As the curator and founder of the International Black Women’s Film Festival, you can believe I’ve scoped, prodded, questioned and “dealt with” a whole bunch of screening venues in San Francisco and Oakland.
To save you the hassles and the headaches, here are the “friendliest” and best locations to show your film!
$ = Cheap | $$ = Affordable | $$$ = You May Miss a VISA Payment | $$$$ = You May Need to Sell a Kidney
Click the venue title to link go to their page
6. Kaiser Center – Lakeside Theater (Lake Merritt – Oakland)
300 Lakeside Drive, 2nd Floor, Oakland, CA, $$$$
Great folks who will work with you. Caveat, the charges for audio-visual are separate from the charges for the rental of the venue itself, so you’re going to receive two separate invoices …which adds up. Second, you have to provide your own projection equipment. They have audio, but you’ll need a digital projector. Third, the nickel-and-dime-ing can start to add up. What may seem affordable at first can quickly balloon into the $3,000 to $5,000 range if you’re planning a full on event with a reception, live entertainment and screening. However, it’s definitely a workable space and non-video groups like theater groups and dance companies can definitely benefit.
5. Sundance Kabuki (Japantown – San Francisco)
1881 Post Street @ Fillmore, $$$$
The renovations that were done on this place are amazing! I’ve had the personal tour of seeing some of the changes, including their sustainable design, which includes bamboo flooring that simulates wood. A big plus is that they have a restaurant next door, and a bar, just in case you win the lotto and would like a dining and dancing with your debut. (The San Francisco Film Society uses this space, so either you’ll think it’s the coolest spot ever, or just over saturated.)
100 Larkin Street, $
This 235-seat gem of a theater is tucked (or hidden) away in the basement of San Francisco’s Main Library. This site would have been my number-one choice, but the Coordinator, Amanda Hall, was sent to a different location, and replaced by a less friendlier version. The tech people are fantastic, and patient. The requirements are a bit archaic and confusing, but if you get someone who was as great as Amanda, you’ll just be slightly confused and overwhelmed. Also, remember, this is the PUBLIC library. Any and all manner of the public may just join your screening…
3. Foreign Cinema (Mission District – San Francisco)
Between 21st and 22nd Streets, $$$$
Fine dining, wine and film… who could ask for anything more. The configuration may be a little quirky and uncomfortable, but it’s a good atmosphere for fundraising, premiere screenings and special occasions. The big plus is that they have other areas within the complex for either small, private dining, or a more lavish reception area.
1000 Oak Street, $$$
The 2009 International Black Women’s Film Festival held it’s gala opening at the Oakland Museum of California, and the venue was absolutely beautiful. Other local groups use the museum often, including the Bay Area’s First Friday group. The only drawback is: 1) They’re closed for renovations, and 2) the air-conditioning gets turned off after 5:00 pm. Other than that, look for their re-opening!
600 Embarcadero Street, $$
The absolute best kept secret in San Francisco! This clean, professionally equipped theater is hidden within the Delancey Street complex on Embarcadero. It is run by the Delancey Street Foundation, a substance abuse recovery center, and it is one of the best models I’ve seen of a social entrepreneurship in action. This is the fourth time I’ve used this venue, and it’s a gem in the yuppified South Beach crown. It’s also a great example of the what San Francisco is really about. Check them out!
Who Are the Worst?
No vendetta, but I’ve had horrible luck trying to schedule bookings at the following places. Granted people are busy, but when you’re basically giving them money, you just expect a little better service, and maybe a better attitude out of some of them. (Sorry we weren’t Pixar, but we had the money, too…) Maybe you’ll have better luck or a secret decoder ring for getting a response.
1. The Victoria Theater (SF) – Stank attitude.
2. Museum of the African Diaspora (SF) –
Just unresponsive. UPDATE: They’ve improved their online information and there’s now a better response time. However –according to the website– you can only rent the salon for screenings. If that’s not true, then the website should be updated.
3. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF) –
Always an excuse why the screening room is booked or scheduled for something else… no matter how early you try to book it. UPDATE: There’s a new Executive Director, so maybe you’ll do better. (Caveat, you now have to rent the screening room in conjunction with one of the other spaces, which now puts this into the $$$$ category.)
4. African American Museum and Library (Oakland) – So unresponsive I just assumed they were shut down.
5. 111 Minna Street (SF) – Talk about passive-aggressive. Emails, nothin’. Telephone call and an actual connection with the instructions, “Sure! Just email me the details!” Crickets. I’ve tried on several occasions for several years, and they just have their own posse and their own agenda… I guess.
(This is a reminder that the arts in already in dire straights and we cannot afford to “pick and choose” which arts groups deserve to be treated with respect, or even equal treatment. Hopefully, this list will encourage other art/film exhibitors to have a positive experience with businesses and organizations that want your business and will help you to have one less headache added onto your already stressful schedule.)