Roxie Theater gets new executive director, plans lobby renovation

Roxie Theater gets new executive director, plans lobby renovationPhotos: David-Elijah Nahmod/Hoodline
David-Elijah Nahmod
Published on March 05, 2019

The Mission's historic Roxie Theater (3117 16th St., at Valencia) is one of the oldest continuously operating cinemas in the world. Now, the nonprofit cinema, which is focused on independent, foreign and art films, has a new executive director, and plans in the works for an interior refresh.

Filmmaker Lex Sloan, who previously served as the Roxie's operations director and general manager, has been promoted to the title of executive director. An MFA graduate of SF State's film program, Sloan has also worked for Frameline (the city's annual LGBT film festival) and the Green Film Festival.

Sloan's predecessor, Elizabeth O'Malley, has been hired as the managing director of SFFILM, the presenter of the San Francisco Film Festival. O'Malley will continue to sit on the Roxie's board of directors. 

Lex Sloan, new executive director of the Roxie Theater.

In her new role, Sloan will handle less of the day-to-day administration for the theater, focusing instead on the future of the Roxie. That includes a recent upgrade to the 49-seat "Little Roxie" screening room, located two doors down from the original theater.

With a $63,000 grant from the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development and support from the San Francisco Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, Sloan and her staff were able to install a state-of-the-art digital projector, 5.1 Dolby surround sound and acoustic wall panels. They also upgraded the space's accessibility, to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The OEWD grant was also used to subsidize the Roxie's rent differential for the first six months of a new lease on the space, which increased its annual rent by nearly $60,000. 

The Little Roxie's new digital projectors.

Now that the Little Roxie has been fixed up, Sloan is leading a planned  renovation of the lobby and terrazzo of the 234-seat "Big Roxie," which dates to the early 1900s. (It operated under a variety of names before becoming the Roxie in 1933.) 

The theater is looking for donors to support its general fund, which helps maintain its annual $1.3 million operating budget. With a large percentage of ticket sales going back to film distributors, some of the theater's biggest costs include rent, maintenance, building upkeep and staffing.

"Something that I think makes the Roxie special is our commitment to showing films on film," said Sloan. "Archived and rare 16mm films screen in the Little Roxie, and we continue to keep our 35mm projectors in action."

The Big Roxie.

In terms of programming, things won't change much, Sloan said, noting the theater's focus on diversity. It offers a year-round Spanish-language series, RoxCine, as well as an LGBT series, Outlook

"The Roxie has always been committed to showcasing work from historically underrepresented filmmakers," she said, noting that Frameline and the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival both got their start there. 

Local filmmakers are another key focus. Each year, the cinema hosts Roxie Mixtape, an annual showcase of short films made by local filmmakers. It also offers a Roxie Review service, in which filmmakers can rent out the theater by the hour to screen rough cuts or host fundraisers. 

The Roxie is one of the few arthouse cinemas remaining in the city, having outlived fellow historic theaters like the Bridge Theater and the Red Vic. Sloan noted that the Opera Plaza Cinema is now being targeted by developers, who want to convert it to retail space.

"The Roxie would also be one of these stories if it weren't for the unwavering dedication of our board, staff, volunteers, members, donors and every single person that buys a ticket to our movies," she said.

"Despite adversity, we continue to shine in our community as a beacon of unwavering independence, originality, and integrity. Guided from the start by crazy visionaries who pursued dreams over profit, we strive to keep the weird and wonderful alive in our little corner of San Francisco."