Exciting news rumbling from beneath Valencia Street's staunchly independent Lost Weekend Video : the micro-theater Cinecave  is opening this week with events Thu/29 and Fri/30, after an awesomely successful Kickstarter  campaign. The 25-seat screening room, available for members of Lost Weekend's Cineclub (join at the store), boasts real movie theater seats, a brand-new screen, and kickin' sound system.
So, what-all's gonna go down in the Cinecave? According to Lost Weekend's Kickstarter  page:
"We have an enthusiastic staff with wide-ranging tastes all eager to program fun and engaging screenings ... from rare films available only on film or from our extensive collection of unavailable-to-rent imports, to sinfully satisfying Buffy marathons. We have projectors and access to thousands of films on video and 16mm film. We’ll also continue to work with local film collectives, present premieres of locally produced shorts and features, ladies' nights, works in progress, and workshops for filmmakers.
"We’ll have obscure von Trier  docs, Van Damme -athons and maybe even stand-up comedy. There will definitely be something for everyone. Most importantly, we’ll still be here and San Francisco will still have access to our many rare films either through traditional rentals or through the shared experience of a live screening. Let’s get people off of their computers and hanging out with each other again. Let's watch some movies!"
The Cinecave will unveil a regular schedule in July; it'll also be available for rentals for private events (contact the store for info). There'll be an open house Thu/29 and an opening night event Sat/30 hosted by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, a.k.a. the programmer-host of the popular "Midnites for Maniacs " film series at the Castro. Ficks, an occasional Guardian contributor who calls Lost Weekend his "neighborhood video store," will be programming a once-a-month event at the 'Cave that celebrates the video format. (Of the opening night event, he hints that the top-secret flicks will be "two of my all-time favorite movies;" reservations for both screenings begin at noon Sat/30 by phone or in person at Lost Weekend.)
"A lot of people have nostalgic feelings toward video stores. I hung out at video stores when I was a kid! But I was trying to think of what would be a good way to get people to come to a video store who have maybe never even been to a video store, a younger generation," he says. "The idea was, just as the death of film is happening, the death of the video tape, or the laser disc, seemed to be just as important or nostalgic to my generation. I decided that I would host a night that would only screen movies that are available on VHS, Beta, or laser disc — actually putting the video tape in. Sometimes it gets fucked up, and you have to fast-forward, and there are those weird lines..."
So if the tape gets fucked up, I hear you wondering, what's the point? Well, some movies are only available on these formats and will likely never be released on DVD. Some movies are available on DVD, but certain versions are only available on outdated formats. For collectors and other serious film fanatics, this is important.
"The holy grail for me of laser discs is Texasville . Sequel to The Last Picture Show, it didn't do too well when it came out, but then, surprisingly, [it had] some real champions. On laser disc only, [there was a version of Texasville] with an extra 30 minutes. And that footage has never been restored to DVD or Blu-Ray. It's not available on 35mm. The only way you can see the director's cut on Texasville is on laser disc," he says.
"I started looking around at more of these movies that sort of fall between the cracks. It happens with every [change in medium] — there are all these lost films," he explains. "You can get a lot of movies streaming nowadays, but there are also a lot that you can't get that were even released on DVD or Blu-ray. So I think that's where the idea [for my Cinecave programming] came from: 'What weird films have we never even heard of, because they're only on some obscure format that we don't even have a player for anymore?'"
"The films that I'm going to screen cannot be screened even in a movie theater. So this isn't just, that it's not available on DVD or Netflix. I am running into so many difficult situations [as a programmer] with studios with 35mm prints, where they have a print maybe in the archives but they won't mail it out. Or they don't have a print in the archives, but they won't let you screen a collector's print. Literally, these movies can't be seen in rep house programming, and they can't be seen streaming or on DVD. It's this weird loophole that I wanted to try and emphasize with this video madness series."
As a film fan, Ficks is excited by the 'Cave joining the local cinema scene. "I know they have different programmers who are going to come in. It feels like it'll be a personal experience," he says. "Also, I think them renting the theater out is really is amazing — when you go down there, you'll be like, 'Shit, I really want to bring my friends here one late night and show my favorite TV show.' It's like the greatest living-room set-up you could imagine."