The Mercury News Weekend
3Below Theaters struggles for audiences
Scott Guggenheim is taken aback when he hears about people living in or around downtown San Jose who complain there's no movie theater in the area. And that's because he and his wife, Shannon Guggenheim, have been working tirelessly to keep movies going at 3Below Theaters on South Second Street since taking over the former Camera 3 space in 2018.
At 3Below, you can find a variety of live shows, movie events like sing-alongs and even performing arts classes that bounced back to some degree since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. But despite more people living downtown and being just blocks from San Jose State University, movie audiences have been dismal for 3Below's first-run movie lineup — consisting mostly of independent fare that would appeal to older moviegoers, like “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “Till” and “Triangle of Sadness.”
On Saturday, the theater is staging a special 7:30 p.m. screening of “Only in Theaters,” a documentary about the Laemmle family's string of arthouse cinemas in the Los Angeles area and the challenges smaller theaters are facing in the wake of not just COVID-19 but increased streaming options. It will include a post-show conversation with director Raphael Sbarge and Greg Laemmle, who runs the theaters for his family, with roots going back to the start of Hollywood.
3Below is also presenting showcases of the live-action, documentary and animated short films nominated for Academy Awards this year, and is presenting Ukrainian-made films as part of the San Jose Jazz Winter Fest going on right now. Get schedule information
and tickets for those at3belowtheaters.com.
Guggenheim knows there are challenges to being downtown — 3Below has had more than its share of vandalism — and warns the theater may have to make a drastic change before long, as the cost of booking and marketing new movies, as well as paying theater staff, consistently outweighs the revenue brought in by audiences.
“The next four weeks will tell,” Scott Guggenheim said, adding that if audiences aren't showing up, it will be a clear signal to 3Below that movies may need to take a break. “It seems a shame that the downtown community may lose the opportunity to see movies in their vicinity and that the Greater South Bay may lose the opportunity to catch Oscar hopefuls and independent films altogether.”
GOOD SPORT >> For the past 17 years, San Jose Sports Authority Events Director Carrie Benjamin has been a key player in bringing high-level athletics events to San Jose as well as leading the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame and REACH Youth Scholarship programs. But she's taking a break from the event circuit to work for NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, who runs RML Enterprises and started the nonprofit All Stars Helping Kids.
More than two dozen friends and colleagues gathered Thursday at the Sports Authority's office at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center to wish Benjamin well on her new adventure, including current or former San Jose Sports Authority board members Victor Arrañaga, Anne Cribbs, Larry Stone, John Southwell, Ken Birdsall and Blage Zelalich, as well as San Jose Sports Authority Executive Director John Poch.
“It's been my total pleasure to work with Carrie over the years and see the legacy that she's leaving behind in San Jose and beyond San Jose,” said Cribbs, who swam in the 1960 Olympics and first joined the Sports Authority board in 1991.
CHEERS >> The Valle Monte League got a big thank-you recently from the Hearts & Minds Activity Center, which has been one of the San Jose nonprofit's beneficiaries since 1986.
On Feb. 8, Hearts & Minds conducted a ceremony to dedicate the Valle Building, which is the main building that houses its administrative audience and activity spaces for its clients.
The ribbon-cutting was attended by San Jose Chamber of Commerce CEO Derrick Seaver, Hearts & Minds Executive Director Maria Nicolacoudis and Heather Kettmann, Valle Monte League's president for 2023.