Reel World

Raise the Red Lantern
"Quality movies at a reasonable price." That's Kem Kwong's quaint turn-of-the-millennium motto for the World Theater, the venerable Broadway Street cinema that he and his partners reopened last weekend. Built in 1949, the World thrived as a venue for Cantonese-language films until recent years, when its audience switched to video. (FYI, the Great Star on Jackson is the last surviving Chinese-language theater in town.) With a new focus as a second-run house, the World joins the St. Francis, the Four Star, the Balboa, and the Tanforan on the bargain-hunters' beat.

Need directions? Zero in on the Gold Mountain Restaurant between Grant and Stockton; the newly carpeted, freshly painted 437-seat World resides down a couple of flights of stairs. Kwong, who's owned the nearby Garden Restaurant for some 25 years, is aiming for a younger generation of Chinese-Americans (as well as the broader community, of course) with a strategy that includes $3 matinees, cheaper snacks, and an espresso bar. Parking is a problem, the pragmatic Kwong concedes, but he's reassured by the ample population within walking distance of the theater. He doesn't have any exhibition experience, but he does know the neighborhood.

The World opened with Shakespeare in Love and Life Is Beautiful (in a nod to North Beach's Italian roots), and this weekend brings the newer crowd-pleasers The Mummy and Notting Hill (separate admission). Kwong foresees the World hosting a weekend Korean or Chinese film festival and, for the older generation, inexpensive Sunday matinees of classical Peking operas on celluloid. "The World has been here for 50 years," Kwong declares, "and we want to maintain it for the community."

Village of the Damned
Marc Huestis, the irrepressible impresario who's previously brought Sylvia Miles, Christina Crawford, and John Waters to the Castro Theater, had a moment of hesitation about his upcoming July 16 event. He'd picked that pinnacle of childhood evil, The Bad Seed, with actress Patty McCormack set to attend. Then the guns went off at Columbine and, Huestis recalled, "It gave me the creeps a little bit." However, he noted, "In movies, it's usually the girls who kill and in real life it's the boys."

Let's talk summer camp, not psychodrama. McCormack's mother was a roller derby queen, her current fantasy is to be in a Waters film, and she'll dish with gossip maven Michael Musto at the Castro after a rowdy screening of The Bad Seed. "This movie is for bad girls everywhere, no matter what the gender," says Huestis. Call 863-0611 to snare a ticket and perhaps to get on the list for Huestis' winter blowout: "All About Christmas Eve" with Celeste Holm and, naturally, All About Eve. Isn't this why you moved to San Francisco?

Two-Lane Blacktop
Beat Takeshi jump-starts the next Roxie calendar with Boiling Point (1989) on July 30, then returns on-screen a month later in Violent Cop. ... The second edition of Videohound's Independent Film Guide, authored by local film fanatic Monica Sullivan and laden with hundreds of additional entries, hits bookstores any day. Her long-running Movie Magazine radio show now airs on 109 stations in 34 states, including KUSF-FM (90.3; 9 p.m. Wednesdays). ... Rob Nilsson is another guy who's everywhere these days. After an encore at the Four Star, his powerful feature Chalk is on the Web at along with his digitally shot work in progress, Scheme. When I joked that his nonstop pace and endorsement of new media were downright Coppola-like, Nilsson quickly replied, "I'm not tending any vines."

By Michael Fox

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