Osio Cinemas, Monterey's independent movie theater, is closing effective today per an announcement from Mark Borde, who heads up a group of investors that operate the theater (under an LLC).
Borde gives multiple reasons for the closure, including mounting debt, lagging business, competition from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and an expensive conversion to digital projectors in 2012 to keep up with changing technology.
This means, at least in the absence of other venues filling in the vacuum, no more of the independent, foreign and arthouse films that have been so beloved by many—but apparently, not enough—local moviegoers.
Osio Cinemas, often picked in the Weekly's Readers Poll as the Best Local Movie Theater, has been the lone local home of alternative film since before Borde and a band of friends and family (and a few local investors who have remained anonymous) rescued it from bankruptcy over 11 years ago.
Survival's been an issue even as far back as 2012
, when Weekly
editor Mary Duan
reported that the theater, which she called "one of the great little jewels of the city," would have to either switch from 35mm film to digital files on hard drives, per movie studio directives, or go out of business.
Borde told the Weekly back then, "Two months ago, we were two weeks away from closing."
But they chose survival, converting the projectors to stay up with the change in technology, at a cost of $250,000.
Borde also counts another item as a reason for closure: small films aren't getting the national advertising money they used to for local markets. Less advertising means fewer people know a film at Osio even exists.
Still the beloved films kept on coming, including Enough Said, featuring Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in one of his final film performances.
And Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making, award-winning childhood opus, Boyhood.
Borde made big waves when he decided, in the face of threats of violence from overseas hackers, to run Sony's geo-political hot potato The Interview, about two klutzes (James Franco and Seth Rogen) who interview Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
Directors, writers and producers came, too.
Director and co-writer Denis Henry Nennelly and co-writer Sarah Adina Smith accompanied a screening of their apocalyptic film Goodbye World, starring Adrian Grenier (Entourage) and rapper Kid Cudi.
Former Carmel Valley resident Doug Mueller, a CSUMB Cinematic Arts and Technology graduate, screened his feature-length, Sundance-selected film Prairie Love at Osio Cinemas in 2012.
In recent years, the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series brought a concurrent satellite festival to Osio for folks who didn't want to make the drive down Big Sur to catch the international talent.
Before the start of this year's series, back in June, the executive director of the Henry Miller Library, Magnus Toren, said he could not get a reply from Osio Cinemas about screening them there this summer. This, despite Borde stating that community events were very important to their ethic.
Jirko Senkel, the Osio's longtime general manager, says he knew that despite their best efforts, business was down.
"I guess there's always a hope someone else will take it over," he says of the financial troubles that have plagued the theater.
He says the only learned of the closing this morning, as did the six other employees (most of whom work part time) and the owner of Cafe Lumiere, which shares the lobby of the theater.
"I'm worried," he says. "This is my income. I worked here for 14 years. I love this theater."
Borde says that they explored many avenues—"Too many to elaborate"—to save the theater, and that negotiations with individuals and other principals about taking over it fell through.
He says that virtually all independent movie theaters are facing the same barrage of problems, and that it's driving the market to corporations or deep-pocketed ventures.
Senkel saw ticket sales and attendance first hand for years.
"Once in a while we need a Grand Budapest Hotel or an Imitation Game to make a lot of money so we can play movies like The Wolfpack, which did OK," he says. "Those documentaries make money, but not enough to sustain."
Less attendance means less popcorn. Concessions is where movie theaters make the most profit.
He says that Amy, the buzzworthy documentary about late singer Amy Winehouse, might have been one of those films that brought in the numbers they needed. Osio had it slated to run next month, but, maybe because it had the buzz that promised a bigger audience, they lost it to a multi-plex.
Without numbers at his disposal, he doesn't want to speculate about the total impact of streaming movies, though it seems a safe speculation that the new digital frontier would siphon attendance at more expensive movie theater options.
In the end, technology, which Osio tried to keep abreast of, seems to have had a hand in doing it in.
"I'm freaking out," Senkel says. "I'm also just sad."
So are a lot of Monterey County residents, as evidenced by the comments left on the Weekly's Facebook page within hours of this story breaking.
"This is terrible," writes Aranyani Azevedo. "It's such a treasure in the land of 'blockbuster' movie houses."
"Where is the DO NOT LIKE button?" asks Toni Minerva.
"Nooooooooooooooo," writes Dave Sinor. "Hope it remains a movie theater at the very least, bummer."
The news means no big screen home for new films coming out like The Stanford Prison Experiment, about the seminal sociological experiment that showed the malleability of fascism.
Or A Lego Brickumentary, an exploration of creativity and a real-life follow-up to the dazzling and award-winning The Lego Movie.
And who knows what other legions of films will not make it to a movie screen in Monterey County in the aftermath of a shuttered Osio Cinemas
The final films of Osio Theater today (July 20) are Cartel Land, Strangerland, The Overnight, Manglehorn and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.
The final sentiment from Borde, despite feeling "terrible" about the decision, is of gratitude and hope.
"Thank you for your support over this past decade," he writes. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve the art house community in Monterey. We hope someone will pick up the banner. We hope the digital alternatives never replace the theatrical experience."
Mary Duan contributed to this story.