Inspired by my recent review of the Clay Theatre (and discovering that it showed just 20 movies in 2010, contrasted to the nearby Vogue's 69), this first analysis will look at the theater and circuit patterns in San Francisco. Why should I criticize the Clay for showing so few titles, when really it was collaborating with four other Landmark theaters to bring film to the San Francisco community. How does the Landmark network stack up against its competitors?
Note: I collected showtime data on 331 days in 2010 (~90% of the year). As this is an incomplete picture, all subsequent numbers are estimates only. IMDB was my source for daily showtimes. I'm not sure by what process IMDB receives its data, but some theaters reported inconsistently, e.g., they only reported Friday/Saturday showtimes, which would underrepresent their numbers below, or they didn't list the correct title, selecting an older title of the same thing, which would overrepresent the number of unique movies shown.
I tracked 25 San Francisco venues in 2010, totaling 1,153 different movies, shown a total of 103,968 times.
|AMC||AMC Loews Metreon 16||16|
|AMC||AMC Van Ness 14||14|
|Cinemark||Century San Francisco Centre 9||9|
|Cinemark||CinéArts @ Empire||3|
|Landmark||Embarcadero Center Cinema||5||Closed 2013 for renovation.|
|Landmark||Opera Plaza Cinema||4|
|Landmark||Lumiere Theatre||3||Closed 2012.|
|Landmark||Bridge Theatre||1||Closed 2012. Review forthcoming.|
|Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Presidio Theatre||4|
|Lee Neighborhood Theatres||4 Star||2|
|Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Marina Theatre||2||Review forthcoming.|
|Peerless Entertainment||Vogue Theatre||1||Now run by CinemaSF.|
|Regal||United Artists Stonestown||2||Review forthcoming.|
|Sundance Cinemas||Sundance Kabuki||8|
|Independent||Balboa Theater||2||Now run by CinemaSF.|
|Independent||Red Vic Movie House||1||Closed 2011.|
|Independent||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||1||Closed 2013 for renovation.|
|Independent||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||1|
Screens per Circuit
|4||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||3||8|
Using Cinema Treasures as my rough barometer, San Francisco has hosted 151 theaters with a total of 222 screens, meaning 17% of its theaters and 39% of its screens were still in operation in 2010.
Movies per Theater Screen
VIZ Cinema, specializing in foreign animated features, comes in a surprise second.
|Rank||Circuit||Theater||Movies||Screens||Movies Per Screen|
|3||Independent||Red Vic Movie House||97||1||97.0|
|5||Peerless Entertainment||Vogue Theatre||69||1||69.0|
|6||Independent||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||30||1||30.0|
|9||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||4 Star||41||2||20.5|
|10||Regal||United Artists Stonestown||38||2||19.0|
|13||Landmark||Embarcadero Center Cinema||79||5||15.8|
|14||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Marina Theatre||31||2||15.5|
|15||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Presidio Theatre||61||4||15.3|
|16||Sundance Cinemas||Sundance Kabuki||117||8||14.6|
|17||Cinemark||CinéArts @ Empire||43||3||14.3|
|19||Cinemark||Century San Francisco Centre 9||99||9||11.0|
|19||Independent||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||11||1||11.0|
|21||Landmark||Opera Plaza Cinema||38||4||9.5|
|22||AMC||AMC Loews Metreon 16||124||16||7.8|
|23||AMC||AMC Van Ness 14||73||14||5.2|
Movies per Circuit Screen
If we compress the data by circuit, clumping together all the independents, we start to get a picture of how highly each circuit values variety. (Peerless, Regal, and Sundance are outliers in that they are part of a larger regional or national circuit, yet they each have but a single theater in San Francisco.) Although the Independent cluster is buoyed by the Castro's staggering numbers, they would still clock in at 38 movies per screen even without the Castro.
|Rank||Circuit||Movies||Screens||Movies per Screen|
|4||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||133||8||16.6|
*Doesn't sum the column, to avoid double counting movies exhibited by multiple circuits.
Regal surprises me; nationally, it's a mainstream circuit, but in San Francisco it shows independent film, and at a higher per-screen rate than does Landmark. Landmark bests the other two dominant circuits, Cinemark and AMC.
AMC, though last in movies per screen, is third (just behind Landmark and the Castro) for number of unique movies shown.
