Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On the Brink?

As we enter the last days of September, I note Gary Meyer is still at the Balboa Theater. By the way, the Balboa has at least two URLs - www.balboamovies.com and www.balboasf.com.

When we last heard from Gary on the topic (doesn't that sound like an intro for a serial installment?), he wrote "I hope that the theater can stay open and I have extended my operation through September." As September closes, I know I'm curious as to whether the Balboa can stay open. I note that their website is advertising the opening of George Clooney's latest film - The Ides of March on October 7 and and Programming the Nation on October 28. The last time I was at the theater, I noticed a poster advertising the opening of Ben Stiller's next film, Tower Heist on November 4. It appears Meyer is programming for at least another month.

So as a small number of Bay Area film goers anxiously await the fate of the Balboa, I thank Meyer for his dedication and loyalty to the Balboa and its patrons. My favorite theater of all time was when he was programming rep house/art house at the Balboa a few years ago.


Also interesting is that J. Moses Ceasar posted several back issues of newsletters after I wrote about it. My opinion after reading the latest newsletters is that things are not looking good for the New Parkway. He has broken off negotiations with the owners of the Parkway property. He seems to have given up on leasing a space as each space he has explored has issues.

I wasn't sure how to react to this paragraph in the August 16 newsletter.

Looking for an Angel—Keeping the religious theme going, in lieu of finding a landlord who’s willing to put some money into his or her building, I think that one of our best bets is to find a Parkway angel out there who’s got $2 million in a bank account—I know that this clearly doesn’t apply to most people on this distribution list—and would like to help get the Parkway back on its feet. We need this angel to buy a building (and we’ve found a good one) in the $1.5M range, pump another half million into it, and then we’ll arrange for the rest of the improvements and pay a fair rent for the next twenty or so years. Oakland gets its beloved theater back and the angel makes more money in rent than what he/she is getting from the bank, and we’ll even throw in a lifetime of free movies. Is there someone out there who can help salvage the Parkway? Anyone? Anyone?

Good luck trying to find someone willing to invest $2,000,000 in a single screen movie theater in Oakland. Also, he seems to indicate that the New Parkway would sign a "twenty or so year" lease. That is unusually long lease duration for commercial or retail real estate nowadays. To be frank, as much I love going to the movies, I would not invest in a single-screen theater anywhere much less Oakland.

Ceasar devoted part of one newsletter to debunking what he considers myths about the dangers of living in Oakland. As Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." However true or not, Oakland suffers from an image problem - crime is out of control, laying off police officers, dysfunctional city government, school district under state receivership, etc. It's not the kind of community reputation that makes an investor confident.

Still, you have to admire Ceasar's boldness. If he can't find a suitable facility to lease then he thinks about buying one!


It appears the futures of the Balboa and Parkway are uncertain so I wish Messrs. Meyer and Ceasar the best of luck in the current efforts.

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