Bay Area offers rich, diverse movie theaters

Ethan Singleton, Hook Editor

Seeing a movie in a theatre is a far richer and all around more cinematic experience than watching from home. This is partly because for the majority of cinematic history, theatres have been the only places in which you can see movies. Movies therefore are designed to be shown in theatres.

The vast majority of movie’s seen in local theatres are contemporary and American made and regular theatregoers often enjoy movies through the narrow lense of modern America. Fortunately, there are numerous local theatres that specialize in showing pieces not shown elsewhere such as documentaries, foreign films or old films, and offer a unique viewing experience.

The Rafael

Located in downtown San Rafael, it is the epitome of an “arthouse” for the intelligentsia or others interested in non-mainstream cinema. With only three screens, the Rafael manages to play between seven to nine movies a week. Most of these are contemporary documentaries, foreign films, or obscure American movies, but there are some old movies.

As of the time of this writing, the Rafael is playing one Swedish film, four documentaries, one French film and two German films.

The Rafael has the best choice of snacks of any theatre I have been to, including Toblerone chocolate bars. The interior design is lavish and majestic, with a staircase wrapping around the concessions department. This adds to the overall atmosphere.

The Lark

Another local single-screen theatre is found in Larkspur.  The Lark wastes no time, as it plays up to five different movies in a single day. About half of these are mainstream and the others are more obscure.

There are numerous good restaurants within walking distance in all directions, such as Burritoville Cafe which is almost next door. The biggest problem at The Lark is that the seats are uncomfortable, but you can get used to it.

It is currently playing two documentaries, four modern films, two obscure modern, one foreign, one world-class ballet on film, and one stage play on film.

The Castro

This San Francisco staple, located near the corner of Market and Castro Streets, plays primarily old movies, with the 80s being a rough cut off point. Any iconic movie you want to see in a theatre will probably play here if you wait long enough. There is only one screen, and it is massive.

The Castro plays several movies every day. They list their whole film schedule online many weeks in advance, leaving you ample time to plan an outing.

Details like the live organist,  fancy art nouveau design and period-appropriate previews set The Castro apart from any typical theatre.

Because there is only one massive theatre, this means that the lines for the box office, concessions and bathrooms can be extremely long.

The Castro is a good way to anchor a visit to San Francisco.