Park movie nights cause unease among area theaters 

Movie nights will be premiering for the first time in Golden Gate Park this summer, but the plan to charge admission for the outdoor screenings is getting mixed reviews.

Los Angeles-based Summer Entertainment Inc. was recently awarded a lease by the Recreation and Park Commission to host the movie nights in the park’s Peacock Grove during an eight-week period in the late summer and early fall. The lease allows the company to not only sell concessions but also charge admission for up to 48 movies from late August to early October.

The commission charged Summer Entertainment $33,600 for the lease — which includes vending permits — and a percentage of gross vending revenue will go back to the Recreation and Park Department, spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis said.

The movies will be shown six nights a week.

Movie screenings in local parks are not a new concept — the San Francisco Neighborhood Theatre Foundation began showing free films in Dolores Park, Washington Square Park and Union Square in 2003 as a way to brings films to neighborhoods without movie theaters.

But in the first-ever program of its kind, the Golden Gate Park movie screenings will cost $8 to $10 per admission, Summer Entertainment General Manager Alicia Darvall said. That is causing some to wonder where movie lovers will spend their cinema dollars.

Balboa Theatre owner Gary Meyer, whose establishment is close to Golden Gate Park, is concerned that the movie nights will take business away from his theater.

Alfonso Felder, Neighborhood Theater Foundation president, said he supports the plan because Summer Entertainment has been cooperative in trying to minimize conflict, especially when it comes to movie titles.

"I think the program is such that we are hopeful it won’t be directly competitive," Felder said.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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