Bay Area Moviegoing: Favorites

updated Wednesday, 14-Dec-2005 10:50:10 PST by sparCKL@snout.org

This page contains information about my favorite non-THX movie theatres in the San Francisco bay area. (Complement: THX venues)

RECOMMENDED

NOT recommended

Camera 12 Cinema, San Jose
The Aquarius, Palo Alto
AMC Mercado 20, Santa Clara
The Stanford Theatre, Palo Alto
Any Century theatre

Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

Menlo Park

Guild Theatre
949 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

(650) 32-MOVIE

Remote tickets:
MovieFone
Web links:  official  showtimes 

Official spiel: "Originally built as a burlesque house and converted to exhibit movies in the 1940s, it is the oldest standing theatre on the S.F. Peninsula, featuring two giant golden wings on either side of its gloriously large screen."

Exhibitor: Landmark Theatres

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Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

Milpitas

Cinema Saver
Milpitas, CA 95035

(408) 942-SAVE

RECOMMENDED

Remote tickets:
No
Web links:  official  showtimes

We call this "the cheap theatre", because they show second-run movies at discount prices: $3.50 most days, $1.50 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (avoid these days if you don't like crowds).

Currently moving to the Serra Shopping Center; scheduled to reopen in October 2005. Owned and operated by one of the few remaining independent exhibitors in the bay area.

Seen here:

  • The Core (2003)
  • Shanghai Knights (2003)
  • Vanilla Sky (2002)
  • Moulin Rouge (2001)

Exhibitor: CineLux Theatres

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Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

Palo Alto

Aquarius Theatre
430 Emerson Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301

(650) 32-MOVIE

RECOMMENDED

Remote tickets:
MovieFone
Web links:  official  showtimes 

Box office opens ~30min before first show. 5-day advance tickets available.

Official spiel: "The Aquarius is one of the few theatres in the San Francisco Bay Area to regularly offer up midnight movies. Annually, the Midnight Madness series runs from mid-summer to mid-fall. This series features the best in classic, cult and soon-to-be-cult films with fun, games, and prize giveaways in both theatres on both Fridays and Saturday nights."

Exhibitor: Landmark Theatres

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The Stanford Theatre
221 University Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301

(650) 324 - 3700

RECOMMENDED

Remote tickets:
not available
Web links:  official  Cinema Treasures 

"It's full of romance, that old place."

This beautiful, old-fashioned "movie palace" shows only classic movies, mostly of the black-and-white variety. An organist plays the Wurlitzer between shows and during silent films. Sometimes, David Packard himself will drop by and get up on stage with a microphone to introduce a film. A double feature here is a great way to spend an evening.

Every December 24th, the Stanford Theatre presents a special Christmas Eve showing of It's a Wonderful Life. If you've never seen this movie projected on the the big screen, with a live audience, you don't know what you're missing! Advance tickets for this show go on sale in early December, and it sells out quickly.

Restored and maintained by the Packard Humanities Institute since 1987.

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Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

San Francisco

Embarcadero Center Cinema
One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
San Francisco, CA 94111

(415) 352-0810

Remote tickets:
777-FILM #154
Web links:  official  showtimes 

Official spiel: "Since opening on Bastille Day in 1995, the five-screen cinema has taken the city of San Francisco by storm. It is not only one of the busiest and highest grossing Landmark Theatres, it also ranks nationally among the most successful and prestigious theatres featuring high-profile independent film and foreign language cinema."

Exhibitor: Landmark Theatres

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Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

San Jose

Camera 12 Cinema
201 South Second Street
San Jose, CA 95113

408-998-3300

RECOMMENDED

Remote tickets:
cameracinemas.com
Web links: Official   Showtimes  

Nice, modern, multi-level cinema in downtown San Jose. The annual Cinequest film festival does a lot of screenings here. Never crowded, even on opening nights; probably not a good economic indicator, but it does make for a stress-free moviegoing experience. South bay residents, enjoy it while it lasts.

Free parking in many downtown lots after 6:00 PM. Also convenient to Light Rail.

Seen here:

  • Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
  • Asylum (2005)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Exhibitor: Camera Cinemas

Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

Santa Clara

AMC Mercado 20
3111 Mission College Boulevard (Mercado Santa Clara Center)
Santa Clara, CA 95054

(408)871-2262 showtimes/tix

RECOMMENDED

Remote tickets:
MovieTickets.com
(408)871-2262
Web links:  official 

Opened in 1998. Sometimes erroneously advertised as a THX venue, though it's an understandable mistake-- it falls short only because of some lighting and slap echo issues. Well-maintained auditoriums and projection equipment. Generally friendly and helpful staff.

Always free parking in the Mercado center parking lot. On Fridays and weekends, you can also park in the adjacent Mission College lot. IMPORTANT: the gate between the Mercado and Mission College parking lots often gets closed and locked earlier than it's supposed to. We've previously complained about the incompetent security staff, and will continue to do so, but if you're seeing the last show on a particular night, park in the Mercado lot to avoid being locked out.

Exhibitor: American Multi-Cinema

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Cities:  Menlo Park  Milpitas  Palo Alto  San Francisco  San Jose  Santa Clara 

CENTURY THEATRES SUCK. I am absolutely, unequivocally BOYCOTTING Century Theatres (and their parent company, Syufy Enterprises). They don't employ competent staff, they treat the audience with no respect, and most of all, they don't care about movies. They're not getting any more of my money. For more information, see CAVEAT EMPTOR.

General info:

Data sources (not listed above):


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