Change is the only constant, and every movie marquee provides incontrovertible visual evidence: new movies, promising debuts and fresh succes de scandales, as well as vintage revivals and retrospectives. The silver screen winks and flashes at us, then moves on. Let's stop to acknowledge the year in Bay Area film, one of loss as well as reinvention.
Counting up in order of significance, here are the Top 10 events in Bay Area film for 2011:
10. The Galaxy Theatre is torn down. We begin the roller-coaster ride that was 2011 with bittersweet but hardly terrible news. Shuttered since 2005, the landmark at Van Ness and Sutter had shabbily devolved from a poignant reminder of good times movie-going and the lifespan of "modern" movie houses to an embarrassing homage to 1980s architecture. Even after the curtain rises on whatever takes its place, that corner will always be home to celluloid ghosts.
9. The Balboa Theatre is saved by new management. For longer than anyone had a reasonable right to expect, the redoubtable Gary Meyer has done yeoman's work programming and promoting one of the city's last neighborhood houses. The additional responsibility of running the Telluride Film Festival finally became too much for Meyer, and in October he announced a partnership with the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (which operates the Vogue Theatre and puts on the Mostly British Film Festival) to run the Balboa for many years to come.
8. A phalanx of independent programmers continues to succeed. The ongoing and well-attended efforts of indomitable curators Jeff Roth (S.F. Indiefest, et al), Jesse Hawthorne Ficks (Midnites for Maniacs), Eddie Muller (Noir City), Peaches Christ, Marc Huestis, Ingrid Eggers (German Gems), and Elliot Lavine maintain San Francisco's status as one of the top movie towns in the country.
7. Four local festivals replace their executive or artistic directors. Frameline (The San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival), Jewish and Arab fests, in addition to the San Francisco International Film Festival, experienced turnover at the top in 2011. Although, in a couple of cases, multitalented directors chose to move on to the next chapter in their creative lives, the overall impression is of a tougher environment for film festivals given the economy and changing movie-going patterns.