San Francisco is getting its first new movie theater in five years, which opens at an awkward moment when not only are theater chains struggling to claw their way out of a pandemic slump but Hollywood still is holding back a lot of its higher-profile releases.
The brand new, high-tech, 12-screen theater with a mouthful of a name — the Regal Stonestown Galleria ScreenX, 4DX, & RPX — opens Friday, May 21, in a space formerly occupied by Macy's at the redeveloped mall. As the Chronicle reports today, the theater is opening with Spiral: Saw and a slate of other new films still TBA — neither the Regal website nor Fandango are showing any other listings just yet.
But! The theater is doing a pre-Memorial Day opening special on Wednesday, May 26, with $3 tickets all day. And on May 27, it will be showing Cruella and A Quiet Place Part II.
The last movie theater to open in the city was Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, in the renovated former New Mission theater on Mission Street. Like other cinema chains, Alamo Drafthouse has faced financial peril since the pandemic began, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. The company said that they hope to keep the SF location open as they emerge from bankruptcy, and the website currently has a "see you in August" message on it.
And even before the pandemic, movie theaters were straining to offer new experiences — including in-seat dining like at Alamo — as more and more people opt to stay home and watch movies on huge-screen TVs at home.
The new Regal location offers the 10-year-old Regal Premium Experience (RPX) with its 270-degree screens, as well as the 4DX experience, which, if you haven't heard about it, is sort of insane. Taking cues from amusement-park rides, blocks of seats have motion effects that pitch, twist, vibrate, and roll in coordination with action happening on screen. And, there are "atmospherics" that include bursts of air and squirts of water on your face, to go along with the movie action, and scent effects that drift out of the seats into the theater as well. Also: fog and bubble machines that fill up the auditorium, and actual snow and rainstorm effects, when needed.
These effects are all geared more toward horror and comic-book action flicks, obviously, than your average art-house film. Not sure how much good a pitching, vibrating seat and a bubble machine would have been for watching Nomadland, but the scent effects would have been interesting inside that van.
"Regal is redefining the moviegoing experience at Stonestown Galleria where guests will enjoy the latest in technology and amenities including three premium format auditoriums," said Richard Grover, Vice President of Communications at Regal, in a statement. "We always strive to be ‘the best place to watch a movie’ and are excited to provide San Francisco moviegoers a new theatre with top-of-line technology, delicious concessions and memorable experiences."
What's still not known, though can easily be guessed, is what will happen with the aging Regal UA Twin — the 50-year-old, 900-seat art-house cinema at Stonestown that was open until the pandemic began, but likely won't be a part of the grand redevelopment plan that property owners Brookfield Properties is putting together.