Japantown theater turns trendy by going green
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With potted bamboo plants, accent lighting and ticket vendors who stand behind a desk rather than sit behind glass, the new Sundance Kabuki Cinemas foyer is the first inclination that it's not like many movie theaters.

“We wanted to make the theater a complete destination,” said Nancy Gribler, the vice president of marketing for the Kabuki’s new ownership, Sundance Cinemas.

This destination includes showing independent films, operating a restaurant with a complete menu and hosting two bars, while also following the trend of going green.

“There are a lot of elements in the construction and operation of the building that are sustainable,” Gribler said.

With carpeting and movie seating made of 80-100 percent recycled materials, and disposable food containers made from biodegradable plastics that are in part made from potatoes, the movie theater is not completely “green” but aiming to be a part of the sustainable trend, Gribler said.

Officially unveiled as the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in mid-December, the new theater, located in Japantown at Post and Fillmore streets, reopened by Robert Redford and business associates, is the second Sundance Cinema in the nation to open, the first being in Madison, Wis., in 2006.

“[Madison and San Francisco] have fantastic markets for art and indie film, have universities, and have historically done well with these types of films,” said Gribler, as to why Redford and his business partners chose San Francisco for the sustainable, independent movie theater.

Besides the element of sustainability, the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas show some mainstream movies alongside the lesser-known independent films. However, all theaters are assigned seating, which is to ensure that there is less stress in finding a seat in the theater, according to the Sundance Web site.

Moviegoer Alan Schwartz, 47, said he didn’t mind the assigned seating, but that he is not sure how everyone else feels about it.

“The assigned seating element of buying your ticket in advance and choosing a seat at that time may deter some people from coming to a show at last minute, or maybe deter some younger people who don’t want assigned seats or don’t want to pay the ticket price,” Schwartz said.

With ticket prices for adults (no student discounts are offered) at $10.50 with a $2 processing fee, the price is about $1-2 dollars more expensive than other theater prices in San Francisco.

Davin Spriger, 23, recently went to the Kabuki for the first time and said he didn’t mind the price.

“It’s only a couple dollars more than usual, and the seats are less movie-theater style and more like a living room, and it’s nice to be relaxed while watching a film,” Spriger said.

Spriger said the drawback he did recognize is that going to a movie at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas can’t always be last minute, as tickets could sell out online days before the show.

“I don’t always think about what movie I want to see a week from now, and neither do most of my friends,” Spriger said.

SF State Music major Tyler Raring, a Kabuki employee, said the theater is definitely different from more commercial cinemas, and tends to draw in a certain crowd of movie enthusiasts.

Although the theater, with a bar, restaurant, and lounge-styled suede seats, may entice some moviegoers, it proves to be somewhat difficult to get to by bus, he said.

“If I could change one thing about the theater, it would be its location,” Raring said.

Some college students are definitely drawn toward independent films, but with the theater being so far away from campus, Raring said it might be hard to get the university students that Gribler acknowledged out to the theater.

To find out more about the theater or to reserve tickets, more information can be found at their Web site: SundanceCinemas.com.

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PHOTO
Amanda Rybarczyk | photo editor
The Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown unveiled its new look last month.

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