The Rafael Theater in San Rafael, California, began life as the Orpheus Theater in 1918, long before the Golden Gate Bridge connected Marin County to the city of San Francisco. A first-run movie house, the Orpheus was razed by fire and resurrected as the art moderne Rafael in 1938.
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused significant damage to the building and the Rafael closed for ten years. In 1998 reconstruction began. The theater was gutted and renovated and reopened in 1999. Today it is a three-screen art/indie/revival house operated as a non-profit by the California Film Institute and has been renamed the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Theater.
The Mill Valley Film Festival, which runs from October 7 - 17 this year (2010) and will honor such luminaries as Annette Bening, Edward Norton, Sam Rockwell, Ryan Gosling and Julian Schnabel, screens many of festival films at the glorious Rafael.
In the last few years I've seen quite a variety of films at the Rafael - La Vie en Rose (Marion Cotillard won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance and attended the Rafael premiere), Starting Out in the Evening (featuring a remarkable performance by Frank Langella), Francis Coppola's Tetro (a film that brought Luchino Visconti to mind) and the Swedish sensation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Most recently I attended a screening of the silent version of Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (1930) with accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra (click here for my post about it) and a free-to-the-public presentation of Hitchcock's North by Northwest (click here for the post).
A few years ago the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night was screened on the exterior of the Rafael. The street was closed to traffic and filled with people sitting and standing and singing along with John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Some of the Rafael's illustrious guests...
|Francis Ford Coppola|