Every couple of years some new alarmist story appears about the Castro Theatre closing down, and each time it gets debunked. But the panic comes from the nationwide death knell for small, single-screen, neighborhood cinemas, of which there aren't many left in American cities except where communities have fought to preserve them. The Wall Street Journal today explores the trend, begun in the last few years, of these cinemas becoming nonprofits themselves, or of seeking non-profit funding much like opera companies, ballets, and museums do.
The movies were always a for-profit venture in this country, so it's notable that this is happening now. The Journal focuses on San Francisco, where the art-house and documentary-focused Roxie has become a nonprofit, and where the Balboa and the Vogue (both owned/leased by the non-profit San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation but run by for-profit operators) depend on nonprofit funding for building improvements and the like.
Also, the Roxie is still hoping to add beer and wine to the menu, and that would certainly help the bottom line, but that hasn't happened yet.
Meanwhile, the enormous Castro is kind of the shining star of the bunch. It's still a for-profit enterprise and it still, remarkably, makes money from ticket sales alone. This is largely due to the wide variety of programs it hosts, income from film festivals, and popular holiday events like Sing-a-Long Sound of Music. But it's nice to know that if it falls on hard times, it can probably make a pretty good case to the IRS for becoming a nonprofit like the Roxie has.