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Rise of the Number of the Screens: Exploring the Mystery at the Heart of the New Mission Theater 

Wednesday, May 7 2014

Getting your hopes up is always dangerous, but this one especially stings.

There was a flurry of excitement among the film crowd in January 2013 when the Planning Commission approved the $10 million renovation of the long-shuttered, 2,021-seat New Mission Theater at 2550 Mission. At that same time, the Alamo Drafthouse — an Austin-based franchise which describes itself as "a lifestyle entertainment brand with an acclaimed cinema-eatery," with locations as far-flung as New Braunfels, Tex., Yonkers, N.Y., and Kalamazoo, Mich. — formally announced it was slated to open the rechristened Alamo Drafthouse New Mission "in the third quarter of 2014."

It was especially exciting for those of us who nerd out about the number of movie screens in town. In last year's big Summer Movie issue, I calculated that San Francisco had 75 movie screens spread among 18 theaters. That number is now up to 77 screens among 18 theaters, thanks to the Embarcadero's spiffy renovation last fall, and the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission would bump us to 82 screens among 19 theaters.

San Francisco getting a new theater would be cause for celebration even if it was another multiplex dedicated to first-run Hollywood studio product — 2015's Avengers sequel will surely consume all the screens — but the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission promises to follow the spirit of Alamo's hipper-than-hip Austin flagship, with a mix of "classic film programming, our unique alternative content and live events, foreign films, independent films, as well as some studio films." The former single-screen movie palace will be converted into one 348-seat theater, four smaller screening rooms, and a full restaurant and bar, with waitstaff offering food and beverage service throughout the show.

...whenever that may happen. The third quarter of 2014 is drawing nigh, and the exterior of the New Mission sure doesn't look like it'll be ready to open in the next few months. A salesperson for the adjacent Vida SF apartment complex, itself far from finished, says she saw people working on the marquee a couple weeks ago, and that it was the first time any visible work had been done on it in several months. She also says that recent scuttlebutt pushes back the theater's opening to 2015.

Construction delays are part of San Francisco's culture, but the Drafthouse is being tight-lipped about its plans. The New Mission's website hasn't been updated since the original announcement, and its Facebook page and Twitter feed have been dormant since September 2013. The company's PR firm says it has "no updates."

Seven months of radio silence without even a "We're still alive, please watch this space for further details" Tweet or Facebook update suggests... well, it's hard to know what it suggests. But it sounds like, somewhere southeast of here, plans have changed.

When (or if) the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission finally opens, it'll be a much-needed shot in the arm for San Francisco's film culture. But this is not a good way to start.

About The Author

Sherilyn Connelly


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