Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Balboa Theater Fundraiser

I dropped by the fundraiser for the Balboa Theater last night.

A few tidbits I learned were:

The Balboa's facade is being refurbished starting today. The scaffolding should be up by the end of the day. The Balboa received a grant from the City to do the work but had to supplement it with donated funds.

Eddie Muller was there and announced that Angie Dickinson would be a guest at the upcoming Noir City (January 20 to 29). Tonight is the Noir City kickoff at the Castro featuring a Deanna Durbin double feature, the unveiling of the full film lineup and more.

The Balboa, stealing a page from the Stanford playbook, will screen It's a Wonderful Life on December 23 and 24.

It was confirmed that The Mostly British Film Festival will take place at the Vogue in February.

Gary Meyer confirmed that the annual Oscar telecast and Balboa birthday party will take place as usual. He even announced the silent film for the birthday party but I cannot recall it.

There are newly installed space heaters at the Balboa.

At the end of the evening, Gary praised the Roxie Theater for the courageousness of their film programming.


As for the fundraiser, I would deem it a success. My estimate would put the total attendance at approximately 100 people. The fundraiser consisted of a $35 admission fee and the auctioning of several cinema and Sutro Baths related items. Most of the items were auctioned via silent auction but some of the big ticket items were auctioned Storage Wars style although no one was a boisterous as Dave Hester. The competition for a few items was intense. The live auction generated at least $4,000 as quadruple digit bids were accepted on a SF Giants tickets & autographed memorabilia package and private screenings at the Balboa or Vogue. For my part, I was the winner for three autographed books by Emily W. Leider - biographies of Myrna Loy, Mae West and Rudolph Valentino.

In addition, they screened a 12 minute documentary called "Then and Now" about old movie houses in SF. Gary emceed most of the evening but was assisted by some SF Neighborhood Theater Foundation Board members. After an intermission, Gary screened a short film which he thought would get a Academy Award nomination. I can't recall the name and walked in halfway through.

The evening ended with Gary Meyer discussing films and actors which he thought had strong chances to get Academy Award nominations. The Descendants, The Artist, My Week With Marilyn, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, We Need to Talk About Kevin and others were discussed and/or their trailer was shown. Meryl Streep's turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady was among the strong field of potential Best Actress nominees.

Gary also talked up two soon-to-be-released features, The Flower of War, a Yimou Zhang film starring Christian Bale and A Separation, an Iranian film.

Although schedule for 7 to 9 PM, I didn't get out of there until after 9:45. I didn't realize how tired I was until I woke this morning. Jostling with the crowds in the lobby during the silent auction and trying to get to the open bar/buffet table was exhausting.

The crowd was a little different. It definitely didn't seem like a film festival crowd. A man sitting behind me had no idea what "film noir" meant. The crowd was largely white and older although the $1,000+ bids were submitted by younger looking audience members.

The audience treated Gary Meyer with a mixture of adulation and reverence. From the way Gary spoke, it seems like he is going to continue playing a significant role at the Balboa for the foreseeable future. I left the Balboa unclear as to how or if the Vogue and Balboa's operations would be combined or coordinated. The Balboa seemed very much like it was still Gary's baby except it is being operated under a nonprofit umbrella now. My guess is that fundraisers will become a routine event at the Balboa.

At the silent auction, there were three original Sutro Baths signs which I coveted. Quickly, bidding escalated to the point which I was hesitant to trump the bid. When they closed the silent auction, I was trying to work up enough courage to snipe the Grand Opening sign. I have a bit of remorse today that I didn't "pull the trigger."

Among the local cinematic luminaries in the crowd were Eddie Muller, Judy Wyler Sheldon and John Stanley. When I paid for my auction items, John Stanley was standing behind me in line so he could pay for his merchandise. The young lady processing the payments had no idea who John Stanley was; she even made him spell his name. It reminds me of the time I was at the Muni Museum on Spear. Some tourists came in and asked the cashier who Herb Caen is. The young man was befuddled by the question. After fumbling for an answer, he responded "Does he play for the 49ers?" I think Caen would have liked that story maybe even included it in the three dot lounge...

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