Los Altos Opinions Exchange

Theatre economics & Community service

Issue: Downtown Parking
Date of Posting:3/30/01
Author: James Zuur

I would like to respond to statements by both John Rees and Bob Perdriau about the state of the movie exhibition industry. Your observations are correct that presently things, on the surface, look bad. Major firms have filed bankruptcy and are getting rid of their non-performing properties and reorganizing their companies.

Most of these firms that have filed bankruptcy reorganization plans are public companies. They overbuild in areas where they have older facilities, therefore cannibalizing their own businesses and revenue streams. They are not individually responsible and therefore do not have to suffer financially as individuals, only as managers of these corporations. Being part of the industry, it is a sad thing to see.

I am one of the general partners in the Cameras Cinemas, a small independent and locally owned firm that is attempting to develop and operate the theatre project in downtown Los Altos. We cannot afford to make decisions that will put us into bankruptcy. In the past, we have had to sign individually for our projects. We are responsible business people and, as a result, have managed these movie theatres successfully for the past 25 years. We are doing fine and had a reasonably respectable financial year in 2000. We do not plan to file bankruptcy and actually plan to be in business for another 25 years. Considering the present state of the exhibition industry, we are doing great.

We are accountable individuals, seasoned and experienced hands-on managers, and believe that our operation would be an asset to Los Altos. Our clientele fits the population and demographics of Los Altos, as our exit surveys indicate that our customers are educated, in higher income brackets and looking for a positive and unique experience (not the normal run of the mill multiplex experience). Our surveys also revealed that close to 80% of our customers go to dinner before or after a film. This should bring added life into the downtown, serving both the restaurants and retail.

Besides running a solid business, we have been an active partner in the communities we serve. I think this is where we excel, and these efforts have been reinforced by the people and organizations in those communities. We have put together a list of activities we have sponsored and donations that we have made in the South Bay area (see below).

Lastly, I would like to comment on the generous donation being made by a member of your community in support of a theatre project on this site. Although the news media has questioned the ethical nature of this donation, we see it as a wonderful endorsement of what we provide to a community. And, for the record, as of this date we have no idea who this anonymous donor might be.

Coincidentally, in the communities where we operate theatres, the Cameras are often referred to as cultural institutions. We believe that this donor understands what the Cameras (i.e. movie theatres) can bring to a community and is willing to donate money to make it happen.


Local Arts and Non-Profit Groups


o KTEH Ch 54 Auction

o Rotary Club of San Jose

o American Heart Association

o Diabetes Society of Santa Clara Valley

o San Jose Repertory Theatre

o Cinequest: San Jose Film Festival

o San Jose Stage Company

o Silicon Valley Parks Foundation

o Next Door: Solutions to Domestic Violence

o Guadalupe River Park and Gardens

o San Jose Symphony

o Sharks Foundation

o San Jose Museum of Art

o Villa Montalvo


Sacred Heart Community Service Golf TournamentoJunior Achievement of Santa Clara CountyoBay Area Accuracy Improvement Conferenceo Los Gatos Chamber Golf ClassicoMexican Heritage CorporationoSan Jose East Rotary CluboSJSU College of BusinessoSanta Clara County Bar Association Community Awards DinneroThe San Jose Chamber Music SocietyoRotary Club of Los GatosoSJSU Alumni Association/Spartan Foundation AuctionoWestminster Presbyterian ChurchoHoly Family ChurchoWomen and Religion Task Forceo OutreachoAlta Vista School AuctionoCity of San Jose Public LibraryoNotre Dame High School AuctionoSilver Creek High SchooloYWCAoRosemary Gardens Neighborhood Association o Families FirstoChrista McAuliffe Elementary SchooloBill Wilson CenteroFuture FamiliesoWestside Co-op PreschooloNext Door: Solutions to ViolenceoEmergency Housing ConsortiumoTrinity CatherdraloSan Jose Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Host VolunteersoSan Jose Humane Society


The Cameras provide a film that has not yet opened in movie theatres.

o Los Gatos Listowel Sister City Program

o San Jose Dublin Sister City Program

o The Center of Steinbeck Studies at SJSU

o East Meets West Foundation

o Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

o Billy de Frank Gay and Lesbian Community Center

o The Council on Aging

o Gay Pride Celebration Committee & IRLM

o Bibliotecha Latino

o Los Gatos Teen Center


The Cameras provide a classic or previously released film. Sometimes the organizations provide their own film.

o Santa Clara County Russia Sister City Program

o Opus 21

o Hospice of the Valley

o Embassy of Sri Lanka


The Cameras provide discounted pre-sale tickets that groups can use to raise money (they determine the price they will charge).

o Cuba Task Force

o NAACP-local chapter

o San Jose Peace Center

o IndoChinese Resettlement and Cultural Center

o San Jose Symphony

o Opera San Jose

o Alliance Francaise

o San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

o San Jose Museum of Art


The Cameras provide facilities at low cost for non-profit film festivals.

o Cinequest, San Jose Film Festival

o Arab Film Festival

o Jewish Film Series

o Italian American Heritage Foundation Film Festival

o Pacific Rim Festival

o Mexican Film Festival

o Student Animation Festival

o San Jose Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

o Los Gatos Film Festival (work in progress)


The Cameras provide the facilities and support for local filmmaker’s to show their films to an audience (these films do not have a film distributor and normally would not show in a movie theatre).

o Camera Cinema Club-Monthly forum for independent film and filmmakers. Special guests have included Academy Award Winner Jessica Yu and a showing of her Academy Award winning documentary BREATHING LESSONS

o Individual showings of film’s produced locally. Some of the screenings include Kurt Kuenne’s SCRAPBOOK and REMEMBRANCES and Ruby Yang's CITIZEN HONG KONG.

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