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

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.

Coming soon: A theater near you!
Juan Pardo
Coming soon: A theater near you!

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.

 
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11 comments
Lauren Larsson
Lauren Larsson

Can't wait for it to open! They might answer if you tweet them. Alamo draft house has answered me before

Manuel Francisco Seminario
Manuel Francisco Seminario

:This is what im talking about ,but since the theater is in the mission run Mario Moreno espanish movies or any good old movie in Spanish . Here's my idea , have the theater divided old school Spanish movies and the new movies out.

Brian Feagins
Brian Feagins

I have seen so many movies at the New Mission theater and I'm excited and happy about it being reinvented into something new for the next generation to enjoy

Peter Canada
Peter Canada

With Sundance being the only option in SF for offering better food and drink, you have to book your tickets days in advance for good films. This will be a great addition to SF.

Allison Smith Lin
Allison Smith Lin

The Alamo Drafthouse is awesome and you will all be glad when it is finished. Unless you are someone who looks for stuff to complain about... Tim League, the owner, will keep his word.

Eric Eberman
Eric Eberman

if it fails.. good riddance.. and that horrific condo project sucks beyond compare.. I loved the GIANT VALUE and bought stuff there every week. SF sucks now.

timalamo
timalamo

Permitting has been slower than expected, but we are still on track.  It won't be 3rd quarter 2014, but expect real progress soon!

laureldenver
laureldenver

I'm a 30 year resident, and I have to ask: You really honestly want that Giant Value mess instead of a restored move theater you can walk to?

Drew
Drew

@timalamo Thank you for helping revitalize the neighborhood!  We will attend the theater often -- so excited!

sspediacci
sspediacci

@timalamo  Welcome to SF. Permits are a pain and a half. Happy to have you here either way.....but seriously get to work

 
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