We’ve written about the financial travails of San Francisco’s Red Vic Movie House a couple of times before, and now it looks like the end is finally near.

The Vic’s current calendar runs through July 25, which coincidentally marks the end of the theater’s 30th year. Claudia Lehan, one of four members who run the movie house as a co-op, says it will “probably close” after that, barring a sudden infusion of cash.

“We’re near the end,” Lehan said. “We sure don’t want to close but we’re financially strapped. We’re hoping for a miracle. But it’s not looking good. It’s quite a loss for us personally and for San Francisco. It’s a great San Francisco institution. I’m happy and grateful to have been a part of it for so long.”

The Vic is one of the remaining retro houses in the city. The Roxie, in the Mission, was in similar straits years ago but managed to survive several near-death experiences.

Red Vic staff had been hoping fundraising events would help close the financial gap. And while members of the film community did step up, Lehan said, it just wasn’t enough to save the theater.

“There needs to be a voice for local films and for independent films,” she said. “But there needs to be a way to bankroll it. There has definitely been a lot of good will, but the economy’s really bad and there’s still not a whole lot of money out there. We need George Lucas or Pixar or somebody really big to step in and we haven’t found them yet. Or they haven’t found us.”

So on July 25 the theater will probably end its long run, with a showing of Harold and Maude.

But before then, the Vic will show a film that has relevance to its own situation. Paperback Dreams chronicles the troubles of another much-lamented and moribund outlet for media: the independent bookstore. (Update 11:32 a.m. Turns out KQED Public TV was a co-producer of this.) The film follows the owners of Cody’s Books in Berkeley, now defunct, and Kepler’s in Menlo Park “over the course of two tumultuous years in the book business.” A panel discussion with the director and the co-owners of local San Francisco bookstores Booksmith and Green Apple will follow.

Red Vic Movie Theater Likely to Close July 25 25 May,2011Jon Brooks

  • Bruce

    I made a movie short that was shown there in 1998. In that short, I asked my now wife to marry me. Sad to see the the loss.

  • Rachel

    HELLO! Do they need donations!?! I had not heard! I am happy to donate! I can donate $100. Do we have 1000 people out there who love the Red Vic and want to donate? I’m sure we do. That would be $100,000. Is that enough to keep them going awhile longer? Also, Red Vic … why not set up a continuous giving program? I am happy to donate $100 now and also to sign up and have $10 per month automatically deducted from my bank account, as a donation to Red Vic. So that will be $120 per year. Get 1000 people to do that, now you’ve got guaranteed donations of $120,000 per year. And this is from just small fish like me. What about all those Rich F’s … bankers, executives, etc … I think they can afford a lot more than $10 per month, and I’m sure that some of them love the Red Vic, too. But even a regular person like me can afford $10 per month. There is plenty of money in this town, I don’t see why the Red Vic should be closing down.

  • Dianne

    For Rachel and anyone else who might be interested in donating $ to the Red Vic. There is a donate page on their website: http://redvicmoviehouse.com/show.php?pageid=1000.

    You can either donate via check or via Paypal. Hope that helps. And, also going to see a flick there would also help them out.

    Hope that helps!

  • sean

    Other neighborhood theaters have had similar financial problems. One I know of solved it by creating a foundation to run the theater.

    See more here: http://communityfilm.org/

    and here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairfield_Community_Theatre

  • I just arrived to San Francisco and heard what a great place the Red Vic Movie House is. Maybe they should apply for a Pepsi Refresh grant. http://www.refresheverything.com Applications are due by June 5.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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