The San Francisco Film Society Wants to “Save the Clay Theatre,” For Itself

Well, it turns out that the San Francisco Film Society has a plan to Save the Clay Theatre. And why not?

Back in the day, they tried to take over the moribund Presidio Main Post Theatre (the one in the Presidio and not that other Presidio Theatre), but that didn’t work out. Or rather, it hasn’t yet worked out.

Anyway, read a letter from SFFS Executive Director Graham Leggat about what you can do to help, if you want.

All the deets, below.

Via revger, click to expand

These kids from the Bawdy Caste will return for one last Rocky Horror at the Clay the night of August 29th, no matter what.

Via Ashley

Here it is:

DEAR CLAY THEATER SUPPORTER:

The San Francisco Film Society is one of the top twenty organizations of its kind in the world, one of the top ten in the United States, and oldest, biggest and most widely respected film exhibition organization in Northern California. Since 1957, the Film Society has been enriching the lives of Bay Area residents by presenting the best film and media from around the world, notably via the acclaimed San Francisco International Film Festival. The longest-running festival in the Americas, the International celebrated its golden anniversary in April 2007. During its first half-century, the Film Society has hosted more than 2,000 filmmakers and presented more than 6,500 films from 124 countries to audiences numbering more than two million people. It is beloved by its audiences and the international film industry alike. Its contributions to the cultural life of the Bay Area are immeasurable.

Now, as the Film Society begins its 54th year of operation, it is looking ahead to an even brighter future. In recent years the organization has launched many new activities, resulting in significant increases in membership, attendance, sponsorship and earned income. Its numbers are up across the board, in fact, and it is well on its way to establishing itself as a major cultural institution with a vibrant year-round presence. Central to this mission is the acquisition of a theater that the Film Society can call its home, one in which it can present many types of year-round programming in the areas of film exhibition, education, and filmmaker services.

Since December 2009, the Film Society has been in negotiations with the landlord of the Clay Theater, in an attempt to lease or purchase the building. So far these talks are at  an impasse over terms, but ultimately the Film Society hopes to bring the negotiations to a successful and swift conclusion, resulting in a longterm lease or ownership of the Clay. Once the Film Society has the theater, it intends to significantly upgrade the physical plant, which needs a good number of improvements, and reopen it as a revitalized cultural and community hub for the thriving Upper Fillmore business district.

With a half-century of film-exhibition experience under its belt, there is no doubt that the Film Society can make a success of running the Clay. The organization will program the same eclectic and popular mix of international, independent, and documentary films that have so engaged its diverse audiences. It will also program “Landmark”-type films, meaning first-run arthouse hits, as they become available, and will present a number of mini-festivals devoted to individual filmmakers and national cinemas. In all cases the Film Society will add value to these screenings, with panels, talks, and filmmakers in attendance.

So, we urge you, as someone who attends the Clay Theater, appreciates its role in your cultural life, and wants it to continue showing great films in our neighborhood, to ask the landlord to resume negotiations with the Film Society, to come to terms with the realities of today’s recessionary marketplace and real-estate values, and make it possible for the Film Society to operate and bring renewed energy to our beloved Clay Theater. 

When you send a letter to the Clay Theater landlord, please also email a copy of your letter to the San Francisco Film Society at: rsills@sffs.org                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Thank you for your efforts to make it possible to “Save the Clay”!  – Graham Leggat, Executive Director of the SFFS

Sample letter below.  Please send it to the Clay Theater’s landlord:

 

Balgobind Jaiswal c/o Blu, 2259 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, California, 94115

DEAR MR. JAISWAL:

AS A CLAY THEATER  CUSTOMER, I WAS ALARMED TO HEAR THAT OUR BELOVED NEIGHBORHOOD THEATER IS TO CLOSE ON AUGUST 29.  I VALUE THE CLAY THEATER AS A UNIQUE AND IRREPLACEABLE COMMUNITY INSTITUTION AND WANT TO SEE IT CONTINUE TO PRESENT WONDERFUL FILMS IN A GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD SETTING, AS IT HAS DONE FOR THE PAST 100 YEARS.  PLEASE RESUME NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY TO MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR THE SFFS TO OPERATE AND BRING RENEWED ENERGY TO THE CLAY THEATER.  CLAY THEATER PATRONS AND ALL OF SAN FRANCISCO’S FILM COMMUNITY WOULD BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL IF YOU WOULD MAKE THIS POSSIBLE.  THANK YOU!

