Something is rotten in the State of Denmark. Oops! Did I say Denmark? I meant San Luis Obispo—the other happiest place on the planet. In the galaxy. In whatever’s bigger than the galaxy.
Of course, San Luis Obispo lost some of its happy swagger on Thursday, Jan. 31—around 1:30 p.m. to be exact—when whoever operates the Fremont’s Facebook page posted: “After 70 years of service, the Fremont theatre will be closing its doors after the last show tonight.” ’Cause apparently the only way to say goodbye to a community landmark is with zero notice and a Facebook post that provides no real clue as to how, why, such a thing could happen.
Its last show? The Impossible. A tragic tale of how a storm that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries ruined a Spanish family’s vacation.
Of course, with some proper notice—and by proper, I mean more than six hours—we could have put together one hell of a farewell, and maybe even ensured that the Fremont’s farewell film was, well, good. Maybe even a classic. Movie gurus Bob Whiteford and New Times’ own Glen Starkey could have turned out to deliver eulogies, I could have bought myself a hot black mourning mini-skirt. Instead, we were left with an abrupt, confusing, and—I’m now beginning to feel—disingenuous end to a love affair none of us was really all that ashamed to participate in.
I imagine the situation is worse still for the theater’s six or so employees who have apparently been working from one week to another since September. Some of them said they were told on Thursday that they would have to seek employment elsewhere. Because people don’t really require more than a day’s notice that their source of income has dried up. Especially in an economy where workers with master’s degrees are waiting tables and sucking down Cup o’ Noodles. Cups o’ Noodle? Cup o’s Noodle? There’s a proper plural in there somewhere.
Later that day, someone posted: “ATTENTION: The lease was up for the Fremont today, but anything stated previously on facebook does not represent the facts or beliefs of The Movie Experience Corporation as a company and is not an official posting. This was stated by a single employee. An official statement has yet to have been made.”
Last I checked, the screen was still dark.
I’m starting to suspect—I can’t do anything more than that, because the parties involved in negotiating the ultimate fate of the Fremont have been the antithesis of transparent—that shutting down the Fremont with no notice was merely a ploy to rile up the public, essentially using the theater’s fans as a bargaining chip in lease negotiations or something. And if there’s one thing I don’t like—besides water, ladybugs, mountain lions, and closing time—it’s someone exploiting the things I’m passionate about to their financial advantage. So if that’s indeed what happened, I’m mad! If not, I’m not! But who knows?
Meanwhile, the city is so busy dressing up its favorite sons and daughters to go out and push San Luis Obispo to tourists that I’d be surprised if city officials even realized they were in danger of losing a beloved landmark. And if you happen to think I’m overstating the significance of the Fremont Theater, just count the number of appearances it makes in the ShareSLO video competition. I mean, I can’t actually tell you how many appearances it makes—I only watch the city’s promotional materials while drunk or heavily sedated—but most of the city’s hopeful ambassadors seem to be sharing the same view.
On the bright side, at least we all have something to watch while the Fremont remains closed.
And if anyone thought throwing adults into a popularity competition straight out of a high school homecoming drama would encourage camaraderie and classy behavior, well, they haven’t watched many high school homecoming dramas.
Within a week of the competition kickoff—pitting adults against each other for an opportunity to professionally cheerlead for San Luis Obispo—we had candidates pouting that other entrants’ videos exceeded the 90 seconds recommended in competition guidelines, accusing candidates of using a website that trades money for votes in online polls, and whining that other candidates had help creating their promotional materials. Keep in mind that the top 10 vote getters in this stage will move on to interviews and the like, so it’s not like the No. 1 spot clinches the job.
With a $50,000 payout for the winner—the salary the future ambassador will make in one year—it’s no big surprise that some of the candidates and their supporters are getting catty, even if they’re at least smart enough to be passively aggressive. We wouldn’t want to tarnish our halos with a gosh-darned outright attack, now would we?
Of course, it’s difficult to blame dozens of people for so eagerly jumping aboard the promotional bandwagon. It’s no secret that the cost of living in San Luis Obispo is astronomical—I mean, I really do love this place, so I totally don’t mind that I will never be able to afford a house here, nor the fact that half my friends can’t find a job that pays more than $10 an hour—and the number of available jobs that actually enable the SLO life are few and far between. So I guess it makes sense for the city to invest $110,000 (all told) in a program that creates jobs. (Which is actually a pretty small piece of the $1,378,500 pie the Tourism Board Improvement District is planning to spend in 2013.) It might be nice, however, if the end result were more than one job. Especially given the fact that our already-fragile economy just lost a handful of jobs when the Fremont closed.
Shredder’s ambassadorial skills are many. Send paychecks to firstname.lastname@example.org.