If You Build a Movie Theater in the Presidio, Will They Come?

The Presidio may be in for even more architectural upheaval, according to an article in today’s Examiner. The unassuming Presidio Bowl will eventually be no more, and in its place will be Gap founder, Donald Fisher’s, Big White Box of an art museum. Now the San Francisco Film Society is ruminating on plans to renovate an existing 13,000-square-foot, one screen theater in the Presidio that’s been out of use since 1989. The new structure would be about twice as big and would feature international independent films. Dana Polk, a spokesperson for the Presidio Trust, is quick to point out that the proposal is just that- it hasn’t been approved and any changes to the building would have to conform to certain “strict architectural guidelines.” Gary Widman, President of the Presidio Historical Association, thinks the theater will contribute to the “commercializing [of] the historic park grounds.” My question is, how often will Bay Area residents make the trek to the Presidio to go to the movies? The Castro Theater has reported shrinking audiences due to the popularity of services like Netflix. The Balboa has suffered the same fate, abandoning repertory programming and augmenting its independent fare with mainstream movies to stay afloat. The Roxie was acquired by New College, which recently lost its accreditation, thus throwing its fate into question once again. These are dire times for independent theaters. If the SFFS wants to build a new theater that can afford to show nontraditional films, why not put it in a more central location? It is true that the SFFS offices are located in the park near the proposed location of the theater, but what’s the benefit of proximity if only the determined can make the show?(Pic from presidio.gov) –Andy Wright

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