The San Francisco Bay Area has some truly exceptional independently owned movie theaters. One of the best parts of living in the Bay Area is going to these theaters.
Let’s begin with the Alameda Theater located in Alameda, California at 2317 Central Avenue. This theater is owned by the city of Alameda. The location consists of a new seven theater cineplex, the old Alameda theater and a parking garage. The old Alameda theater is used to show old time classic movies as well as local stages shows. The new cineplex is up to date, and shows the latest movies in a great atmosphere. The snack bar is speedy and the seats are comfortable, and theater includes a cool arcade. This is a great location to see a brand new movie, or delve into the past for an old time experience.
Moving to Oakland, a great privately owned movie theater is the Grand Lake at 3200 Grand Avenue. I still remember attending movies here as kid with my parents. This movie theater is downtown near Lake Merritt, and parking can be a little tricky. This theater was once a single theater; now it has four movie screens. Movie theater No. 2 is upstairs and has no handicapped access. This theater shows all the latest films and is a visual delight inside. The main theater includes a working pipe organ. It is a theater not to be missed despite being in downtown Oakland. The staff here is also great; some of the best I have encountered at a movie theater.
CineLux owns a few movie theaters throughout the Bay Area, and they are a great deal price wise. On Tuesdays, they are $4.00 bucks a person. Matinees are $5.00. You can check their locations at www.cineluxtheaters.com and they show the latest movies, including 3D! Of their theaters, my favorite location is the Chabot Theater at 2853 Castro Valley Boulevard in Castro Valley. This theater shows one movie at a time. It features a snack bar at great prices and cool, retro bathrooms. If you get to your showing early, and send your fastest runner up to the balcony, you can usually obtain the first row in the balcony. If you do this, you will be able to watch the whole movie without anyone EVER walking in front of you. Once the lights are out, it will be like they are showing the screening just for you. Hard to beat this benefit at any other theater. My favorite comic book store is also right next to this theater. The only drawback here is parking. You might have to walk a little to the theater.
Moving across the bay, I would like recommend the Presidio Theater at 2340 Chestnut Street in the San Francisco Presidio. This is not everyones type of theater, but it features small, intimate movie screenings with great play areas for a family. It is decorated in a style that simply is not done anymore, and the prices are very reasonable for the city. It also has plenty of parking which is rare in San Francisco. And yes, this used to be the Presidio’s movie theater.
I consider a drive-in a movie theater, and The Capital Drive-in at 3630 Hillcap Drive in San Jose is a great one. This center has six screens and shows all double features. That’s two movies for one admission, for those of you that don’t know what a double feature is. Actually, if you stay long enough, you can see three movies. The theater has a kiddie play area, an outstanding arcade and a snack bar where you can actually purchase a dinner meal if you choose. Of course, you can bring your own goodies. You can watch the movie in your car, or get out in a chair and see it under the stars. The drive-in features stereo sound on your radio. This is just a cool way spend a summer night.
For those high tech action blockbusters, the best theater in the Bay Area remains the Cinemark Cinema at 41 Tamal Vista Boulevard in Corte Madera, California. Yes, it is worth the drive. This theater is not much to look at on the outside but it is the inside that counts. This theater features the largest movie screen that I know of in the Bay Area. It is over 70 feet in length, and takes up the whole front of the theater. The Cinema shows just one movie at a time. The seats are arranged in rows with no middle aisle, so expect to cozy up to your neighbor. The rows are set far enough apart, however, that anyone walking in and out can do so without disturbing a sitting patron at all. Wonderful! The snack bar is kink of small, but one does not come here to snack. One comes for the big screen and wonderful sound system. The theater has its own parking lot, but it tends to fill up on the weekend. This is supposed to be the favorite theater of George Lucas, who is still rumored to have an interest in the theater. I don’t know about that, but if it is good enough for George, its good enough for me.
As you can see, the San Francisco Bay Area remains a unique place to see a movie. If you can think up the experience you want, you can most likely go out and find it.