The Vogue Theater, 1948
3920 Sacramento Street, San Francisco CA USA
One of San Francisco's sole remaining single screen neighborhood movie theaters (the grand Castro Theater, which will soon feature the wonderful Noir City film festival, being one of other notable movie houses in this category), The Vogue Theater on Sacramento Street near Presidio Avenue has been in operation since 1910, second only to The Mission's Roxie. Opened as The Elite and briefly known as The Rex, it was rechristened The Vogue in 1939 and has remained as such ever since.
The missus and I used a early-weeknight showing of the Coen Brothers True Grit to check the theater out. It truly is a neighborhood theater in all of the best ways. Minimal (1?) staff, simple but appropriate appointments and conveniences. The theater is beautifully renovated and reflects its early 20th Century pedigree in styling and little details such as the etched glass door windows leading to the auditorium. There is a small amount of historical memorabilia on the lobby walls, well worth a few minutes of your time en route to the restroom. After reading a couple of less than favorable Yelp reviews, I had some concerns about the sound system, but it was fine. Folks don't realize that contemporary movies are over-mixed and geared towards the highest common denominator (that's why you are always riding the volume control when you watch a DVD at home). I will most likely have to rent True Grit again to catch some of the dialog, but frankly that is probably Jeff Bridges fault not the theater's.
So what differentiates the Vogue? Well, it focuses on first runs, something a of rarity with these old movie houses anywhere. The Castro has picked up on this trend and I do applaud them for that, especially as they have fairly discerning taste when it comes to programming. More and more, I've been giving more thought as to where I want to spend my money. If I am gonna fork over $10 to see a Hollywood first-run production, I want to have some control over who profits from the transaction. Think of it as a locavore's approach to commercial consumerism. The extra time and planning it took was minimal and it made for all that much more of an enjoyable evening. Support these places while they still exist!