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Why a drop in tourism could mean unexpected trouble for local arts groups

Wednesday, Nov 21 2001
Two Weeks in Another Town The post-9/11 plunge in tourism, should it continue much beyond the first of the year, could bite local media arts groups in a tender spot next fall. A chunk of the 14 percent room tax levied on hotel and motel bills goes to the Grants for the Arts/S.F. Hotel Tax Fund, which allocates the money to dozens of arts organizations for general operating expenses. From $10,000 for the Silent Film Festival to $105,400 for the S.F. Film Society (the umbrella org of the S.F. International Film Festival), the crucially important GFA dough helps pay salaries, rent, publicity, and advertising for more than a dozen nonprofit film organizations. At present, it's unclear how much local companies will be affected. "We certainly communicate with our constituency as often as we need to when we have information," says GFA Director Kary Schulman. "Right now we don't have any. Everyone in the city is trying to prognosticate [about tourism levels], and there are people in a better position to do that than me."

The 2001-02 grants were divvied up last August, so there's plenty of time before next year's evaluation process for visitor traffic to recover. Schulman, whose tenure dates to 1980, is cautiously optimistic. "There have actually been a few storms that we've weathered," she says, recalling that arts funding wasn't cut in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta quake or during the recession of the early '90s. "Not to be Pollyannaish, but we've come through things before and the arts will come through this one." Nonetheless, expect prudent administrators at the various film organizations in town to be exceptionally rigorous with their 2002-03 budgets.

Friendly Persuasion Jenna Elfman, star of the S.F.-set (but L.A.-shot) TV show Dharma & Greg, returns to town Saturday, Nov. 24, to lead a seminar called "Getting Started in Film and TV." It'll be held at the Church of Scientology building at 966 Mission (near Sixth Street) that Elfman sponsored, and which had its grand opening two months ago. "She goes into how she got into acting and how she owes a lot of her success to Dianetics and Scientology," reports church spokesman Jeff Quiros. "It's just her story; it's not that Scientology is a one-way ticket to stardom. But if someone wants to take the classes she took, no one's going to turn them away."

Elfman sponsored the mission here because she felt, according to Quiros, that there are enough missions in the San Fernando Valley, where she grew up. The actress fell for our town, he claims, while filming Ed TV. (Such celebrity sponsors are nothing new: Isaac Hayes and Lisa Marie Presley opened a Scientology outpost in their hometown of Memphis, while Kirstie Alley did likewise in Wichita.) As for Elfman's event, Quiros candidly admits, "It's obviously meant to interest people in Dianetics and Scientology." The $15 seminar is "co-hosted" by casting director Lisa London (Ellen) and manager Gay Ribisi; for reservations, call 243-0322.

Time Limit The deadline for entries approaches for the Noise Pop Film Festival, part of the S.F.-based music fest slated for late February. Info's at www.noisepop. com. ... The Goldman Institute on Aging, still developing its plans to build on the site, continues to rent the Coronet Theater on a month-to-month basis to UA for a nominal fee. The arrangement, which essentially subsidizes the theater, will likely continue through the end of 2002. ... Depressing trivia: For the first time in 14 years, movie tickets are more expensive in the U.S. than in Europe.

About The Author

Michael Fox


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