The Roxie in Danger

These are grim days for Bay Area movie lovers. First Anita Monga, then Edith Kramer. And now the future of the Roxie looks dark. The Mission District’s wonderful little revival/art/anything left-wing movie house is up for sale. According to an article by Jesse Hamlin in Monday’s Chronicle, the theater can’t cover $140,000 in debts, and unless it finds a buyer, it will close.

And it’s not likely to find a buyer—at least one who will keep it running. It’s a sad fact, but the style and selections that bring us the best cinematic art and entertainment are no longer a viable business model. That doesn’t just mean that a heartless corporation won’t invest in the Roxie; it means that anyone who does is likely to end up in debt, as well.

I hate to say this, but the independent, privately-owned, single-screened (or even twinned) art/revival house may soon be a thing of the past. With the big chain megaplexes now showing the occasional “independent” film (definition: anything released by Miramax), and everything ever made available on DVD, the type of theaters I list on this site are getting slowly squeezed out.

But do these theaters have to be businesses? The Lark, Pacific Film Archive, Rafael, Stanford, and Yerba Buena Center are all nonprofit or educational institutions. None of them are expected to stay solvent solely on ticket and concession sales. Which isn’t to say they don’t have their own economic headaches. Note that both the PFA and the Stanford are currently dark. But these institutions have other income sources and financial structures that help them survive when times are rough.

Maybe that’s the solution for the Roxie: Find a nonprofit or create one. According to Hamlin’s article, “A couple of nonprofits have shown some interest.” I’m no expert on these organizations, but I know that they all need donations. What if enough of us pledged to donate to any nonprofit that bought and promised to properly run the Roxie?

It might work. If you think it’s worth a try, drop me a line at and let me know. Then tell your friends to do the same. If I get enough positive responses and the Roxie’s current management supports the idea, maybe we can start something.

I sometimes feel that I launched this site just in time to report on the demise of the Bay Area’s once-proud independent revival house tradition. I’d rather help save it.

Who knows, if we can save the Roxie, maybe we can revive the U.C. Theater. Okay, that’s just a dream.

At least one small, privately-owned art/revival house appears to be doing well: The Balboa. Despite the recent “must end” threat, The Best of Youth has been extended for another week. This is one six-hour movie that may never end.

Try to catch some of this week’s recommended and noteworthy films. The more we support these theaters, the longer they will thrive.

Recommendation: Kung Fu Hustle, Parkway, opens Friday. Stephen Chow’s big-budget action comedy is totally bizarre, thoroughly ridiculous, but absolutely entertaining. The occasional attempts at serious storytelling are as jarring as an orphan’s death in a Road Runner cartoon, but the laughs overwhelm the poor attempts at making you cry. The knife-throwing scene is the single funniest new sequence I’ve seen this decade.

Noteworthy: Major Dundee, Castro, Tuesday through the following Tuesday. I’m not a huge Peckinpah fan, and I’ve never seen any version of this 1965 western, but its reputation as a semi-lost film, now semi-restored, makes it worth noting. Columbia Pictures, which drastically cut Major dundee for its original release, has now restored it to something approaching Peckinpah’s original (but lost) cut.

Recommendation: Pulp Fiction, Parkway, Thursday night. Okay, it’s completely amoral and offensive. But it’s fun, creative, and daring. You already know that.