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Monday, May 31, 2002

MovieTone News

The 26th Annual SF International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and other sizzling cinema stuff

By Tom Mayer

Twenty-six years – more than a quarter of a century! The 26th annual SF International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival opens on Thursday, June 13 at the Castro Theater and the Herbst Theater, and closes on Sunday, June 30, after presenting one of the largest showcases for queer cinema anywhere in the world.

This festival, now the largest film festival of any kind in California, will present 289 films and videos, including 80 features and 209 short films. This year, a great many new features are from Asian countries, including some made secretly in China and brought out in secret to be edited and released elsewhere.

After 25 years at the Roxie Cinema and 12 years at the Victoria Theater, the directors of the festival decided to reduce the number of venues to two, and to extend the festival to 18 days. By adding the Herbst Theater, according to executive director Michael Lumpkin, “40,000 extra admissions” are added, since the Herbst is larger than the Roxie and Victoria put together.

The opening night film at the Castro Theater will be Lan Yu, directed by Stanley Kwan in China, and edited and released after being smuggled out of the country. This love story, based on an illicit internet-distributed novel, spans a ten-year period including the 1989 resistance in Tienanmen Square.

The opening night film at the Herbst Theater will be Notorious C.H.O., starring comedian Margaret Cho in her latest and possibly most outrageous performance film. On subsequent nights, films will be premiered from many countries around the world, including Burma, Slovenia, Hungary, Norway, Korea, England, Mexico, Italy, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Russia, Iran, Japan, and Argentina.

Local filmmakers will be represented by a large number of films, including Harold’s Historic Homo Home Movies, at the Herbst on Sunday, June 23. Filmed in SF and the Bay Area over the last 50 years by the now 91-year-old Harold O’Neal, HHHHM shows a vanished underground subculture of day trips, bars, nightclubs, and drag queens.

The festival is sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco, the San Francisco Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the Sundance Channel, the Goethe Institute, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many other foundations and corporations.

Tickets are available at the Festival Ticket Outlet set up at the new LGBT Community Center at 1800 Market Street (corner of Octavia) from 12:00 noon to 7:00 pm daily through June 29. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.frameline.org or by phone 925) 866-9559, fax 925 866-9597, or by mail (SFILGFF, PO Box 2229, Danville CA 94526). For more information on the festival and how to purchase tickets, call the 24-hour hotline at 925 866-9559 or visit the festival online at www.frameline.org/festival.


The decision by Frameline to hold the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival only at the Castro and the Herbst – to pull out of the Roxie after 24 years and the Victoria after 12 years – is really unfortunate. This development comes at a difficult time for both the Roxie and the Victoria.

The Roxie just had a much-publicized benefit fundraiser for itself, along with a long article in the Bay Guardian. The Roxie’s problems included four months’ back rent (about $32,000), a lien placed on the property by the electrician doing the work for the Roxie’s new 50-seat theater ($30,000), and back taxes of undetermined amount.

The benefit was a huge success, but it only erased part of the theater’s debt described. See www.roxie.com for more info on their new schedule.

The Victoria Theater (built in 1908) is SF’s oldest theater and a registered SF landmark. Over the years, it has featured vaudeville, live performances, many films, and film festivals. Since March 1979, when it reopened under the ownership of Anita and Robert Correa, it has hosted many theater groups and film festivals.

But recently, the Victoria has been booked only sporadically – at the same time, it is virtually the only theater in SF that can be booked on short notice.

See www.victoriatheatre.org for more information.

It is unclear if there is any long-term solution for the problems of the Roxie and Victoria.


Meanwhile, a new group has been formed to save the remaining single-screen theaters in SF. This group, the S. F. Neighborhood Theater Foundation, was recently founded by Alfonso Felder of the S. F. Giants and Denise LaPointe, former president of the Landmarks Board, among others.

The group is fully aware that some theaters are beyond saving but, members say, the remaining theaters are important to the vitality of the neighborhood that they are in and should be saved if at all possible.

Their primary crusades right now are Cinema 21 on Chestnut Street (poised to become a Walgreens until the Planning Commission vetoed the attempt this week), the New Mission Theater on Mission Street (owned by SF City College for its new Mission campus), and the Roxie Cinema.

The Cinema 21’s marquee reads (or did read until recently) “Theater Closed – Go to the Presidio Theater,” a nice gesture except for the cloud of rumors that the Presidio, having the same owner as the Cinema 21, will be next to close.

See www.sfneighborhoodtheater.org to see what can be done, and for links to Cinema 21, the New Mission, and the Roxie. Email Alfonso Felder of SFNTF at afelder@sfneighborhoodtheater.org for more info on how to get involved. A complete list of SF single-screen theaters which have closed since 1980 can be found at www.friendsof1800.org/NEWMISSION/sftheaters.html


The Castro Theater celebrates its 80th anniversary on Thursday, July 18, with live performances by local musical groups at 7:00 pm and Footlight Parade (1933) with James Cagney at 9:00 pm.

Admission is $8. All patrons will receive a copy of the Castro's original program. Pick up the new Castro Theater schedule, or see www.thecastrotheatre.com, for more details.

By the way, the true anniversary is June 22 (the invitation-only opening night was June 22, 1922 with Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph and other dignitaries in attendance) and June 23 (the opening to the general public), but the Castro chooses to postpone its celebration because these anniversary dates always occur during the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.