Balboa Theater announces reopening date and return of Godzillafest

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After a difficult year of dark screens, empty seats and competition with streaming platforms, the first of San Francisco’s independent local theaters is finally gearing up to reopen to the public. Friday May 14, Balboa Theater in the Outer Richmond will welcome customers to its two-screen cinema for the first time in over a year, the theater has announced.

And greeting you in the lobby could be a person inside a Godzilla costume.

Owner and operator Adam Bergeron plans to kick off the theatre’s newly announced lineup with the return of his favorite cult monster Godzillafest – a three-day event spanning 10 of the oldest films in the oldest franchise in the world, presented in partnership with Bay Area Film Events. Individual tickets for each screening – rather than festival passes – will sell for $ 15 each, as the theater meets the 50% capacity guidelines.

As usual, this will be a celebration of all things Godzilla – moviegoers can expect to see vendors selling vintage action figures, Godzilla-themed artwork, as well as prints. fates and prizes – but also another monster-sized achievement: the survival of the theater.

Last month, Bergeron said, the Balboa was barely hanging on. Despite a high attendance at his weekly Popcorn Pop-Up events, he was two months behind on rent, and as funds from his previous P3 grant dried up, he had no choice but to apply for another loan. important to keep the place. going until its reopening.

“While the business is secure, we have definitely taken on a lot more debt than we would be comfortable with,” he said. “But it was either that or we would lose everything.”

A blackboard sign in the theater grounds asked people what movies they wanted to see when the Balboa reopened. Bergeron said Godzillafest has appeared on several occasions.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGate

Bergeron added that the theater was not allowed to apply for a second round of PPP loans if they also intended to apply for the Subsidy to operators of closed sites – a $ 16 billion program administered by the SBA – but the restriction was lifted last week. Now he is optimistic that the Balboa will receive both loans.

“It saved the day,” he said. “It took a lot of work to get to this point. … Without the massive support of the neighborhood and the film community, we simply would not have succeeded. The odds were against a company like ours. “

Local historic sites have certainly been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and will likely be among the last to reopen. Even when they get the green light, many still predict that people might be slower to return to theaters and live shows than to other indoor public spaces.


“We have had a number of attempts [reopening] dates on the calendar and had to cancel, ”said Steve Nasser, a representative of the 1,400 seats Castro Theater. “As a large room, it’s not practical for us if we can’t accommodate 500 to 600 guests. We will get there, but I am unable to determine a date; much will depend on city regulations and the willingness of the public to attend large indoor events. “

The Roxie Theater in the Mission district is considering a reopening date in late May, according to executive director Lex Sloan; however, virtual non-profit cinema screenings and drive-in programming at Fort Mason Flix are still in full swing. In April, the Roxies will co-host the classic Guillermo del Toro fantasy film. “Pan’s Labyrinth” with Latin SF Film Festival and The Mexican Museum, as well as Oscar nominees “Minari” and none other than the favorite filmed locally, “So I married an ax murderer”, which will be co-hosted by the Chronicle’s “Total SF” podcast and the Balboa (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of each other).

“It’s gonna be so good to turn on our 35mm projectors and make the entryway smell like popcorn,” Sloan said. “We anticipate a very unique return from Roxie with four days of movies and experiences you won’t easily find anywhere else.”

AFTER: Why ‘so I married an ax murderer’ is an ode to North Beach in San Francisco

After Godzillafest, Bergeron hopes to deploy another kind of festival at the Balboa, loosely entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Movies”. The series would include “Monterey Pop” – a 1968 documentary following the music festival of the same name – as well as a closer look at some of the live footage from the most famous artists who have performed there, most notably Jimi. Hendrix and Otis Redding. Bob Dylan’s documentary “Don’t Look Back” and “This is Spinal Tap” would complement the repertoire side of the series, but audiences can also expect modern programming, including a Daft Punk farewell party. The theater is also planning to relaunch its “Rewind Wednesday” series with Britney Spears’ 2002 film “Crossroads” (which this writer personally endorses).

A sign lets people know how to help Balboa Theater employees during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the Richmond District of San Francisco on May 20, 2020.

A sign lets people know how to help Balboa Theater employees during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the Richmond District of San Francisco on May 20, 2020.

Douglas Zimmerman / SFGate

As for the popular Balboa parklet and weekly live jazz performances? Bergeron also plans to keep these components alive. Although all theaters in San Francisco can now serve snacks and soda under the orange level of the city’s reopening plan, a modified version of the concession stand will remain outside.

“It is incumbent on all of us to keep this momentum going – this is all part of maintaining a sense of community,” he said. “My dream is that people can come an hour early, have a beer and hang out, and then after the movie, they can come back and have a space to discuss what they watched. It feels like it will add a quality of coffee to the experience.

The Vogue Theater on Sacramento Street – also operated by Bergeron – is slated to open in mid-June. He said both theaters will continue to be mindful of the safety of their customers as well as their employees, most of whom are now fully vaccinated.

“This is the real tipping point that got me thinking, ‘Okay, we can reopen now,’ because the well-being of the staff is definitely paramount,” Bergeron said.

Now he feels optimistic as he waits for the highly anticipated reopening of his 95-year-old venue.

“I think people are eager to get back to fun and familiar things, and they’ll also be happy to see that a business like ours is successful. I think audiences will return with a renewed appreciation for experiences like movies and live music – it will come back with a vengeance and we will remember how much we missed it.

Visit the Balboa Theater website for tickets to Godzillafest and other upcoming screenings.

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