Ling Liu

A 4-Star Fight

Chinatown theaters are a thing of the past, but Frank Lee is fighting to keep the tradition alive.

Inside the 4 Star Theater's tiny snack counter, shrimp chips, Philippine dried mangos and Vietnamese fiery-hot roasted peanuts sit next to Red Vines and Junior Mints. A narrow, rickety staircase from the employee bathroom leads to the projector room, where huge platters spin miles of celluloid and projectors cast light on Chinese epic dramas and Japanese horror films. In one of the San Francisco theater's two screening rooms, moviegoers stare up at a red, art deco, tiled ceiling that hasn't changed since the theater's 1912 opening.