The Tower is saved

Bites wonders if, after all this time, moviegoers and travelers on Broadway ever ask themselves, “Save the Tower from what?”

It’s been years since the venerable Tower Theater first faced the very real possibility of extinction because of a city plan to subsidize corporate “art house” theaters and steal away the Tower’s lunch money.

It was part of a plan cooked up in 2004 between Century Theatres, the city of Sacramento’s Economic Development Department and the owners of Westfield Downtown Plaza. With about $12 million in public money, Century would put in a new movie theater on the Seventh Street end of the mall and build another six-screen CinéArts complex at 10th and K streets that would specialize in independent of art films.

It’s one thing for established movie houses like the Crest and Tower to compete for the rare moneymaking independent film. But it offended many folks’ sense of fairness that the funky old Tower could be forced out of business because the city heavily subsidized a corporate competitor.

Letters were written to City Hall, rallies were held, the words “Save the Tower” appeared on the marquee—and haven’t come down since.

That was seven years ago. Ultimately, of course, the city council got cold feet and nixed the subsidy deal.

Still, the plea to Save the Tower persists. The site is still up, but it’s not being updated or, apparently, serving much of any function. And while Bites has never particularly minded the more careworn aspects of the movie house, the theater owner—the Australia-based Reading International—is not known as a very attentive parent.

It’s tough to discern the real threat now. Clearly, Westfield’s doing nothing to improve its property any time soon—other than maybe selling it. And the city is too broke to subsidize any development projects these days—unless basketball players or mermaids are somehow involved.

“Right now it appears we’re safe,” said Melanie Juanitas, one of the Tower’s managers, though she added, “You never know what’s going to happen.” So the Tower is saved. You’re welcome, Reading International. Love, Sacramento.

Still, Juanitas said there were no immediate plans to remove the message from the marquee.

Bites has been talking to a lot of people about redistricting lately—in particular redrawing city council districts in Sacramento—and one thing has become clear. It’s kind of hard.

The city has provided some very cool online tools that allow anyone to draw and submit their own suggested district maps. (For a little more background, see “The district,” SN&R Frontlines, May 5.)

It takes some practice to use the tools, and of course, it helps if you know something about the real-life communities represented on the screen.

Luckily, we’ve got a whole city full of smart, engaged citizens with lots of on-the-ground knowledge who might spend a couple of evenings helping solve the redistricting puzzle.

“I’m really hopeful the public will get engaged,” said Roman Porter, one of the members of the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee.

Porter isn’t sure what to expect from the public submissions. There will probably be some masterpieces and some monsters. But Porter thinks crowd-sourcing the redistricting effort will provide a level of problem-solving power beyond that of just the official map drawers. And the panel may draw from several public maps before it makes its recommendations to the city council this summer.

You’ve got just until May 16 to submit your map. Get started at