Los Altos Opinions Exchange

Theater

Issue: Downtown Parking
Date of Posting:3/31/01
Author: Bob Perdriau
Email:bobp@marketwriter.com

I’d like to start this communication by commending ( and thanking) King Lear for setting up this web site. It matters little if we agree or disagree on issues. What is useful is that we have a forum for discussion. It is a forum open to the public and it offers the possibility of intelligent discourse. The last several messages I have read deliver useful dialog and very many details I was not aware of.

I don’t know of a better medium for such communication. Neither City Council meetings nor the Town Crier come close.

In fact, I have learned much more from reading communications on this web site than I ever would have learned in any other way – including attending Council meetings. A small example – I did not even know the Cameras Cinemas name until I read King’s message on this site.

It is a mistake to assume that citizens are as well informed as members of the council or the contractors and companies the council deals with. Do not take as gospel, or for granted, that everyone is well informed. A lack of knowledge, the ability to discuss issues, etc. is at the root of much of what conflict we do have in this city.

It is a mistake to assume that polls of uninformed citizens (regarding a theater, for example) be taken literally. Why would someone asked if they thought a theater downtown answer in the negative? Why would their answer imply that a theater is a viable enterprise?

I think that what King has dared to do with this site deserves much more ink than it has received to date. (Including his own newsletter.) Maybe city paid promotion and advertising to increase awareness and involvement are in order. I would certainly support such promotion and even contribute to the cost.

Change of subject.

Everyone should know that I’m not much for attending movies. The last two I saw in a theater are “Top Gun” and “Saving Private Ryan” in that order. Nothing in between. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine how often I leave the house to view a movie. I have ample facilities to view most films at home.

I attend films that really require a big screen and superior sound for maximum enjoyment. I don’t mind driving to Mountain View to view a film. In fact, I like being able to view a film at noon on a weekday. This won’t be possible under the proposed scheme.

Over the long term, I expect I will attend even fewer films as technology improves.

Least one gets the impression I am too old to count; I asked my daughter and her husband when they last went to see a film. In their late 30’s, with two kids and two dogs and two careers they haven’t been to a movie since before they were married over 10 years ago.

My statements about a theater downtown are based on a guess as to where the industry is going long-term. The problems the industry has go beyond short-term issues like overbuilding and over borrowing.

It may be possible to operate a successful theater venue in Los Altos for a few years. In the longer term, I think a theater has great potential to fail. A theater is a relatively high-risk investment versus a hotel.

I certainly could be wrong about the potential of a theater to fail, but I also don’t like the lack of income to the city that even a successful theater operation would not deliver.

I don’t like the fall back position of turning a failed theater into second-class office space and the missed opportunities for income to the city that this implies. King’s estimates based on other hotels and potential income are all well and good. They are probably as accurate as one can get and I really don’t doubt his sincerity in putting them forward. In fact, I appreciate the information. It should be made more widely available.

Still, the income Los Altos takes in is minuscule compared to our neighbors in Palo Alto, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. The city simply needs more sources of income and a theater will not provide one.

The city has invested in the property at First and Main. It owes its citizens a return on that investment. I do not think anyone would conclude that a theater would provide a return. We would be better off putting the money in the bank. Or, better yet, selling the property, which I doubt, anyone really wants to do.

The issue of the anonymous donor is interesting and it clearly is an ethical issue IMHO. This, I feel, is true in spite of statements by some council members defending the donation.

I don’t want to put any words into the mouth of ChuckGeschke, but his concerns, as reported in the Town Crier, are worth heeding. It is one thing to donate to the History Museum. It is quite another thing to “donate” a lot of money to get one’s way.

Said another way, I’d feel much better if the anonymous donor made the offer in the spirit of improving the location owned by the city, for the betterment of the city, with no regard for whatever decision is eventually made.

Bob Perdriau

bobp@marketwriter.com

(650) 941-1043


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