When Santa Clara County moved into the state’s Orange Tier on Tuesday, entertainment-starved movie fans may have been elated to hear that indoor movie theaters were among the businesses being allowed to open at a limited 25% capacity.

But no indoor cinema in the county announced any plans to open its doors this week, and it turns out there’s a really good reason why.

I talked to Dan Orloff of Pruneyard Cinemas in Campbell, which provides an in-theater dining experience, who told me that while the Orange Tier status allows movie theaters to open, Santa Clara County’s Mandatory Directive for Gatherings — based on state COVID-19 guidelines — says indoor gatherings, specifically including movie theaters, can’t serve food or drinks.

“We’re limited to 25% seating, studios aren’t releasing any blockbuster movies right now, and we can’t have food or drink in the theaters,” Orloff said. “That’s our whole business.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also banned concessions at that city’s movie theaters, prompting the National Association of Theatre Owners of California/Nevada to announce that its membership had unanimously agreed to remain closed in the City by the Bay. But theaters in several other counties in California have reopened with full concessions.

You can certainly debate how safe it is to spend 2 hours at an indoor movie theater during a pandemic, but it would be nice to have everyone on the same page.

GOOD FOOD, BETTER CAUSE: Hunger at Home, the nonprofit that has served 2 million meals since the start of the pandemic, had a great concept for its annual Bridge the Gap fundraiser — bring together various chefs from around the South Bay and have them provide some of their specialties to guests, along with music and other entertainment.

So how does that translate in the COVID-19 world? Hunger at Home CEO Ewell Sterner and Chief Operating Officer Dinari Brown — who have already pivoted the nonprofit’s food recovery model — turned it into a drive-thru, of course.

This year’s Bridge the Gap gala is Oct. 24 at Earthquakes Stadium on Coleman Avenue, and it will include a five-course meal — designed and prepared by some of the top chefs in Silicon Valley, many of whom also have been lending their talents to Hunger at Home during the pandemic. The menu is pretty mouth-watering with a charcuterie, followed by a fire-roasted corn and blue-crab bisque, manicotti alla bolognese and an heirloom apple and berry crisp for dessert. (A vegetarian option also is available.)

Tickets are $100 per meal, and include wine and a raffle ticket, as well as entertainment during the 20-minute drive. You can select your arrival time slot between 2 and 5 p.m., and Hunger at Home suggests people “dress up from the neck up” for festive photos taken in your car. Check it out at hungerathome.org/bridge-the-gap-gala.

LIFTING UP LOCAL ARTISTS: One of the events I’m always proud to be part of is the Leigh Weimers Emerging Artists Awards, which were presented on Wednesday during an online meeting of the Rotary Club of San Jose. The awards, now in their eighth year, are named in memory of my predecessor in this space, who championed the arts during his 40 years as a Mercury News columnist.

As City Lights Theater Company Executive Artist Director Lisa Mallette told me, artists are the ones who have been getting us through the pandemic, and they need our support now more than ever.

The program awards $5,000 grants to Santa Clara County artists who have not yet received widespread recognition in their chosen fields, and they’re free to use the money as they see fit. Some have fixed up a car or paid their rent, others have invested in studio equipment or launched a long-awaited project. (For full disclosure, while I head the program committee, I’m not involved in the selection process.)

This year, more than 80 artists applied and four were chosen: Justin Keyes, a singer and actor who is part of a team that started a podcast called Pod Help the Outcasts, which produces fun commercial jingles for businesses impacted by COVID-19; painter Lydia Rae Black, whose work breathes life and depth into abandoned houses and other spaces; Alex Arango, a multi-instrumentalist and music teacher whose music brings together influences from a variety of cultures; and vocalist and songwriter Amy D., a San Jose sensation who released her first album, “Like You,” last year.

You can learn more about this year’s winners and the program at www.weimersawards.com.

DISTRICT HONORS CARMEN CASTELLANO: At its board meeting Tuesday, the San Jose Evergreen Community College District voted to designate Sept. 6 as Carmen Castellano Day, in remembrance of the philanthropist and former San Jose City College employee who died July 18.

The Sept. 6 date is the same as when she was honored in 2012 with the dedication of the Carmen Castellano Fine Arts Center. In future years, the San Jose-Evergreen community will be encouraged to celebrate with arts programming and demonstrate its commitment to arts education. Sounds like a good plan for other schools to follow, too.

GANDER AT THE GUADALUPE: There’s some irony in having Window on the River Park — the fall  fundraiser to support the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy — as a virtual event beamed to people’s homes instead of in the great outdoors. But the truth is the annual event has been held indoors as long as I can remember, usually at Adobe’s downtown headquarters which at least overlooks the Guadalupe River.

Adobe is joined by Facebook and Google as top sponsors of this year’s Oct. 22 event, which will start at 5:30 p.m. and focus on the vision for the San Jose park. For my part, let’s hope that vision includes more trash cleanups, better maintained trails, a plan for the dust-gathering carousel in Arena Green and maybe more kayaking.

Of course, not much of that happens without donations, so you can join Executive Director Jason Su and his board by registering at www.grpg.org/events/window-on-the-river-park.


By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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