Thursday, July 21, 2011

Five in Transition

In the past month or so, major changes have been announced at various San Francisco film exhibition organizations.

1) The Red Vic made it official. They are closing on Monday, July 25 after the 9:15 PM screening of Harold and Maude. I stopped by last night to catch the 9:25 PM screening of The Last Waltz. It was sold out and I was turned away at the door. According to their website, the July 25th screenings of Harold and Maude are already sold out. Where were these crowds before? It appears that I will have to eat the final punch on my Red Vic discount card. C'est la vie et adieu Red Vic.

2) In this morning's San Francisco Chronicle, there was an article on Gary Meyer and the Balboa Theater. Meyer, the operator and sub-leasee of the Balboa, will be leaving the theater after this summer. Meyer cited the need for a $200,000 digital conversion and his duties as the director of the Telluride Film Festival as the main reasons for stepping away. In the near future, films will be distributed digitally rather than in 35 mm prints thus necessitating the digital conversion. Meyer said he's working to find someone to operate the theater. My guess is that the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (which currently operates the Vogue) will attempt to operate the Balboa.

I don't go to the Balboa often anymore. When Meyer was programming repertory and international films, it was my favorite theater but for the past several years, my attendance has been spotty. It's anyone's guess as to what the future holds for the Balboa.

I will say that with the exception of the Mostly British Film Series, I have not gone to the Vogue except for a disastrous John Cazale double feature in April 2009. I much prefer Meyer's programming at the Balboa over the line-up of mostly mainstream films which have appeared at the Vogue over the past few years.

3) In early July, Graham Leggat, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society (which runs the San Francisco International Film Festival), announced he was immediately resigning from SFFS. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Leggat has been diagnosed with cancer. After treatment earlier this year, the cancer has metastasized to several organs and according to Leggat, "It is largely deemed incurable."

My mother died of cancer and her suffering was horrible. I don't wish that on anyone. I was never formally introduced to Leggat. He was a friendly type who would occasionally chat up festival goers. I've exchanged pleasantries with him but can't say I know him well. His successes at the SFFS and SFIFF are undisputed. Still, I've never been a huge fan of SFIFF as the crowds are too large for my taste. I prefer their smaller fall festivals more. Speaking of which, programmer Sean Uyehara announced at the 2011 SFIFF that they were planning a Hong Kong series in the fall. True to his word, the series will be held September 23 to 25.

I wish Graham Leggat the best. After my mother's passing, I have one wish in life - let me die peacefully in my sleep.

4) Just before Leggat's departure, SFFS announced an agreement with Viz Cinema. SFFS will program films, events and classes at the Viz on a daily basis beginning in September. Replacing a similar deal SFFS had with the Sundance Kabuki, the Film Society will have a venue dedicated to their programming needs.

I'm a little ambivalent about this announcement. The Viz is currently in the middle of a classic Japanese film series. Although their programming is sparse, the Viz's dedication to Japanese cinema is to my liking. I hope they can retain some of that programming when SFFS takes over. I don't believe I ever went to the SFFS screen at the Kabuki. I am not a fan of their reserved seating policy or vaguely off-putting environment. The $11 admission price plus sliding scale "amenity fee" hasn't help matters either.

5) Also in this morning's SF Chronicle was a Q&A with San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Peter Stein. The 2011 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival runs from Today to August 8. Stein is resigning his position of 8 years after this year's festival closes. I wasn't aware of this but Stein started the documentary series on San Francisco neighborhoods which has aired on KQED for years. He personally wrote and produced the installments on the Castro and the Fillmore. He also co-hosts the Sunday Cinema Club with SFIFF programmer Rod Armstrong.

I've never spoken to Stein and probably wouldn't recognize him if he came up to me. I have enjoyed numerous screenings at the SFJFF over the years. Not being Jewish, it's hard for me to embrace the films that celebrate being Jewish. I have purchased tickets for four programs in this year's festival so I saw a few I liked. Two are documentaries on Adolf Eichmann and Bobby Fischer - a key Nazi figure in the Holocaust and the Jewish-born/anti-Semite chess champion. My interest is more historical curiosity than specific Jewish curiosity.


As I mentioned, I was told that the Landmark Bridge is soon closing. Between the mice, sparse crowds and defection of Peaches Christ to larger venues, it doesn't surprise me. However, I can't find anything on-line to confirm it. The information was already third hand when it got to me so I won't state it as a certainty although it could very easily be fait accompli.

In this post
, I pondered the fate of the Landmark Clay. The entry was posted a week before SFFS announced the deal with Viz. That leaves the Clay out in the cold as far as SFFS is concerned. Brian Darr commented that the Clay will take over midnight screenings of The Room from the Red Vic. It seems that Landmark decided it needed to close one of its single screen theaters in the City; if not the Clay, then the Bridge will do.

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