There won’t be a dramatic cliffhanger rescue for Camera 12 Cinemas. Downtown San Jose’s only mainstream, first-run theater is shutting its doors after the credits roll on the last movie Thursday night.
Camera Cinemas owner Jack NyBlom says that despite revenue at the downtown theater being on the upswing, skyrocketing expenses — especially maintenance costs on the 20-year-old building — have made it impossible to continue.
“It is with much sadness that, in spite of our best efforts, we cannot keep Camera 12 open any longer,” NyBlom said. “A decade’s loss of revenue from a promised growing residential market, that’s just now coming online, coupled with the staggering costs of maintaining a large, aging, poorly designed building has led us to this decision to close.”
Well, at least they didn’t run off the way United Artists did back in 2000, when it fled in the middle of the night, taking all the equipment, including the seats.
Camera Cinemas also operates the Camera 7 in Campbell and downtown San Jose’s Camera 3, which primarily shows independent films and is home to the Comedy Sportz improv troupe. And if there’s good news here, it’s that neither of those venues will be affected by the move.
The eight-screen theater on Paseo de San Antonio and South Second Street was celebrated when it opened in 1996 as the UA Pavilion. But UA had problems from the start, in part because the dominant Century Theatres were able to keep first-run movies out of downtown. In 2000, UA disappeared overnight and the building was shuttered for nearly four years.
At the urging of the city of San Jose, Camera Cinemas took over the cavernous, three-story building in 2004 and reconfigured it into 12 screens. Owners NyBlom, Jim Zuur and Dennis Skaags successfully broke Century Theatres’ hold and were able to present the same big blockbusters as the suburban multiplexes when they were released. And they continued to showcase independent fare at nearby Camera 3.
But another daunting obstacle for any operator was the building itself, which had become a maintenance nightmare because of the venue’s heating and air-conditioning needs, as well as its double set of escalators, which broke down far too often. A handwritten sign on the window Wednesday morning warned customers that the air conditioning was down.
It’s unclear what happens next. Camera 12 provided an entertainment option for some 300,000 patrons annually as well as jobs for theater employees. Investors who had pumped more than $2 million into the venue over the past dozen years are also out. And it’s been the primary venue for the Cinequest film festival, which takes place in March.
Cinequest co-founder and festival director Halfdan Hussey expressed gratitude for Camera Cinemas’ contributions to the festival over the past 26 years. “Our hearts and deep gratitude go out to Jack Nyblom, Jim Zuur, Dennis Skaggs and the Camera Cinemas family who were the first and have remained major sponsors and friends of Cinequest and San Jose,” Hussey said. “Cinequest will work with the Mayor’s team as well as San Jose and Silicon Valley partners to insure we make up for this venue loss and increase our services and events to the Silicon Valley and San Jose community.”
Camera Cinemas had to absorb a big jolt in spring 2015 from landlord Forest City: a monthly rent increase from $13,500 to more than $24,500. The city of San Jose had made efforts in the past few years to help Camera 12 stay in operation.
But now, it appears that exactly what the city was trying to avoid is becoming a reality. A major, family-friendly entertainment venue downtown is going away and leaving a dead space as thousands of new residents are poised to move into the city’s core. That’s not much of a happy ending.
EXECUTIVE DECISIONS: CreaTV San Jose reached halfway across the country to find its new CEO, Chad Johnston, who brings a decade of experience leading community media centers and also is a video producer himself.
Chad Johnston will start as CEO of CreaTV San Jose on Oct. 17, 2016.
Chad Johnston will start as CEO of CreaTV San Jose on Oct. 17, 2016. CreaTV San Jose
Johnston was most recently executive director of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network in Minnesota and also served in the same position at the People’s Channel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Johnston, who replaces Suzanne St. John-Crane, says he’s excited to join CreaTV, which he said has a national reputation for being an innovative, responsive and nimble community media organization. “I look forward to serving the San Jose community, helping to amplify the voices of those who are least often heard,” said Johnston, who starts his new job Oct. 17.
San Jose consulting firm Essex & Drake Fundraising Counsel, meanwhile, didn’t have to look far at all to replace Sharron Svensson, who decided to retire as the company’s president after 21 years. Essex & Drake has tapped Chelsey Souza to assume the ownership and the position of president.
Souza had been a senior consultant at the firm for the past five years, following roles at eBay and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Svensson will stay on as a senior adviser.
START YOUR ENGINES: It’s a big weekend for car lovers, with two big events in San Jose.
Tony Mangiameli and the Rompacoglioni Car Club will have more than 450 classic cars at the ninth annual Cruise for a Cause show at Bertucelli’s La Villa deli in Willow Glen on Sunday. The show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with music and some great La Villa food. It’s free to go, but be sure to bring a cash or canned donation for Second Harvest Food Bank, which is the “cause” of the name.
The Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club and History San Jose are reaching back a little further, however, for the 16th annual Antique Autos show at History Park, also on Sunday. The show, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature pre-1946 cars, plus vintage motorcycles, bicycles and fire equipment. And Willow Glen resident and historian Dan Erceg will be there to talk about a unique vehicle, the 1899 Osen & Hunt car, which was built in San Jose.
Admission to the Antique Autos show is $5, but free for History San Jose members.