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The shaky status of the Clay Theatre has recharged the debate over the role and necessity of single-screen movie houses in the era of Netflix and the multiplex. Our view? Society suffers immeasurably when the only public spaces most people ever share are malls and ballparks. With “A Few Dream Palaces of San Francisco,” SFMOMA imagines movie theaters as brick-and-mortar repositories of communal dreams. The day-long film crawl is part of Cinema City, the latest chapter of the urban-excavation series inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. The Balboa raises the curtain at noon out by the ocean with Cotton Candy, vaunted experimental filmmaker Ernie Gehr’s 2001 study of the Musée Mécanique before it swapped its Cliff House abode for Fisherman’s Wharf. The Four Star picks up the baton at 3 p.m. with "Mean Streets," a program of short films reclaiming our town’s depiction in Bullitt and other Hollywood flicks. Then it’s off to the Roxie at 6 p.m. for Pickup’s Tricks, Gregory Pickup's 1973 portrait of the legendary drag-glam-theater pioneer Hibiscus (of Cockettes fame), capped with a midnight screening at the Vogue of — what else? — Vertigo. These days, the ephemeral quality of movies is matched by the impermanence of movie houses.
Sat., Sept. 11, noon, 2010

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