Unique Movies per Circuit
Treating each independent as its own circuit, how many movies did each circuit show that were unique to that circuit (i.e., no other circuit showed that movie)?
|3||Landmark||116||Bridge Theatre, Clay Theatre, Embarcadero Center, Lumiere Theatre, Opera Plaza Cinema|
|5||AMC||62||AMC Loews Metreon, AMC Van Ness 14|
|6||Red Vic Movie House||56|
|7||Peerless Entertainment||37||Vogue Theatre|
|8||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||29|
|9||Cinemark||28||Century San Francisco Centre 9, CinéArts @ Empire|
|11||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||16||4 Star, Marina Theatre, Presidio Theatre|
|12||Sundance Cinemas||12||Sundance Kabuki|
|13||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||11|
|14||Regal||10||United Artists Stonestown|
This answers my original question, showing that although the Clay might not be showing very many different movies, it is part of a circuit that showed more than a hundred movies that noone else did.
Showings per Theater Screen
Continuing from the previous section, it's not that AMC isn't exhibiting a variety of movies, it's just that they are spreading them out over many screens, and they are maxing out those screens, keeping the reels spinning all day long. This gives viewers more flexibility in terms of when they can watch those movies, either by time of day or day of week.
|Rank||Circuit||Theater||Showings||Screens||Showings per Screen|
|1||AMC||AMC Van Ness 14||21,540||14||1,539|
|2||AMC||AMC Loews Metreon 16||23,062||16||1,441|
|4||Cinemark||Century San Francisco Centre 9||12,621||9||1,402|
|5||Landmark||Embarcadero Center Cinema||6,763||5||1,353|
|6||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||4 Star||2,488||2||1,244|
|7||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Marina Theatre||2,475||2||1,238|
|8||Regal||United Artists Stonestown||2,457||2||1,229|
|9||Peerless Entertainment||Vogue Theatre||1,197||1||1,197|
|10||Sundance Cinemas||Sundance Kabuki||9,243||8||1,155|
|11||Cinemark||CinéArts @ Empire||3,276||3||1,092|
|12||Lee Neighborhood Theatres||Presidio Theatre||4,076||4||1,019|
|14||Landmark||Opera Plaza Cinema||4,058||4||1,015|
|18||Independent||Red Vic Movie House||769||1||769|
|21||Independent||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||37||1||37|
|22||Independent||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||27||1||27|
AMC leads this category, averaging 1,539 showings per screen over the year. That's 4.6 showings per screen per day.
The Balboa sneaks in with the big dogs, keeping the projection booth hot more than any other theater of comparable size.
Days per Movie per Theater
I'm valuing variety (more movies are better) and flexibility (more showings are better). But what about longevity? The typical movie goer will only visit the theater a few times a year; they don't care that the Castro shows 299 different movies throughout the year, because they are looking at just one or two Friday nights in particular. And for a filmgoer who wants to see a specific movie, but doesn't have flexibility in when they can go, it doesn't matter if the theater shows the movie a hundred times during the one week they're away camping. (Extraordinary Measures was an extreme example of this: both the Van Ness 14 and San Francisco Centre 9 debuted the movie with 5-8 showings per day. Fifteen days later, it was gone from both theaters, from San Francisco, and from the entire Bay Area.)
So another ideal is to hold over a movie for a long period of time. If the movie is worth seeing, filmgoers will have maximum opportunity to find a convenient time to see it. How many days does each theater retain a typical title?
|Rank||Theater||Days (Mean)||Days (Median)||Longest Held (Days - Title)|
|1||AMC Loews Metreon 16||23.7||21||114 - Inception|
|1||AMC Van Ness 14||21.9||21||78 - The Social Network|
|3||Sundance Kabuki||20.4||17||75 - Crazy Heart|
|4||Marina Theatre||18.8||16||46 - The Social Network|
|5||Century San Francisco Centre 9||18.4||15||82 - Alice in Wonderland|
|6||United Artists Stonestown||16.7||14||75 - The Kids Are All Right|
|6||Presidio Theatre||15.6||14||62 - The Town|
|6||CinéArts @ Empire||14.0||14||41 - Inception|
|6||Clay Theatre||16.0||14||36 - Please Give|
|10||Balboa Theater||13.6||13||80 - Remembering Playland At The Beach|
|10||Opera Plaza Cinema||14.6||13||78 - The Hurt Locker|
|10||Embarcadero Center Cinema||18.5||13||62 - The Ghost Writer|
|13||4 Star||11.1||10||38 - Get Him to the Greek|
|14||Lumiere Theatre||11.4||8||45 - Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played With Fire)|
|15||Bridge Theatre||10.6||7||57 - The Kids Are All Right|
|16||VIZ Cinema||3.3||2||16 - The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya|
|16||Red Vic Movie House||2.3||2||8 - Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo|
|17||Roxie Theater||4.2||1||103 - Exit Through the Gift Shop|
|17||Vogue Theatre||5.6||1||33 - The Social Network|
|17||Castro Theatre||1.4||1||25 - Alice in Wonderland|
|17||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||2.4||1||16 - Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol|
|17||Alliance Francaise||1.3||1||6 - L'armee du crime (Army of Crime)|
|17||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||1.2||1||4 - Trash Humpers|
|17||Oddball Films||1.0||1||1 - [various]|
|17||Victoria Theatre||1.0||1||1 - [various]|
Not only does AMC show many different titles per year, but they also hold them over the longest. Both AMC theaters retain a typical title for three weeks. The Metreon also has the record for retaining a movie the longest, giving filmgoers almost four months to come see the excellent Inception.
