New College collapse has theater reeling

An alternative-film theater was left crippled with debts and a radical bookstore lost a slab of its business in the Mission neighborhood following New College of San Francisco’s recent collapse.

The 36-year-old progressive university was shuttered after the Western Association of Schools and Colleges yanked its accreditation in February after a yearlong investigation into claims of financial and operational mismanagement. Some employees continue to fight to reopen the school.

The Roxie Theater, which was donated to New College in 2006, will celebrate 100 years of film screenings next year if new owners can turn around its financial woes.

“The bills were all being forwarded to New College, so we didn’t even know they were unpaid until the power went out or until the water was off,” said operations manager Rachel Hart, one of the 20 part-time workers paid in April for the first time in nearly six months. “We just did whatever we could to keep operating.”

More than 30 neighborhood theaters have closed in the past 30 years and roughly one dozen remain, according to San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation President Alfonso Felder. He blamed rising real estate prices and downtown multiplex theaters for the trend.

New College graduate Alan Holt, a 2007 writing and literature major with no theater industry experience, took over management of the Roxie in April with an infusion of cash from himself and his father.

Holt said he is in negotiations to purchase the theater, which he hopes to run as a nonprofit so it can raise tax-free funds from donations and membership dues.

The theater under Holt will continue to rent out its space for special events and increase the number of films that it distributes to help lift profits and retain greater revenue shares of the films that it screens, he said.

“We just want to continue to show films that you won’t see anywhere else,” Holt said. “You want something that’s commercially viable, but you also want to be able to pick up some films that aren’t.”

The Modern Times Bookstore on nearby Valencia Street also was left struggling in the wake of New College’s collapse, according to Ruth Mahane, a member of the collective that runs the leftist shop.

“They used us for their course books and things — so that’s a big chunk out of our money,” she said.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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