News Column

Movie theater host checks IDs, talks films

December 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 02--To get to the bar atop the escalator at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, you need a movie ticket and an ID. The person checking both is Illya K. Reagans, but he does much more than that. Reagans, 47, talks movies with customers on their way in, and he talks movies with customers on their way out. His favorite trick is to check an ID for year of birth then discuss movies from that year.

"I'm a host, ID inspector/security. I keep the minors out and I keep the alcohol in. When (the patrons) leave, I usually ask them if they enjoyed their movie. More often than not, they have seen the movie before I have. I like to get their opinion so that I can relate it to the other paying guests.

I'm a gatekeeper of movie criticism. Every time there is a new movie you see the same people. They might ask my opinion about the movie. I'll give it if I have seen it, or I will tell them what the other guests have said. People might do a double feature or come back another day to see a movie that I have recommended. On a busy weekend night, I might get anywhere from 350 to 500 to 1,000 people. There are people that seem to know me more than I know them because I see a lot of people. They will come by to say 'hi' when they are not even heading in my direction. I feel real bad when I don't recognize them and they recognize me.

I was born in '66, the best year ever. You've got "Star Trek" debuting on TV. You've got the original "Batman" movie. You've got the original "Django" movie and you've got Clint Eastwood in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Another thing about 1966, there was a TV show called "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." It seemed to be a little bit of a hit. You had Robert Vaughn playing Napoleon Solo, and you had David McCallum playing a Russian guy named Illya Kuryakin. That's who I was named after. So I guess I was predestined to be hooked on the media.

I was born and raised right here in San Francisco. I grew up in Diamond Heights and still live there. When I was a wee bit of a lad, my mother worked days and my father worked nights. So he would babysit me by taking me out to movies a lot.

According to my father, in 1967, I was a year or less when I went to see "The Dirty Dozen." Me being an infant, I tended to cry a lot. There were these guys saying 'take that baby out of here," or whatever. My father was never one to back down from a fight. He was willing to take them on even though he was outnumbered. It dawned on him moments later that he couldn't fight one-handed while holding me. He told me later that that was the first time he ever backed down from a fight.

That wasn't the last time I walked out of a movie. The last time was "The Bounty Hunter" a few years ago. I don't walk out that much.

The best Christmas ever, I saw "Superman" at the North Point Theatre. I believed the man could fly.

I went to high school at this place over there by Stonestown. The name is Lowell High School, I believe. Most of my friends went to McAteer. My mother wanted me to go to Lowell. You took a test and you get in and you go there. That's what mom wanted so I went there.

I started working here in 2007. I should have done this 20 or 25 years ago. I don't know why I didn't. If you are going to be a host at a movie theater, you should know a little bit about movies and you should like movies. There are some people who work here and don't even watch movies. It's kind of bizarre. I wouldn't do it.

I loved the St. Francis Theatre on Market Street. Not the cleanest place, but it was the only place you could go to as a kid and see an R-rated movie. I saw a lot of stuff there that I probably shouldn't have. The Coronet was probably the best movie theater in the city. I still don't understand why George Lucas didn't purchase it and save it. It's now the Institute on Aging. I will probably have to go there soon."

Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: swhiting@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @samwhitingsf

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