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A Little Bit of Sundance here at home

By  Dec 14, 2007

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San Franciscans may remember that the Kabuki theater in Japantown opened in 1986 as an art house theater, but by the time I moved here in '95, it was playing the standard fare of every other popular megaplex squeezing out the independents.

Now, after the purchase by Sundance Cinemas and a $6 million, 18-month remodel, the Kabuki officially opens its doors again today not only as a premiere independent cinema, but one that caters to the filmgoer interested in parkin' it for a little while to enjoy local art on display, dine on Mediterranean dishes and bistro fare, and sit in communal spaces architected and designed to be as green and energy-efficient as possible (yep, the neon is gone!).

The new seating is done stadium-style so everyone gets a view of the screen and the seat backs are made of recycled plastics. Snack bar packaging and utensils are compostable too. You can snag one of your seats early by making reservations online or at a kiosk at the theater (the seats are all "reserved," which will be great as long as viewers are still accommodating and don't pepper the seating on full nights).

The San Francisco Chronicle has a number of good photos of the hip, new theater up on its Web site and interviewed Paul Richardson, president and CEO of Sundance about the remodel. He says this about the plans for films to screen:

 "Obviously we have to make money, so we're going to show what we consider to be the best independent films in the marketplace," Richardson says. "We need the A titles to survive economically, and we're going to share those with the commercial theaters, including Landmark. Then one screen will play the more esoteric films that can't stand up in the marketplace and need some extra help. We think they should have a place in the marketplace, which is kind of our Sundance, emerging-artist mandate. So we'll have a spectrum, from films like 'Little Miss Sunshine' to films you and I have never heard of."

After opening for a couple benefits earlier this week, the Kabuki will open to the public tonight with Youth Without Youth,  Juno, The Kite Runner, Protagonist and Revolver.

Welcome back, Kabuki!