When the Embarcadero Center Cinema opened in the late 1990s, it was a beacon for indie moviegoers. However on this afternoon's visit, the cinema has started to really show its age.
I'm not going to judge the theater on its movie selection - it gets the more general-public friendly indie flicks - the movies that in most cities would be relegated to the smallest screen at the multiplex or at local college campus movie theaters.
I will, however, take issue with the theater itself. What was once pristine is now showing its age, with the cushions in the cold, impersonal waiting area showing the stains of concession stand heartbreak. Why heartbreak? At $3.50 for a small bottle of water, spilling a drop of overpriced espresso or cola is a tragedy more dramatic than anything shown on the screen.
Maybe we were just unlucky, but the print of 'Thank You For Smoking' was just poorly handled, considering we saw it soon after its release - lots of pop, hiss and other signs of damage. This movie seemed to have been shot in 2 channel stereo, so I would have expected all of the speakers to fire - but the sound tech at the theater only piped the dialogue through the front left and right speakers. I counted 6 speakers in front of me (and there were probably 2 behind) - feel free to use them, folks! Sometimes I had to strain to hear the audio.
This should be a two screen theater, three at the most... because the screen in theater 4 was so small, I would have had the same experience watching it on DVD at a friend's house that has a widescreen TV - ok, at least at my friend's place the water would be free and the sound would have been better balanced. To add to the annoyance, there was no insulation between the projection room and the theater floor, meaning I heard the annoying clacka-clacka-clacka of the film reel throughout the movie.
With Sundance taking over the Kabuki and a new multiplex opening at the San Francisco Centre, the Landmark chain that owns this theater needs to really think about making some major updates if they want to keep hold of the downtown moviegoer's hard earned money.