The Sonoma International Film Festival might have only just celebrated its 18th edition, but its screening sites infuse the event with the charm of cinema’s golden age. The Sebastiani Theatre, one of the festival’s most popular screening sites, was constructed in 1933 and opened its doors to local cinephiles on April 7 of 1934, when people lined up to pay 30 cents a head for a ticket to the Robert Montgomery vehicle, Fugitive Lovers.
The Sebastiani uses its downtown Sonoma location to its advantage, drawing in toursists and locals alike with eclectic programming that includes repertory, art house, and mainstream films. The Festival, according to current owner Roger Rhoten, has helped new audiences through the theater doors in the last 18 years that it has served as a venue for the event.
The historical theater remains in operaion as a cinema today, but not without a technological facelift to offer patrons the latest offerings in digital cinema. Equipped with Christie projectors, Dolby surround sound, and modern seating –the theater offers the comforts of a modern cinema with the quirks of a vintage moviehouse. The concession stand is also up to date, featuring stalwarts like popcorn and soda but also bringing in premium candies for patrons looking for something a little different on their trip to the movies.