have required raising the roof. Or, the auditorium entrances could have been from the rear, but that would have cut down on either seating area or screen size, and there would have been all kinds of handicapped access issues. I know the Lee's considered several different room configurations, but all the alternate options would have been prohibitavely expensive and/or archetectraly impractiacal.

    Also, theater two (which opens tomorrow with SPEED RACER) is of a totally different configuration.
    Entrance is from the rear of the auditorium and the "head room" should not be an issue.

    I'm 100% in agreement with your comment about the lights coming up as soon as the credits started to roll. The clientle of the Presidio Theater down the street tend to be older adults who have trouble seeing in the dark and so it is house practice to program the lighting cues so that the lights come up as soon as the credits start to roll. Also, at this time it's still necessary for me to prepare all films and program the cues at the Presidio and then move the film to The Marina. So changing the cues is not a simple task at this point.

    Sometime over the weekend, obviously not at the show you attended, I started doing a 'manual overide' of the lighting cues so that the lights would not come up as they did when you were there.

    But sure enough, some people complained about this.

    This is still an open issue that I need to work out with Mr Lee, and I hope to reach a compromise that will satisfy him and the neighborhood while still maintaining good showmanship standards.

    Just FYI> I HAVE been doing a manual over-ride of the light cues and brining them down a the end of the 8minute credit roll so that the auditorium is dark again for the "bonus scene" at the end.

    Thank you for coming to the new-old Marina Theater

  3. Thanks for the clarification, projector_tech. I enjoyed my Marina Theatre experience and do hope to make it back there soon to see the configuration of theatre 2.

    On the house lights issue- I wonder if there is a middle ground, in which some of the house lights can be turned on but not all of them? A way to shine light on the aisles but keep the space in front of the screen a little darker than it was on Friday? I don't know how these things work technically.

    At least the Marina's end-credits practice is better than the theatres in Chiang Mai, Thailand when I was living there 8 years ago. They'd stop projecting the film as soon as the credits started running, unless it was obvious that there was something to see besides a bunch of Roman-alphabet names (like the outtakes in Toy Story 2). I'm not the obsessive credit-watcher I was before teaching in Thailand forced me out of the habit, but I still like to know it's an option.