Many Nob Hillers were surprised to learn that a church called City on a Hill had moved into the historic Lobo Theatre. To tell you the truth, I was puzzled myself. I could imagine a church moving into Kelly's Brew Pub before I could imagine one inside the Lobo.
This particular church, though, is no ordinary church. I recently stopped by to chat with Randy Cawlfield, one of the church's founders, to see what they've done with the place.
Locals with a lot of memories attached to the theater will be happy to know that the church's lease obligates them to maintain the building as a movie theater. A newly refurbished movie screen is still there, and so are the seats. They're going to leave the historic Lobo sign over the entrance too.
Most of the church's alterations seem to enhance the utility of the theater as an entertainment venue. They've installed a large stage, a high-quality sound system, and they intend to open up a coffee bar in the lobby. The church will offer coffee, scones and such for free to the public as part of its outreach program.
At this point, you're probably wondering why you're reading about a church in the arts section of the Alibi, a publication known for its heathen disdain of all things godly. Good question. Well, for one thing, this unorthodox church prides itself on incorporating visual art, music, theater and even choreographed dance performances into its services. For another, Randy was intent on expressing the church's desire to open the facilities to the art community. They intend to have visual art exhibits in the lobby, and a series of free concerts in the theater itself.
Theater groups from local schools already make use of the space for rehearsals. Local bands, performers and promoters will be especially interested to know that City on a Hill will allow pretty much anyone to rent the space for a nominal fee. They charge $100 for cleaning and an additional $100 for their sound guy. Considering the size and location of the Lobo, it's a pretty sweet deal. If you have an event—say, a theater festival, a concert or a film festival—you can charge for tickets and the church won't take any commission or engage in any irritating proselytizing. I doubt there's a better deal in town.
City on a Hill's coffee bar will be up and running on Thursday, Dec. 4, during Nob Hill's Shop and Stroll. If you aren't adamantly opposed to mingling with god-fearing Christians, you should consider stopping by to gulp some free coffee and check out the Lobo's latest incarnation. They seem like very nice people.
You can learn more about City on a Hill by logging onto www.thecityonahill.org or by calling 256-1002.