Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parkway, Cerrito and Balboa

I noticed that the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater closed with little fanfare recently. Originally, the theater was to close for a week while it negotiated a new lease with the El Cerrito city government. Yesterday, the website said it was closed indefinitely. Now the website makes the end final.

Speakeasy Theaters is signing off.

Thank you for 14 amazing years. What a long, strange trip it’s been. We are proud of what we’ve built and are looking forward to whatever is next. We’ve built community, lovingly restored two beautiful theaters, met some wild and wonderful people and learned a lot along the way.

Our public demise has been glowingly at hand and we are here to bear witness, rejoice and mourn. It has been a fitful, exciting, exhausting and eventually frustrating tenure but it was a true representation of us. Catherine and I had a blast in the process and through the guidance of our genius shrink, learned much about our real selves.

Catherine and I are mulling over our next adventure. We need to walk the beach, clear our minds and let the universe speak to us. That’s how we found Speakeasy Theaters, our publishing company before that and the neighborhood pub. The beach heals what ails. Thanks to all of you who have enjoyed what we have offered, who have shared in our vision and who love the idea of building and sharing community.

It is awesome and often extremely embarrassing to have your life play out in such a public manner. But you learn that you must strive to be bold in attempting to be true to your realest self. For better or for worse this has been an expression of our essence and people will judge us as they choose. Hey – whatever. We are at the same time amazing and flawed. Life is a great teacher. Rejoice.

Kyle and Catherine

PS. We had some wonderful employees. IF any of them should pass your way, please offer them your assistance or a job. They served with very little compensation.

The backstory to this fare-thee-well is that Kyle and Catherine Fischer owned the Parkway Speakeasy in Oakland which closed on March 22. They were criticized for giving little advance notice of the closing. They retreated to their original theater, the Cerrito Speakeasy in El Cerrito.

Faced with a $10,000 monthly lease and slow economic times, they felt compelled to renegotiate the terms of their lease. They made some missteps or miscommunications. It was unclear if they wanted to continue operating the theater under any terms. I don't know the specifics but I believe the El Cerrito government is looking for new theater operators.

When the Parkway closed, they had articles in the Chronicle. For the Cerrito, I haven't seen anything in the Chronicle. I saw a few blurbs in the East Bay Express blog.


Around the time the Parkway closed, the Chronicle ran an article titled Bay Area's best spots to catch a movie. You can scratch the Cerrito and the Parkway from the list.

Also, the Balboa which is on the list has lamented its finances and lack of audience in their weekly newsletters. It wouldn't surprise me if that theater closes soon.

I've heard the Cerrito's problem was they couldn't get first run movies. The Balboa gets first run movies. They've had Star Trek since its opening weekend. Their smaller screen is showing Angels & Demons. I read that movie box office revenues are up as people flock to lower cost entertainment during slow economic times. I guess that hasn't been the case for the Balboa.

I saw Star Trek at the Balboa on Sunday, May 24 (9:30 showtime). There were about 40 people in the audience. I don't know if that is high or low for them. The big room in the Balboa can seat at least 400 peole and maybe more. Monday was a holiday so I would expect more people than a typical Sunday 9:30 screening. I don't really have any comments and certainly not a solution. I checked my film log and I've seen three films at the Balboa in the past 18 months - Juno, Iron Man and Star Trek. I'd go more often if they switched back to rep house programming but clearly I'm in the minority. They tried that before and couldn't make a go of it.

So the Balboa is in no man's land for me. Their programming doesn't really appeal to me and their old programming (which appealed to me) was a money loser. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. I will say that their current business strategy seems like a sure loser. Why would people go to the Balboa to see first run movies when they could go to a multiplex? In San Francisco, there are three mutliplexes (maybe 25 screens) within a block or two of various subway stations; four if you count the multiplex in Daly City. The Balboa has two screens and is way out in the Outer Richmond. It seems like they will only draw in people from the neighborhood and people like me who will drive an extra few miles to support an independent theater. At least with the old programming, they offered an alternative that people couldn't get in a cineplex. It was kind of like having a PFA branch in the City. There's an idea. I wonder if the Balboa couldn't affiliate itself with PFA and be a branch facility.


Anonymous said...

Regarding PIG HUNT: Terry Bradshaw was number 12! The decapitated redneck wore number 80. In football the numbers in the 80s are reserved for wide receivers (teens and single digits for QBs)... That guy in the movie (me) was wearing an authentic brown and gold Anderson Valley High School football jersey from 1986 -- in fact it was my old high school jersey that I still had because like most locals from small towns in Up Cal (where the movie takes place, not Pennsylvania), I save that shit.
I'm glad you enjoyed the movie.

Dan said...

The name on the jersey was Bradshaw, right? You must have gone to fancy high school where they 1) silk screened or embroidered the names on the back of the jerseys and 2) gave the jerseys to the players after the season. In Texas (where I went to school) they didn't put the names on the back of the jerseys because on Friday nights, it's the name on the front of the jersey that matters. Plus when you have all 101 jersey numbers being used every year, the school can't afford to buy a whole new set of uniforms every year.

I liked the explanation it was a Terry Bradshaw jersey better. When Bradshaw joined the Steelers he was criticized as being a stupid redneck from the bayou so I thought the jersey was a reference to that stereotype. Actually, having seen Bradshaw on Fox Sports, I'm not sure if it is a stereotype.