Bay Area cinephiles were saddened to learn that the Embarcadero Cinema, Landmark Theatres’ marquee location in San Francisco, was closing its doors. The art-house theatre held its final showtimes on Thursday, after 26 years of entertaining moviegoers with all the comforts of reclining seats and a wine bar.
Many upscale theatres are struggling to remain profitable with ever-increasing operating costs, increased competition from streaming and persistent concerns of older audiences to return to their local movie house for public screenings. Before the pandemic, Landmark had operated 46 theatres across the country but that number has now dropped to 36, with locations in Minneapolis and now San Francisco as the most recent casualties.
Last year, the U.S. Government delivered much-needed financial assistance to independent theatres through its Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program as part of the national COVID relief bill. Unfortunately, Landmark did not qualify for funding under the program due to its relatively large size. With or without temporary assistance, the fundamentals of operating a successful movie theatre are under strain, especially for art houses that thrive on a flow of awards-calibre, independent films that appeal to adult audiences.