Best Neighborhood Movie House

Like the afternoon newspaper, a neighborhood movie house is a money-losing venture and a dying breed. The few that remain in San Francisco are on the chopping block — except one little theater tucked deep in the Richmond District, the Balboa. It looked like even this holdout might disappear this year when the widow of the longtime owner (who died in 1995) began making it known that she wasn't interested in carrying the torch much longer. She is in her 80s, after all. But Gary Meyer, a co-founder of the Landmark theater chain, has taken over the lease with the promise of keeping the Balboa tradition alive. The theater, built in 1926, is showing its age, and Meyer plans to do some renovation. Prices will still be cheap, as the Balboa will continue to offer second-run films. But Meyer hopes to make the Balboa a first-rate destination through carefully selected double bills, theme nights, special screenings of art films, and weekend movie marathons. It might even be worth waiting to see a film until it's left the megaplexes, just so you can see it in a cozy and charming place like the Balboa.

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