SIGNED______________________________________________________

PRINT NAME__________________________________________________

ADDRESS____________________________________________________

EMAIL ADDRESS______________________________________________

TELEPHONE NUMBER_________________________________________

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6 Responses to “The San Francisco Film Society Wants to “Save the Clay Theatre,” For Itself”

  1. WT says:

    Waste of time. Not enough people go there to support the rent increase that the landlord clearly wants. If Landmark cannot make it profitable, what makes SF Film Society think it can?

  2. Sly says:

    Well, it would be a waste of time if the San Francisco Film Society bought/leased the Clay and did nothing to improve it; but, since that is not the case, and they WILL be making improvements (including improvements to the actual building, technology in it, and programming,) I see no reason why it is a “waste of time” to put effort into saving the Clay–a unique theatre that for obvious reasons should be preserved. The film society is a rapidly growing organization, and it’s cultural influence only continues to to increase, so that alone will help SFFS be more profitable owners of the Clay. Not only will the supporters of the Clay theatre continue to go to the Clay under the film society’s ownership, but the film society members will as well–already increasing the audience size for the Clay, in turn making it a more profitable theatre! SFFS can and will make this theatre even better than it is now! The landlord just needs to stop being difficult, and realize what’s best for saving the theatre, and the answer is: The San Francisco Film Society.

  3. Lawrence says:

    Why do you think that the landlord is being difficult? Could it be that SFFS is trying to steal the theatre from the owner? Is landlord asking for an exorbitant rent or is he asking for rent well below market? Do property owner have rights? why should all the concession be made by the property owner? Why don’t we all contribute to SFFS cause if we believe in it and ask the landlord to subsidize the rent. Would you sell your property below market for the benefit of society at large? If people love the theatre so much why is the theatre unable to survive? If you love the theatre so much why did you not object to the construction of muliti-screen Kabuki theatre just a few blocks away?

    We all should have the facts before passing judgement.

  4. Former Clay Employee says:

    Do you have those facts, Lawrence? Take a look at the Alexandria, for example. That that theatre has been rotting away since it was sold- more here

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/Shuttered-Alexandria-Theater-evades-upkeep-87739297.html

    I think it’s ludicrous to imply the SFFS is trying to steal the theater from the owner. What they want is to prevent YET ANOTHER theater from being closed down, to have the option of going to a movie theater that is not a MULTIPLEX. San Francisco can take a page out of Hollywood’s book in terms of honoring and respecting old movie houses. For every one that gets torn down, another does NOT pop up somewhere else. People who live on most of the neighborhoods on the western map of the city have to travel outside their own neighborhoods to see a movie in the theater; it was not always so.

    What evidence do you have that they are trying to steal the theater? Where does THAT come from? I didn’t read that here. I read they are haggling over the TERMS, not the PRICE, so unless you have some other information, you are guessing or projecting.

    With a makeover and change in programming, the theater would do more than fine. Small theaters are a destination in and of themselves; the owners of the 4star theatre have recently bought and upgraded the presidio and opened the Marina theater, and they are very small and doing just fine. When we played Amelie there, it was sell out crowds for months. MONTHS.

    Honestly, what makes more sense, that the landlord is trying to get more money for his property by closing the theater down and opening up a retail or other shop, and the sffs is trying to stop this and save a 100 year old theater (you can’t replace these things once they are gone- it is a part of SF history)…

    or that the SFFS is trying to “steal” the property for its’ own nefarious purposes…

    it is a problem that so many landowners in SF do not know or appreciate the value of the buildings they tear down and businesses they eradicate because they are trying to make a buck. It is a JOY to go to Hollywood and watch new movies in very old and loved and cared for theaters in LA, because they KNOW what they HAVE. Nobody objects to the Kabuki because not only is it another option that is NOT downtown or the AMC 1000, but it was done very well and in great taste, like the Arclight in LA. The Clay is a small cozy alternative, like the Bridge on Geary, to see alternative fare in a nice, cozy setting that is NOT A MALL.

    I would love to see the facts you have that would lead you to insinuate that the SFFS is trying to steal the theater.

  5. Former Clay Employee says:

    and by the way…Danny Glover goes there for the popcorn.