Farewell, Clay Theatre on Fillmore

The Clay Theatre on Fillmore is closing on the 29th.  It’s been losing money. 

The League has a position supporting economic growth.  What reasonable person would argue that a for-profit business running at a loss for some time should operate nonetheless if all the indicators point against revival.  As the SFGate article says, people are more inclined to go to multi-plexes for comfy chairs, never mind the insoluble  popcorn trucked in from Salinas.  Or they prefer to stay at home with their Netflix deliveries.  Very reasonable, those Netflix deliveries.  Still, isn’t there something to be said for hearing a babel of languages in the Clay, waiting for the film to begin? Or the charged dialogues and debates of the people in the rows behind about whatever was in the Times that morning?  How about the comments after the movie, made all the more intriguing when you catch only snippets on the way out.  Spilling out onto Fillmore, the adventure continued, regardless of the time.  There are always dialogues and debates on Fillmore, not to mention dogs and organic coffee.  All the better if something in the vintage shops – or the peculiar Marc Jacobs shop – catches your eye.  More dialogue and debate ensue. 

Ultimately it comes down to community.  It helped that the Clay showed some of the most interesting movies in town, but that wasn’t the end of it.  Going to the Clay was a package deal.  Plentiful muni service.  All those shops, cafes, coffees stops, and even an independent bookstore.  People talking.  Even solo, you were never alone.  The movies usually were of the sort that made you smarter for a little while, primed to observe and absorb Fillmore.  The community will be worse off for losing the theatre.  We will lose an element  that fostered community the way watching a film at home or on a computer screen never  will do.  It’s a pity. 

There was a report on NPR this morning about villages,  a euphemism for programs to help the elderly live in their homes as long as possible.  Villages can only exist if there is community.  On the one hand, our leisure habits and the economy are degrading community.  On the other, the needs of our older neighbors demand strengthened, active community.  Let’s hope the middle generation, currently withdrawing from community in favor of its singular leisure habits and distancing social media, doesn’t lose the skills required to navigate the natural frictions of life and therefore ultimately become aliens in those villages grounded in community being crafted for their well-being.  

Stay acclimated.  Go to a neighborhood movie theatre.  Mix and mingle in the surrounding community before and/or after.  Think of it as an investment in your quality of life, all your life long.

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