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Downtown Movie Theaters Go Dark

In Culture
NO MORE MOVIES: With the temporary shuttering of Camera 3, there is no where to see a movie on the big screen in downtown San Jose.

NO MORE MOVIES: With the temporary shuttering of Camera 3, there is no where to see a movie on the big screen in downtown San Jose.

With the closing of Camera 3, there isn’t a single movie theater in downtown San Jose—a disgrace for a city so insecure about its cultural profile. The mitigating factor: it’s a temporary closure.

What’s coming up is the transformation of the 33-year old Camera 3 into a hybrid movie and live theater; San Jose’s world champion ComedySportz team will still be using the facility this fall, even as the Retro Dome people work to get a revived theater in the Camera 3 space online.

“We’ve been working with Jack Nyblom of the Camera Cinemas for a long time,” Shannon Guggenheim of the Retro Dome says—“offering programs downtown ever since the Retro Dome closed down on Winchester.”  

The remodeled Camera 3 will be known as Three Below. “We thought it was important to keep the ‘three’ in there,” says Guggenheim, since it’s still three theaters below a parking structure.  The name is also a reference to the 54 Below cabaret in Manhattan. “But we’re also working with an urban contemporary vibe,” she adds. The low-temperature “Three Below” name suggests some place chill.

Ditching the name “Camera” is also fair enough, since what’s up is not going to be all camera-based entertainment. The main theater is to be remodeled from the seats to the lighting, with a stage for live events and for Cinequest 2018 Q&As.

But while Guggenheim notes that this mini-complex isn’t going to be “RetroDome 2.0”, the theater will be used for what they’ve been doing successfully—sing-alongs for Mamma Mia and other audience participation movies. “We’re expecting documentaries and Oscar shorts and other retro revivals: midweek anniversary screenings of The Godfather and Slapstick Sundays with The Three Stooges and Our Gang.”

It’s revival cinema as a family pastime: “there’s a lot of kids who have never seen a Harry Potter movie on the big screen,” Guggenheim added. In the space vacated by Psycho Donuts will be what she calls a “new café concept,” but until that comes to pass, there’ll be temporary catering to take care of the ComedySportz audience.

Construction starts on Oct. 16. The plan for the reopening is the cusp of the year, and then movies will be back in downtown San Jose. The Three Below is aiming for a tentative New Year opening with an even more tentative soft opening in December. Watch this space for details.

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