Lynn Friedman/Flickr

It’s been hard times for independent movie theaters in San Francisco. The Red Vic closed last year and and the Lumiere closed in September.

But the Roxie Theater — wedged between trendy bars and restaurants on 16th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District — has screened films for more than 100 years. The Roxie claims to be the oldest continuously running theater in America — and says it’s determined to stay. These days the Roxie is also home to film festivals, documentaries and even some live events.

In 2007 the theater became a non-profit after a disastrous partnership with now-bankrupt New College of California. Ticket sales are up 17 percent, according to the Roxie’s Executive Director Chris Statton.

But ticket sales alone don’t close the budget gap.

“We’re just looking to make up the last little bit of our budget through grants and fundraising,” Statton says. “We’re actually really far along in becoming a sustainable non-profit.”

In the meantime, the fundraisers are likely to continue, Statton says.

That money helps the theater bring in film directors, actors and artists to talk about their work, which in turn attracts a bigger audience. It also helps with local partnerships. Last month the theater showcased art and archival film to celebrate the Clarion Alley Mural Project’s 20th anniversary.

The theater recently launched a Kickstarter campaign because it was unable to schedule a winter event this year.  “We would like to be more of a support to the artists in our community and develop more of a stronger social justice program here,” Statton says. “We try to find the gems that are forgotten by the larger venues, movies that slipped through the cracks and that we feel need to be noticed. Our programming team is amazing at doing that and are looking to support film as an art.”

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, the Roxie asked filmmakers why they support the theater.

John Waters certainly has a convincing argument on the theater’s mind-body experience. But if you’ve ever seen Pink Flamingoes, you know it’s at least semi-gross.

Keeping it Reel, San Francisco’s Roxie Theater Turns to Kickstarter 24 November,2012Lisa Pickoff-White

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