Small multi-screen theaters have the same flexibility as the larger theaters; the Balboa was able to dedicate one of its two screens to Remembering Playland at the Beach for more than two months, while the other screen rotated in new movies every two weeks. Single-screen theaters, in contrast, have to choose between variety and longevity. The Castro exhibited Alice in Wonderland for nearly a month, but most of its movies disappear after but a single night.
I had criticized the Clay for showing only a third as many movies on its single screen as did the Vogue. The above table makes it appear that the Vogue was cycling movies in and out every day, while the Clay retained each movie for two weeks. Whereas the Castro really does churn through movies that quickly, the Vogue's numbers are being thrown off by its few festivals.
In the below chart, I exclude all movies that were shown only a single time at the theater. This reduces the Castro from 299 movies to just 18, while the AMC theaters remain relatively unscathed. Now the Vogue and Clay are closer together, with only a day separating their typical movie time. This doesn't exactly come out in the Clay's favor, though, as the two charts demonstrate that the Vogue is able to match the Clay for longevity, yet still squeeze in triple the variety.
|Rank||Theater||Days (Mean)||Days (Median)||Unique Movies|
|1||AMC Loews Metreon 16||26.8||22.0||126|
|1||AMC Van Ness 14||24.7||22.0||152|
|3||Century San Francisco Centre 9||21.2||21.0||90|
|5||CinéArts @ Empire||17.2||17.0||57|
|7||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||16.0||16.0||1|
|8||Embarcadero Center Cinema||21.1||14.0||69|
|8||United Artists Stonestown||17.2||14.0||37|
|13||Opera Plaza Cinema||15.3||13.0||91|
|22||Red Vic Movie House||2.6||2.0||109|
|22||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||2.4||2.0||5|
Visits per Theater
You can click through to my reviews to determine which of these theaters is my favorite. But what isn't represented by the narrow scope of this blog is how much I have favored various theaters since moving to the Bay Area in 1995. The below table identifies how many times (as of writing this post) I've visited each San Francisco theater, including a few that were closed long before I began this blog. These numbers are underreported for visits prior to 2003 when I began more rigorously retaining my ticket stubs.
|2||AMC Van Ness 14||23|
|3||Coronet Theatre||12||Closed 2005.|
|4||Embarcadero Center Cinema||7||Closed 2013 for renovation.|
|5||Century San Francisco Centre 9||5|
|5||UA Galaxy||5||Closed 2005.|
|8||AMC Loews Metreon 16||4|
|8||Opera Plaza Cinema||4|
|8||Regency I & II||4||Closed 1998.|
|11||Bridge Theatre||3||Closed 2012.|
|11||Lumiere Theatre||3||Closed 2012.|
|14||Alexandria Theatre||2||Closed 2004.|
|14||Alhambra||2||Closed sometime after 1996.|
|14||CinéArts @ Empire||2|
|14||San Francisco Museum of Modern Art||2||Closed 2013 for renovation.|
|14||United Artists Stonestown||2|
|21||Red Vic Movie House||1||Closed 2011.|
|21||Yerba Buena Center for the Arts||1|
I doubt I'll dive this deep on any other single city in the Bay Area, because no other Bay Area city offers this much variety. I might do some regional comparison (e.g., East Bay vs. South Bay), but these are more arbitrary in how I draw the boundary, and will undoubtably favor the more urban areas. But you can look forward to more analyses like this, as I have a long list of interesting ways to slice the data.